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Past Event

Perspectives on Formative Assessment, Student Agency, and Equity

This Event Has Ended. Find Links to Archived Session Recordings and Audio Recordings Below.

Join WestEd’s Nancy Gerzon and Barbara Jones for an online conversation series that highlights both scholarly and practitioner perspectives on the intersections between student identity, classroom culture, and formative assessment as levers for promoting agency and equity.

Conversations will focus on a range of topics and contexts such as:

  • What it means to systemically promote student agency and equity in high-poverty districts
  • How formative assessment supports shifting the students’ role in learning, including online learning
  • How the process of formative assessment can be recontextualized as a theory of learning rather than as an element in a balanced assessment system
  • The role of learner identities and funds of knowledge in building student capacity for self-direction

Each conversation will explore and share personal and professional experiences about how to shift the student role in learning to the center of the education process where students learn how to use evidence of their own learning, and learn how to set goals to move their learning forward.

WestEd’s Nancy Gerzon and Barbara Jones will lead four conversations with renowned scholars and educators who have made significant contributions to the study and promotion of student agency. Representing a wide variety of interests in the field, guest speakers will share their perspectives from the lens of research, district-level implementation, policy, and cutting-edge instructional practice. The sessions are organized thematically (see more information below) and attendance is free.

All participants will receive links to pre-session readings via email when registration is confirmed. Registered participants will also have an opportunity to submit questions for our featured guests.

Who Should Attend?

  • Teachers
  • School, district, and state education leaders
  • Teacher educators
  • Teacher professional developers
  • Researchers in the United States and abroad

Dates & Times

Most sessions will take place on Tuesdays at 11 am Pacific Time / 2 pm Eastern Time. One session will take place at 3 pm Pacific Time / 6 pm Eastern Time / 12:00 pm New Zealand Standard Time.

Each session will run for 60 minutes.

Registration Information

Registration for all sessions is free.

To register, click the unique registration link for each session below. Register for as many sessions as you wish. You will receive an email confirmation, links to pre-session readings, and reminders to attend. We look forward to your participation!

Please contact Danny Torres at if you have questions about the series or if you would like more information about registration.


Ambitious Teaching and Formative Assessment: Creating Conditions for Equity

Date: Tues., November 10, 2020
Time: 11:00 am PT / 2:00 pm ET
Featured Speaker: Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder School of Education

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Lorrie Shepard is the University Distinguished Professor and Dean Emerita at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Her research focuses on psychometrics and the use and misuse of tests in educational settings. She has led research on the use of assessment and testing in a wide range of testing areas, including the effects of high-stakes accountability testing, grade retention, teacher testing, and the use of classroom assessment to support teaching and learning. In 2019, in preparation for the National Council of Measurement in Education Special Conference on Classroom Assessment, she and her colleagues convened national experts to develop Classroom Assessment Principles to Support Teaching and Learning, a publication that describes how classroom assessment can best be enacted to support deep learning. These principles provide a framework for teachers, leaders, and policymakers to develop new conditions for learning that foster student agency and self-regulation.

Discussion Topics:

  • The relationship among ambitious teaching, formative assessment, identity, agency, and equity
  • What we are learning about the relationship between accountability, learning, and equity
  • Creating equitable assessment approaches to measure student online learning
  • Moving formative assessment out of the “balanced assessment system” and into a framework for teaching and learning

Seizing the Opportunity to Promote Student Agency Through Online Learning in a High-Poverty School District

Date: Tues., November 17, 2020
Time: 11:00 am PT / 2:00 pm ET
Featured Speaker: Steve Holmes, Sunnyside Unified School District, Tucson, Arizona

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Steve Holmes is the Superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) in Tucson, Arizona. A champion for equity, his work focuses on urban education reform and bringing about deeper learning practices, coherence, and innovation to high poverty districts. Under his leadership, SUSD is now recognized as an industry leader in open educational resources, formative assessment, and design thinking. He is a staunch supporter of public education and a leading voice in support of English Learners. When his district shifted to online learning in the spring, his message to educators was, Let’s seize this opportunity to promote student agency.

Discussion Topics:

  • Why student agency is critical in high poverty districts
  • The role of formative assessment practice in promoting equity
  • How online learning experiences can promote student ownership over learning

An Ecological View of Assessment for Learning

Date: Tues., December 1, 2020
Time: 3:00 pm PT / 6:00 pm ET [SPECIAL TIME]
Featured Speaker: Bronwen Cowie, The University of Waikato, New Zealand

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Professor Bronwen Cowie is Associate Dean of Research in the Division of Education, at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Bronwen’s research focuses on early secondary and primary school, and early childhood settings. She is particularly interested in the nature of teacher-student interactions as part of formative assessment within the wider ecosystem for science education. A feature of her assessment for learning work is attention to how teachers invite in and notice, and recognize and respond to children’s ideas. She has explored the role funds of knowledge have to play as part of culturally responsive science teaching and assessment, the frameworks teachers use to attend to student learning, and the provision of peer feedback in support of students’ writing.

Discussion Topics:

  • Framing teacher noticing in a formative way to support equity
  • Interrupting current formative practices to prepare to respond differently
  • The role of learner identity in learning and student agency

Leadership for Learning, Leadership for Equity

Date: Tues., December 8, 2020
Time: 11:00 am PT / 2:00 pm ET
Featured Speaker: Gene Wilhoit, National Center for Innovation in Education

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Gene Wilhoit is the Executive Director of the National Center for Innovation in Education (CIE), where he leads national initiatives to advance systems that seek greater equity in how children develop the identity, community, agency, and competency that pave the way for greater equity in our larger society. Through his tenure, CIE has contributed to developing and sustaining a wide variety of learning communities for leaders, educators, and community members committed to build and reshape systems so that they are, by design, always seeking greater equity. Prior to his work at CIE, Gene led educational initiatives at all levels as a classroom teacher, district leader, state superintendent, and national policy advisor. While at Council of Chief State School Officers, Gene spearheaded the states’ collective action to adopt the Common Core Standards, and founded the multi-state Innovation Lab Network. He brings expertise focused on transformational leadership, reshaping educational priorities, and re-envisioning assessment and learning to generate student autonomy and agency, and advance societal equity goals.

Discussion Topics:

  • Transformational leadership that support schools and districts to address equity and inclusion
  • Examples of partnerships that help to engage students, families, teachers, and district and state leaders and that build on the strengths of local communities
  • Re-imagining assessment to improve student autonomy and agency, and advance equity

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November & December


Virtual Sessions




Administrators, Policymakers, Researchers, Teacher Educators, Teachers, School and District Leaders