Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research Faculty Publications


Original publication information

2014 Hipatia Press ISSN: 2014-6418 DOI: 10.4471/qre.2014.36


This study supports the work of Black and Wiliam (1998), who demonstrated that when teachers effectively utilize formative assessment strategies, student learning increases significantly. However, the researchers also found a “poverty of practice” among teachers, in that few fully understood how to implement classroom formative assessment. This qualitative case study examined a series of voluntary workshops offered at one middle school designed to address this poverty of practice. Data were gathered via semi-structured interviews. These research questions framed the study: (1) What role did a professional learning community structure play in shaping workshop participants’ perceived effectiveness of a voluntary formative assessment initiative? (2) How did this initiative affect workshop participants’ perceptions of their knowledge of formative assessment and differentiation strategies? (3) How did it affect workshop participants’ perceptions of their abilities to teach others about formative assessment and differentiated instruction? (4) How did it affect school-wide use of classroom-level strategies?

Results indicated that teacher workshop participants experienced a growth in their capacity to use and teach others various formative assessment strategies, and even non-participating teachers reported greater use of formative assessment in their own instruction. Workshop participants and non-participating teachers perceived little growth in the area of differentiation of instruction, which contradicted some administrator perceptions.


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