What is formative e-assessment and when does it happen?

I’ve just read a paper by Pachler et al (Computers & Education 54 (2010) pp715-721) which describes aspects of the JISC-funded project ‘Scoping a vision of formative e-assessment’. The paper starts by considering different perspectives on the ‘nature and value of formative e-assessment’. I’m sure it should have occurred to me before (but hadn’t!) that ‘formative (e)assessment’ can mean a range of different things. The emphasis might be on

  • practice for summative assessment
  • the provision of feedback
  • a means of providing self-reflection

The paper goes on to make the key point that ‘no technology-based assessment is in itself formative, but almost any technology can be used in a formative way – if the right conditions are set in place.’ In other words, the technology isn’t the thing that makes learning happen, it’s student engagement that matters. Amen to that.

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