My impression of formative assessment is that its nature is much less disruptive than summative assessment. Late-night cramming and intense review would be unnecessary as the skills/knowledge would have already been learned or applied in daily lessons, activities, and homework. But these intense review sessions were essential in preparing for the summative, formal, traditional assessments that characterized much of my schooling.
In my education, tests and exams always meant several days of reviewing and memorizing months’ worth of lecture notes containing principles, theories, and facts. All other activities and commitments would fall by the wayside to devote any spare moment to soak up last-minute knowledge. The assessment itself was usually an hour-long and I was never exactly sure what would be asked. Teachers would say that anything from the semester was fair game for the exam, meaning I needed to be prepared to recall as much information as possible to prove my competence in the subject area. And after the exam, I can’t really say how much the information endured. What skills, principles, and knowledge do I remember from my art history class in university? Not much that could serve me now.
Formative, informal, and alternative assessments are much preferable for both teacher and student with the exception that it doesn’t provide an objective numerical value or grade. The information gathered from formative, informal, and alternative assessments can better gauge the quality of student learning and serve as a rudder to direct further teaching. These types of assessments require some careful planning on behalf of the teacher, but students should be prepared simply through being engaged in daily lessons, actives, and homework. The test prep should be relatively stress-free if a student has applied a reasonable amount of effort in class. Creativity is encouraged and students can express their knowledge and skills in a way that is meaningful to them, which can tell a teacher a lot about what he/she has achieved as a learner.
My preference both as an assessment administrator and a learner is for formative, indirect, alternative assessments. I think it is important to change the way we’re assessing students so that it reflects are teaching goals. As a teacher, do you really want your legacy to be educating youngsters on how to be amazingly proficient test takers? Personally, I’d prefer to be remembered as inspiring students to use new skills and knowledge in useful ways that are applicable outside the classroom. Better to be help students become dynamic members of society and contribute to a stronger, brighter community than teaching them how to pass a test.