What is formative assessment?

Formative assessment describes the processes of using information about student achievement to make adjustments to your teaching.

Why use formative assessment?

Research has shown that formative assessment has a significant impact on student learning (1). This is because educators can use it to offer ongoing feedback to students and continuously refine and adapt their teaching to students’ needs.

At Aula, we help educators plan regular opportunities for formative assessment into the curriculum. Research has shown that by integrating low stakes testing and continuous feedback into their curriculum, educators can support students to strengthen and retain learning (2).  

Some of the benefits of formative assessment:


  • Helps students retain more information (3). The process of testing requires students to re-access information and the effort required to do this further embeds the material into long term memory. (This is often called the ‘testing effect’ or ‘retrieval practice’)


  • Leads to better and longer retention than massing or cramming (4). Testing students repeatedly over long intervals increases the effort required to recall information and further supports students to embed knowledge into long term memory.

Ongoing feedback

  • While feedback overall is helpful, instant and specific feedback works better in improving student learning;

Benchmarking progress

  • Like all of us, students have ‘imperfect metacognition’- i.e. they don't know what they don't know. It is difficult for students to judge whether they have learnt something. Testing provides the answer to this as you either know the material or you don’t (5). 

Examples of formative assessment

Aula supports educators to design and deliver purposeful formative assessment. There are lots of different ways to use the platform and its integrations to check students’ learning. In this article we will share three key examples you can use to make your assessment quicker and more accurate tomorrow:

🔹Design multiple choice questions to support you to know what learning students have absorbed 

Here an educator asks students to select the correct answer from several options

🔹Use comparative judgement to identify if students are able to apply learning to novel situations 

Here an educator asks students to express and rationalise their opinion AND apply their learning on Pollock/ abstract expressionism

🔹Use formative assessment to Interleave content to build-in opportunities for students to return to previous learning and help that learning stick. 

Here an educator asks students to revisit learning from the beginning of the course

Further Reading in the Help Centre:

Reading Footnotes: 

  • Christodoulou, D. (2017) Making Good Progress: The Future of Assessment for Learning. Oxford, OUP.
  • Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112.
  • Koretz, D (2009) Measuring Up. What educational testing really tells us. Cambridge, MA, Harvard
  • Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Solution Tree Press.


  1. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d303/bbaae21854a90bf957246123bfd7eb9bba19.pdf  Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112
  2. Christodoulou, D. (2017) Making Good Progress: The Future of Assessment for Learning. Oxford, OUP
  3. https://www.macmillanlearning.com/Catalog/other/LearningCurve_Research
  4. Appleton-Knapp, S.L., Bjork, R.A. and Wickens, T.D. (2005) ‘Examining the spacing effect in advertising: Encoding variability, retrieval processes, and their interaction’, Journal of Consumer Research, 32(2), 266–276
  5. Christodoulou, D. (2017)
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