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Professional Development

Formative Insights: Assessment for Learning

Learn to use formative assessment to improve instruction, while also developing new practices and cultural norms that help students gain the skill and will to monitor and advance their own learning toward better outcomes.

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What You Will Learn

Formative Insights: Assessment for Learning is designed to help schools shift away from heavy reliance on teacher-directed instruction to develop more collaborative classroom cultures that encourage and equip students to monitor and direct their own learning. To prepare educators to cultivate this more proactive role for students, WestEd partners with schools and districts to expand systemwide capacity to integrate formative assessment — the process by which, in the course of instruction, teacher and students alike gather and interpret evidence of student learning and plan next steps to meet intended learning goals. For students, this is enacted primarily through self-assessment and peer feedback.

Participating school leaders support teachers while teachers learn and practice formative assessment to improve their instructional practice. Equally important, teachers learn how to help their students become skilled in key formative assessment practices, such as developing learning goals; collecting and using data to monitor and guide their learning efforts; and collaborating with peers. Practices like these enhance learning opportunities by improving student motivation, perseverance, and investment, building students’ positive identities as learners and their agency, that is, their capacity to act independently and make choices about their own learning. To that end, this professional learning also focuses on how to establish a learning culture that encourages all students to assume this new and more proactive role by putting these formative assessment practices into action.

For their part, participating education leaders also learn what’s needed in the way of policies and systems of teacher support to scale and sustain the use of formative assessment across schools and districts.

To build systemwide capacity around formative assessment, WestEd provides flexible services in a variety of formats including:

Who Will Benefit

School-based teams of teachers, instructional coaches, and principals join with district-level staff to engage in the professional learning as part of a district learning network.

For state education agencies committed to scaling formative assessment to improve instruction statewide, WestEd also provides state-level technical assistance.

Online Professional Development

WestEd offers engaging online professional development focused on helping teachers, coaches, and school and district leaders who are seeking to deepen their use of formative assessment to empower students to monitor and direct their own learning. Online trainings include live instruction as well as independent and facilitated learning activities for deep, generative learning. Duration of the trainings may range from one-day sessions to range online courses that take place over several days.

Formative Assessment Virtual Institutes 

These engaging online, 10-hour professional development experiences examine how evidence-based formative practices help teachers shift away from traditional instructional models toward more equitable practices that promote shared responsibility for learning between students and instructors. Drawing upon the learnings of expert teachers and leaders, all participants will gain a deeper understanding of ideas and concepts about formative assessment and how to apply them through instructional practices. Virtual institutes are offered throughout the year for both Beginner and Advanced levels.

What Makes This Service Unique

WestEd leads transformative professional learning in formative assessment with thousands of educators across the nation, both in person and online. Our professional learning offerings recognize that formative assessment is essential not just for effective teaching but also for effective learning; students must become as skilled as their teachers in monitoring their own learning, in giving and eliciting feedback, and, in turn, knowing how to adjust their learning tactics. That recognition is reflected in the dual focus of helping teachers hone their own formative assessment practices and, at the same time, preparing them to help students develop the ability and the inclination to track and advance their own learning. Integral to this latter focus on student agency is our emphasis on developing a school and classroom culture that, in contrast to the old paradigm of “teacher delivers instruction,” sees students and teachers sharing responsibility for individual and group learning.

Some professional learning programs approach formative assessment as a set of technical skills that teachers apply within existing lesson frameworks. Rather than presenting formative assessment as an add-on, a new way of doing old work, WestEd’s offerings encourage and support educators to use it as an opportunity to rethink and reframe how they plan and carry out instruction, to support the paradigm shift toward shared responsibility for learning.

Our professional learning experiences for teachers model and integrate key elements of formative assessment. And WestEd supports teacher learning through the integration of key practices related to effective formative assessment, such as helping teachers develop their own learning goals, collect and use evidence to monitor those goals, and engage in peer learning.


WestEd staff are highly skilled in supporting districts and will develop a custom implementation plan that meets your needs. For information about pricing, please contact Nancy Gerzon at

Learn More

To learn more about how WestEd can help you implement and scale formative assessment processes, contact Nancy Gerzon at

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