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Creating Professional Learning Communities

Below we’ve highlighted a couple of the key points from Revising the Definition of Formative Assessment. This was produced by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in the US as part of work of the Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers (FAST) State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS).

The FAST SCASS is a Professional Learning Community (PLC). This is a group of educators who meet regularly to share expertise and exchange ideas. They work collaboratively to improve specific teaching and learning goals and approaches. Their work has led to an updated definition of formative assessment:

“Formative assessment is a planned, ongoing process used by all students and teachers during learning and teaching to elicit and use evidence of student learning to improve student understanding of intended disciplinary learning outcomes and support students to become self-directed learners.”

We would like to draw your attention to the way that the report discusses the role of professional learning communities to enact changes in the classroom.

“The revised definition of formative assessment by itself cannot effect changes in classroom practice on the part of either students or teachers. Rather, it has to be embodied in the everyday practice of classrooms, and for that to occur there is a continued need for supporting teacher learning and development. Teacher learning can be supported in a number of ways:

  • School-based learning communities that provide ongoing opportunities grounded in local contexts for teachers to learn about and reflect with peers on their efforts to implement and integrate the formative assessment practices;
  • Reflection on the implications for teachers’ own practice after observing live or video-based exemplars of effective formative assessment practice;
  • Disciplinary-based learning opportunities that support teachers making connections between the content and practices of their subject area and formative assessment approaches, including an understanding of student misconceptions, naïve understandings, or critical learning trajectories.”

While not a specific component of formative assessment, some teachers may also benefit from learning opportunities that focus on issues such as developing a positive, learning-focused classroom climate or establishing classroom routines and practices that support learning. Other school-wide issues may also deserve discussion and reflection, such as grading policies or pacing guides, if they seem to be in conflict with the goals of formative assessment.


  1. How could a Professional Learning Community work to help teachers enact a formative approach to classroom assessment?
  2. What activities would help teachers learn from one another?

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This article is from the free online course:

Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment

National STEM Learning Centre