aka formative assessment, ongoing assessment practices, formative evaluation.

What is Evaluation FOR Learning? 

Formative assessment, ongoing assessment practices, formative evaluation, evaluation for learning… the terms are often used interchangeably. Basically any time we assess learners for the purpose of improving learning and teaching practices we are involved in formative assessment (or evaluation for learning or ongoing assessment!)

"When the cook tastes the soup, that's formative. When the guests taste the soup, that's summative," by Robert Stake.


Fun fact: In Quebec, we use the term evaluation for learning for the simple reason that there is no word for assessment in French! In French, c’est l’évaluation à l’aide de l’apprentissage.

Whatever terms you use and are most comfortable with, know that as long as you are assessing or evaluating in order to inform teaching and learning practices, you are doing it!

Formative Assessment is part of the instructional process. When incorporated into classroom practice, it provides the information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. In this sense, formative assessment informs both teachers and students about student understanding at a point when timely adjustments can be made. These adjustments help to ensure students achieve targeted standards-based learning goals within a set time frame.

from The Concept of Formative Asssessment by Carol Boston at the Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation online journal, found in Teaching through the Arts by Jeffrey Billard, M.Ed


Why would we want to use evaluation for learning in adult education?

After all… the final exams are worth 100%, right?

That is exactly why formative assessment or evaluation for learning makes so much sense for our practice. Our learners only have one kick at the evaluative can so ensuring that they are ready to progress towards the final exam is essential for success.

Some key points:

  • Evaluation for learning is NOT about marks and grades so it fits very well into a Quebec Adult Educator’s classroom practice since it is also not about marks and grades.
  • The focus is on improving learning and teaching
  • Even though the focus shifts from the final exam to the learning process, improved learning leads to success on exams
  • It helps to save time in the learning process


Listen to four teachers in adult education from the Lester B. Pearson School Board talk about why they think formative assessment is important to their practice.



So how do I get started with (or deepen) formative assessment/evaluation for learning practices?


As Lethisha says in the video – chances are that formative assessment is already part of your practice. And, as Troy says – the first step is in formalizing the practice.

Start small

Checklists: probably the easiest way to be more intentional about formative assessment is to use a checklist when observing students in action. Checklists can be designed according to general actions and/or tied to more detailed subject specific competency development.

Exit slips: Actually, this one is even easier than using checklists because you are asking students to do all of the work! 😉 At least, at first. With an exit slip (or ticket out the door) you ask learners to write about their learning at the end of a class. You can ask questions to check for understanding, to get feedback on the day’s lesson, to check for prior knowledge in preparation for a lesson to come… you can use exit slips anyway you like!

Example of exit slip with feedback: Below this paragraph are links to exit slips created and used by Jon Hullar (Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, LBPSB) while teaching Secondary 5 Math. Jon provides feedback to his students on this exit slip (NI = Needs Improvement, OM = Objective Met).

Jon’s sample exit slip for Sec 5 math

Jon’s exit slip with feedback

Exit slips to ‘check the pulse’: Exit slips can also be used to check the pulse (or taste the soup!)  Here are links to ideas for exit slips that can be used for just about any course:




Listen to four teachers in adult education from the Lester B. Pearson School Board talk about how they got started with formative assessment.



Gradually try more assessment strategies

Here are a few more strategies for formative assessment that you may be interested in testing out:

Vocabulary learning and instant feedback – this strategy can be used for more than just vocabulary learning. Listen to Derek Stacey (Teacher, Nova Career and Education Centre, NFSB) explain how and why he used a collaborative slideshow activity to help his learners acquire new vocabulary.



Online assessment activities for the whole class – Watch how Jennifer Campbell (Teacher, Marymount Adult Education Centre, EMSB) uses online assessment activities to gage her students’ understanding of lessons.



Interested in learning more?

Speak with your pedagogical consultant: Many of the pedagogical consultants in the nine English school board adult education sectors are involved in a project to develop a culture of formative assessment in our centres.

Contact Tracy Rosen or Avi Spector for support in using technology in the assessment process.

Extension Resources


Learning resources created by Jon Hullar (Teacher, LBPSB), Natasha Bellows (Teacher, LBPSB), Troy Bradley (Teacher, LBPSB), Lethisha Andrews (Teacher, LBPSB), Derek Stacey (Teacher, NFSB), Jennifer Campbell (Teacher, EMSB), Avi Spector (RECIT Consultant, RSB), Gail Gagnon (Education Consultant, LBPSB), and Tracy Rosen (RECIT Consultant, CSSMI), 2016.

These resources are influenced greatly by the work done by the Adult Education Teachers and the English Pedagogical Consultants (EPC) involved in a project to establish a culture of evaluation for learning in Quebec’s English Adult Education Centres.

All materials are expected to be reused and shared according to this Creative Commons license: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0