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Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. Formative assessment, including diagnostic testing, is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment. It is commonly contrasted with summative assessment, which seeks to monitor educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability. Practice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited.
Michael Scriven coined the terms formative and summative evaluation in 1967, and emphasized their differences both in terms of the goals of the information they seek and how the information is used. For Scriven, formative evaluation gathered information to assess the effectiveness of a curriculum and guide school system choices as to which curriculum to adopt and how to improve it. Benjamin Bloom took up the term in 1968 in the book Learning for Mastery to consider formative assessment as a tool for improving the teaching-learning process for students.
His subsequent 1971 book Handbook of Formative and Summative Evaluation, written with Thomas Hasting and George Madaus, showed how formative assessments could be linked to instructional units in a variety of content areas. It is this approach that reflects the generally accepted meaning of the term today.