Formative assessment is a teaching tool that supports all learners, but it is especially critical for students who are struggling, as it holds the potential for changing the learning outcome. It is a quick way for teachers to evaluate learning needs and academic progress in their classrooms. Here are some examples of how formative assessment can support special education goals.


Chunk Learning

An effective way to conduct a formative assessment with students who have special needs is to apply a well-known teaching accommodation called chunking. Chunking is a way to adapt the curriculum where you break skills or information into smaller, more manageable segments in order to help students succeed. When applied to formative assessment, these smaller “chunks” of assessment help students process the content taught more effectively. This benefits students who have difficulty with sustained attention, high frustration levels, and anxiety. Formative assessments can be administered in a variety of ways as frequently as the teacher needs feedback. Consider these assessments as checkpoints throughout the learning process.

Identify Your Audience

Formative assessments help us identify students who need to be found. Students with special needs are experts at trying to blend in to avoid being called on to participate. By implementing these quick, checkpoint assessments, teachers gain a better idea of student understanding and achievement. Opportunities are there for both teachers and students to continually reflect on what is being taught and learned. Teachers are able to analyze data immediately in order to find ways to help students achieve success. Formative assessments not only help us identify students, but they can also help us identify the misconceptions students may have regarding the content. As a teacher, identifying how a student is learning and processing the information allows you to critique your teaching to find a more effective way to improve student learning. Once we have identified students and identified the misconceptions behind student answers, we can form intervention groups to meet students where they are and guide them to the next point.

See Growth

As a classroom teacher, one of the biggest accomplishments for both teachers and students is to see their growth! Formative assessments help us recognize the growth and progress that students make and help the students talk about their own learning. This is HUGE when talking about students in special education. Students who once struggled with a skill or concept feel so proud when they get to take ownership of their personal growth.

Keeping records on student growth is critical to the success of students with special needs. Formative assessments provide valuable data points for the teacher to track and ensure that instructional methods are effective for each individual child’s growth. They help the teacher change their pattern of thinking by better understanding what the student needs and teaching from the student’s point of view. Lastly, data collected from formative assessments become critical talking points when sharing information about student growth with the student’s parent or guardian.