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WestEd’s Formative Insights: Assessment for Learning

Reimagine the student role in assessment to improve agency, promote learning and advance equity

WestEd’s Formative Insights team leads transformative, scalable professional learning with teachers, leaders and policy makers. Rooted in current research, we enable dramatic shifts in the student role by supporting teachers and leaders to strengthen students’ self-regulation skills and develop systems that sustain deep learning.

HundrED 2023


Web presence






Target group
June 2022
“I thought using evidence was for my use. What’s totally blown me away about formative assessment is how students use the evidence too! I see how much more they know and I think they see that too!”

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Equity requires learner agency. Learner agency is manifest when students learn skills of self-regulation and metacognition. More than any other strategy, formative assessment strengthens these skills during daily instruction. To achieve equity goals, we must develop ways to scale formative assessment, so that students, teachers and leaders learn skills to strengthen learning, agency and equity.

What does your innovation look like in practice?

WestEd specialises in developing transformative professional learning in formative assessment at scale. We have achieved scale through innovative professional learning that situates adult learning in local contexts, using application and reflection cycles rooted in current classroom practice. Learning for leaders addresses cultural and system-level shifts to deepen teacher and student agency. Advanced courses focus on peer review, in which teachers reflect on current lessons to strengthen students’ use of evidence to guide learning.

Data from a range of WestEd courses highlight significant changes in teacher and student roles, including improved use of evidence and feedback, and learning from peers. In 2020, a peer-reviewed study examined survey results from 1,200 teachers and 24,000 students engaged in WestEd’s online professional learning, showing that increased use of formative assessment led to increased self-regulation by students.

How has it been spreading?

With vital support from foundations, and through ongoing dialogue with national networks, WestEd's team shifted its focus from formative assessment as a set of technical skills, to formative assessment as an essential instructional practice to strengthen the student role in learning in order to advance equity. WestEd has spread this work through participation in regional and national networks, state-level initiatives, and district partnerships. These relationships have created new opportunities for field-building, bringing students, teachers, leaders and policy makers together to inform this work. These multiple entry points enable partners to explore the instructional changes, cultural practices and policy shifts to enable formative assessment as a core equity strategy.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

We have found that early implementation of formative assessment is significantly improved when school and district leaders have developed the knowledge and skills to introduce and lead this work in context. Descriptions of virtual course offerings, including leadership training options, are outlined on the Formative Insights website.To learn more, email Nancy Gerzon, ngerzon@wested.org.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

WestEd’s focus on student agency places the child at the centre of the learning process. Teachers, schools and districts are given ample support to modify their practices in line with formative assessment. In addition, WestEd is developing a research base around the implementation of formative assessment practice in schools.

HundrED Academy Reviews
The WestEd's formative assessment has high scalability since many educational fields aim to fulfill student-centred learning.
This innovation has a high potential of making a high impact as it is transformative and not passive or conservationist. It promotes deep learning and sustainable development.
- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process


Formative Insights: Assessment for Learning
Recent blog posts from the Formative Insights team highlighting developing student agency during online learning, student use of the formative assessment feedback loop, and cultivating collaborative learning culture. https://csaa.wested.org/formative-insights-assessment-for-learning/
The Association Between Teachers’ Use of Formative Assessment Practices and Students’ Use of Self-Regulated Learning Strategies
This REL West study surveyed teachers and students in grades 3–12 in three Arizona districts to better understand the association between teachers’ use of formative assessment practices and students’ use of self-regulated learning strategies.https://www.wested.org/resources/teachers-use-of-formative-assessment-practices-and-students-use-of-self-regulated-learning-strategies/
Achievement through Student Agency: Dallas ISD’s Journey
Drawing on a WestEd-led evaluation and on others’ observations, this article explores how Ben Milam’s learning culture has developed around formative assessment. It describes the school’s efforts to develop formative assessment practices, including its principal and teachers embracing a professional learning stance that provides a fertile context for promoting student learning and developing the dispositions and skills to learn how to learn.https://csaa.wested.org/resource/leading-formative-assessment-in-dallas-toward-student-agency-and-academic-achievement/
Seizing the Opportunity to Promote Student Agency Through Online Learning in a High-Poverty School District
Led by WestEd, this conversation series with Steve Holmes, Superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) in Tucson, Arizona, explores emerging ideas, practices, and research, and professional contributions to the study and promotion of student agency.https://www.wested.org/resources/seizing-the-opportunity-promote-student-agency/

Implementation steps

Collaborative Video-Based Inquiry

Teachers take videos of classroom practice and collaboratively analyze peers’ videos using rubrics that show levels of both student and teacher practices in three key formative assessment routines – peer feedback, self-assessment and discourse.


Formative Assessment Inter-Rater Reliability Course

Learners engage in review of readings, videos and rubrics to explore each dimension of practice, then conduct “consensus tuning” conversations with colleagues to improve consistency across raters.


Spread of the innovation

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