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Exploring the Four Core Elements of Formative Assessment in College Classroom Instruction: Faculty Member Perspectives

Paul Mangino, Johnson & Wales University


Extensive research exists on formative assessment in higher education (Irons, 2008; Rieg & Wilson, 2009; Tan, 2008). Prior research primarily focuses on feedback as the core element of formative assessment (Irons, 2008; Rieg & Wilson, 2009; Tan, 2008; Yorke 2001, 2003). There is, however, a lack of research examining college faculty members' perspectives regarding the four core elements of formative assessment for instruction (Heritage, 2007; Yorke, 2001, 2003). The purpose of this study was to explore the perspectives of college faculty using the elements of formative assessment in the classroom. Research indicates that educators' perspectives are integral to understanding the effective utilization of formative assessment (Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, & Wiliam, 2003; Black & Wiliam, 1998). The research question that guided this study was: How do college faculty members describe utilizing the four core elements of formative assessment in classroom instruction? A qualitative descriptive methodology utilizing 10 (N = 10) in-depth semi-structured interviews, document analyses of 16 syllabi, and five (N = 5) reflective questionnaires garnered faculty insights into the four core elements of formative assessment. Exploration of the faculty members' experiences followed the Heritage (2007) framework on the four core elements of formative assessment, which was used to guide the research question and interview protocol. Findings reveal that: (1) faculty members perceive the prerequisites required for each course as determinates of the background knowledge students possess, (2) self- and peer assessment are important but there is a lack of time and the knowledge needed to implement the strategies effectively, (3) feedback must be provided quickly, citing the use of Blackboard and surveys as the most common methods of providing feedback to inform learning and pedagogy respectively; and (4) the content requirements set by program administrators and professional standards primarily guide the development of student learning progressions. These findings may benefit educators who implement the formative assessment practices. Improving the use of formative assessment practices warrants continuous and consistent professional development (Brancato, 2003). The results of the study may inform faculty training and pedagogy in formative assessment.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Pedagogy|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Mangino, Paul, "Exploring the Four Core Elements of Formative Assessment in College Classroom Instruction: Faculty Member Perspectives" (2012). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3540811.