Formative assessment involves gathering evidence during the course of instruction to provide feedback to teachers and students about learning (Allal & Lopez, 2005; Black & Wiliam, 1998a; 1998b; Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall & Wiliam, 2003; Shepard, Hammerness, Darling-Hammond & Rust, 2005). A central role for teachers in formative assessment is the use of evidence of student learning to make adjustments to teaching (Black & Wiliam, 1998a; 1998b). The purpose of this paper is to highlight specific challenges teachers experience when taking pedagogical action based on their interpretation of formative assessment evidence. The paper draws from two studies: one quantitative study showing the relative difficulties teachers have using evidence to inform instruction, and one qualitative study highlighting teacher challenges in using evidence and how those challenges can be addressed with assistance. Descriptions of the studies are presented, reasons for teacher difficulties are hypothesized, and areas of further research are suggested.
Keywords: Formative assessment, teacher knowledge, using evidence, professional development, learning progressions