Formative and Embedded Assessment

Much more than techniques of feedback on progress or process of reviewing and recording achievement. Instead, it is better conceived as an interactive pedagogy based on constructivist ideas about learning and integrated into a range of learning and support activities .... we should replace the technical terms 'formative' and 'diagnostic' assessment with 'assessment for learning'. (Ecclestone and Pryor, 2003, p. 472)

A formative assessment is one that helps improve learning, where feedback is seen as 'bridging the gap' between what the learner knows and where he/she needs to be. Thus, formative assessments (feedback) have implicit in them future actions needed to be taken by the learner is order to grow.

Embedded Assessment

Five key strategies for using formative assessment



Clarifying, understanding, and sharing learning intentions
  • the curriculum is shared and discussed with the students
Engineering effective discussions, tasks and activities that elicit evidence of learning
  • pedagogy (social constructivist) and embedded learning tasks that document the learners journey
Providing feedback that moves the learners forward
  • ZPD - zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978) - Feedback
Activating students as learning resources for one another
  • learning in a social context - where students are learning agents - collaboration learning, peer-assessment, communication, participation, active learning and content-producers.
Activating learners as owners of their own learning
  • autonomy, self-evaluation, meta-cognition, intrinsic motivation, ownership of the learning process.
(Wiliam & Thompson, 2007)

Effective assessment practice
*Understanding formative assessment

Embedded Assessment

Embedded assessment is defined as the opportunity created to monitor and scaffold student progress and performance when formative assessment methods are integrated in the normal day-to-day learning and teaching process (Nelson, 2005; Sloane, Wilson & Samson, 1996). Unlike summative assessments, embedded assessments are indistinguishable from the learning and teaching process/events.

An old but riveting read on curriculum design and embedded assessment.

Embedded Assessment guideline (Farmer, 1999)

  • Understand curriculum as a plan of learning, not merely a collection of courses.
  • Provide sequential and cumulative learning.
  • Encourage transferable learning across the curriculum.
  • Design the curriculum as a matrix by integrating skill development into subject matter courses.
  • Implement student-centered teaching strategies to foster active rather than passive learning.
  • Develop qualitative, performance-based course-embedded assessment strategies both to assess student learning and to increase student learning.
  • Define mastery learning as the ability to apply prior learning to a new stimulus.


Components of a feedback system

  • „data on the actual level of some measurable attribute;
  • data on the reference level of that attribute;
  • a mechanism for comparing the two levels and generating information about the ‘gap’ between the two levels;
  • „a mechanism by which the information can be used to alter the gap.
(Black and William, 1998, p. 33)

To an engineer, information is therefore feedback only if the information fed back is actually used in closing the gap.