A Tool-Rich Guide to Formative Assessment

The Handbook for Embedded Formative Assessment (A Practical Guide to Classroom Formative Assessment Strategies)
By Solution Tree Authors
(Solution Tree Press, 2018 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Charice Hayes

The Handbook for Embedded Formative Assessment is a great tool for any educator, school district, or higher education institution. The handbook starts with an assessment exercise that has scenarios to help capture your initial understanding of formative assessment. From your responses, you provide your meaning of formative assessment and then compare it with the meaning the authors provide.

The introductory chapter concludes with formative assessment in the classroom, formative assessment design, and strategies of formative assessment. The remaining chapters focus on the following:

  • Current practices with learning intentions and success criteria
  • Context of learning
  • Current practices for evidence of student learning
  • High quality questioning
  • Current practices for providing feedback and student reactions to feedback
  • Formative feedback
  • Current practices for activating students as instructional resources for each other
  • Cooperative learning
  • Current practices for activating students’ responsibilities of their own learning
  • Self-regulated learning
  • Student self-reflection techniques

Discussion Questions

At the end of each chapter there are discussion questions to reinforce each chapter’s key points. For example, at the end of Chapter 1, we are asked, “What is the process for assessment design in your classroom and school? Do formative assessments reflect a data-push or decision-pull approach?” (p. 16) These end-of-the-chapter discussion questions are really great because they tap into the metacognition process of formative assessment.

Engaging Practice Sheets

In each chapter Solution Tree provides engaging practice sheets that teachers, school districts, or higher education institutions can utilize for professional development. For example, in Chapter 2, Solution Tree provides a practice sheet in which you “write down the ways in which you clarify learning intentions and success criteria.” (p. 17) You can do a group share to absorb the knowledge and techniques of other colleagues.

Observation Tools

Speaking of colleagues, Solution Tree provides an appendix of observational tools that can be used to observe how other colleagues use formative assessment. Solution Tree “believes that cooperative learning benefits teachers just as much as it does students.” (p. 97) You can copy the observation tools or download them.

Book Impact

The Handbook for Embedded Formative Assessment definitely impacts what I do as an educator and trainer. Formative assessment requires that the student, teacher, or practitioner demonstrate skill or knowledge. Solution Tree provides innovative approaches and practices that will help me analyze learning. I will definitely use the tools provided by Solution Tree in my higher education classroom and my professional development webinars/workshops.


Note: The handbook is a companion volume that can be used alone or with the 2nd edition of Embedded Formative Assessment (Solution Tree, 2018) by Dylan Wiliam.


Former secondary educator Dr. Charice Hayes is a higher education professor, Editor-in-Chief of a business research journal, and educational business owner. She is known for her innovative ideas both in education and business. Dr. Hayes is also a trainer of trainers in diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment for adult education practitioners via the federal Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS). She loves to empower others to be contributing members of social change. You can connect with her and share your experiences about education.

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