Formative assessment has usually been known as continuous assessment. However, many years ago, the Latin term of “assessus” means “to sit beside”. In current day English, Merriam-Webster’s Academic Dictionary lists one definition of formative as “capable of alteration by growth and development.” (Merriam-Webster, 1997). This definition shows an importance of shifting our thoughts from using formative assessment to using it to support learning. By refining an open definition of formative assessment, this analysis argues that pupil achievement can be increased through the clear purpose. Understanding the purpose of the assessment allows the teacher to create transparency for pupils so that they know how and why the evidence will be used in their learning and helps the teacher focus on pupil’s learning rather than their overall achievement (Harlen, 2007). Wiliam’s research also supports this argument. He states that, “the use of day-to-day formative assessment is one of the most influential ways of improving learning in the mathematics classroom” (Wiliam, 2004)
According to Black ; Wiliam (1998) assessment refers to all of the activities carried out by the teachers and as well by the teachers in assessing themselves, which this then helps to provide useful information that is sued as feedback to adapt the teaching and learning activities. This is then seen as ‘formative assessment’ when it is used to adapt the style of teaching to help meet the needs of the pupils within teaching lessons. Throughout the years, the use of formative assessments have become more of an importance. However, formative assessment is still a problem in the literature (Leung ; Mohan, 2004). Black and Wiliam published two significant papers in 1988, one article argues that when formative assessment was practiced within the classroom, this would therefore help the pupils to understand what was being taught by the teacher. Their most important conclusion, on the other hand, is that enhanced formative assessment has helped the low achievers more than in comparison to the other pupils meaning that achievement is increased overall in terms of closing the opportunity gap. However, closing this gap is not simple through the use of formative assessment. Black and Wiliam believe that the main difficulties that arise with formative assessment revolve around three crucial concerns: poorly implemented testing practices, for example, questioning encouragement and superficial learning; feedback is not applied to increase pupil’s individual development; and formative feedback serves a primarily managerial function in most classrooms.
Cowie and Bell (1999) believed that formative assessment was defined as: “The process by which the teachers use as well as the pupils to recognise and respond to pupil’s learning in order to help develop their learning, during the class lesson.” They specify that formative assessment is an ongoing process. A more recent definition of formative assessment is defined from Ginsburg (2009), he believed that “Formative assessment’s main purpose is for instruction, meaning that assessment should be achieved after the teacher has finished their instruction of the lesson. Therefore, assessment should be used to gain knowledge to help the teacher plan effective lessons for the pupils.” This is stating that formative assessment is not about grading a whole mass of learning but instead this type of assessment emphases more on assessment during the learning process. The teacher is better informed to the choices that they can make to plan effective lessons that will benefit them in their learning process.
Throughout the past, assessment in mathematics has always been seen as a method of recording pupil’s attainment. Many theorists have questioned the different methods of assessment, for example, continuing coursework or formal assessments because they all could not agree on what was the most effective form of assessment. Wiliam and Thompson (2007) had completed some research on the effectiveness of formative assessment and how it can support pupils learning in mathematics. Their findings shown that the use of formative assessments brought a more constructive impact on pupil attainment than in previous conducted research. These findings brought about a monumental transformation in the Education Authorities’ as they adopted the use of formative assessment as an academically-effective and cost-effective tool to implement within lessons. Shepard (2007) believed that this change had led to lessons and classroom resources being developed to incorporate the use of formative assessment in class. However, these were not often implemented because of the lack of focus on the main ideologies forming the basis of formative assessment.