Authentic Student Work Samples Support Formative Assessment in Middle School


Dempsey, K., Beesley, A. D., Clark, T. F., & Tweed, A. (2015). Authentic student work samples support formative assessment in middle school. In Suurtamm, C. & McDuffie, A. R. (Eds), An nual perspectives in mathematics education (APME) 2015: Assessment to enhance learning and teaching . National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.


Students’ motivation for mathematics falls once they transition from elementary to middle school. Research indicates that formative assessment teaching practices can help students understand their learning goals, the criteria by which their learning will be assessed, and what they must do to move their learning forward. Feedback from the teacher is crucial to these practices’ success, and there are many professional development programs that aim to increase teachers’ understandings of formative assessment.

Much of current teacher professional development is insufficient to help teachers change their practice. Considering the lack of effective professional development, Andrea Beesley and co-authors developed and examined how Assessment Work Sample Method (AWSM) professional development (PD) impacts teacher practice of mathematics formative assessment. AWSM PD builds middle school teachers’ understanding of high-quality formative assessment processes and how to use these practices in their classrooms. Researchers studied 7 middle schools in an urban district of Colorado during the school years 2012–13 and 2013–14 and a total of 47 mathematics teachers. Each school received the AWSM PD, one in the 2012–13 year, and the other six during the 2013–14 year.

Results show that teachers overall made significant improvements in their formative assessment practices, indicated by the size of increases in assessment work sample scores from pretests to post-tests. The greatest improvement was seen in the dimensions involving feedback and assessment criteria, while the least improvement was in the dimensions involving learning goals, due in part to high baseline scores. Though these findings suggest that AWSM PD improved teachers’ formative assessment practices, the program had no statistically significant impact on student achievement in the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. Researchers note that it was unlikely to see increased student achievement during the program’s training year, and that future assessments may yield different results. The results of this study show how teachers were able to effectively implement formative assessment practices in their classrooms and share them with their peers. This study paves the way for future research on how teachers and students may benefit from AWSM practices.

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