Medium-cycle formative assessment

Although research studies (cited in this MESH Guide, for example) have shown that short-cycle formative assessment, when used effectively, can have a significant impact on learner outcomes, medium-cycle formative assessment (where evidence of student learning can be gathered across lessons and units of work) can also be beneficial.

According to Brookhart et al. (2019), medium-cycle formative assessment can involve quizzes or pre- or end of unit tests, for example, which cover a number of learning intentions. 

For instance, Goertz et al. (2009) show that, in Philadelphia, the year is broken down into blocks of six-weeks. During weeks one to five, the essential curriculum is taught to students and they are tested at the end of week five. From gathering and using test score evidence, in week six, teachers either review previously taught material if there are areas for improvement, or extend on their current understanding and skills. To some, this might conjure up the thought of the formative use of summative assessment and that the spirit of formative assessment might be lost. The important point here, though, is that the evidence collected is establishing whether students are retaining the taught curriculum and, crucially, where teachers may need to adjust their teaching of lessons by their lesson planning, pacing, grouping of students, and/or further practise of a previously learned concept, for example. Over time, it becomes possible to identify patterns of how students are performing holistically and in what curriculum areas they are performing well and least well at.