Skip to main content

Reading List: Student Formative Assessment

**Black, P., & D. Wiliam. (1998). Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-174. Available at


In this seminal review, Black and Wiliam cite strong evidence that the enhancement of formative assessment can result in learning gains and increased standards. They argue that formative assessment makes up the core of effective teaching and is indivisible from instruction. However, effectively implementing formative assessment is challenging and requires addressing the “black box,” or the heart of teaching and learning in the classroom. A proposal for implementing this work is provided.


** Chapter 1: Mentor’s Knowledge of Formative Assessment: Guiding New Teachers to Look Closely at Individual Students in Achinstein, B., & Athanases, S. Z. (2006). Mentors in the Making: Developing New Leaders for New Teachers, (pp., 23-37). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Available for purchase at


Achinstein and Athanases use evidence from quantitative data and case studies to examine how mentors can help new teachers focus on individual student learning. The authors assert that mentors must first develop a complex knowledge base in three domains of assessment: 1) understanding the wide range of student assessment tools and practices; 2) having a command of subject matter and grade-level standards; and 3) helping teachers use assessments to gauge individual student learning. The authors discuss the complexities involved in acquiring this necessary knowledge base.


Little, J. W., Gearhart, M., Curry, M., & Kafka, J. (2003). Looking at Student Work for Teacher Learning, Teacher Community, and School Reform. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(3), 184-192. Available at


Little et al., identify various practices used by a group of teachers who come together to examine student work. The authors frame their findings within the broader context of school improvement programs and school-based professional development. They conclude that: 1) by structuring conversations through the use of protocols to guide discussion, teachers were able to talk openly about student work; 2) certain practices and conditions helped to focus attention on student learning and to deepen the discussion of teaching and learning; and 3) teachers had to decide what work to look at, and participants with diverse backgrounds had to figure out what to say in limited time.


Serafini, F. (2001). Three Paradigms of Assessment: Measurement, Procedure, & Inquiry. The Reading Teacher, 54(4), 384-393. Available at


In this article, Serafini describes three major paradigms of assessment – assessment as measurement, procedure, or inquiry – in terms of their goals and purposes, the level of student involvement, the methods used to gather information, and the intended audiences for the information. He then presents factors that can support a shift in teachers’ views of assessment from the traditional measurement paradigm to assessment as inquiry. He argues that this shift will enable teachers to make more informed classroom decisions about curriculum and instruction.