Embedded Formative Assessment

As soon as students get a grade, the learning stops. We may not like it, but ...this is a relatively stable feature of how human minds work
Dylan Wiliam
Embedded, formative assessment involves diagnostically assessing what students are learning, but in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the class or make students feel judged. The feedback is generally qualitative and used to give students information and tools to learn and grow. This is in contrast to high stakes summative assessments which do not provide useful or timely feedback to students but is rather intended for external audiences interested in school performance.

Why is it important to have in the classroom?

When students get useful feedback without feeling judged, they are much more disposed to acting on that feedback to improve than when they receive grades that are interpreted as an indictment of their abilities.

How does it support intrinsic motivation and ownership?

Feedback is power. Students gain the information they need in more or less real time to control their educational outcomes. This, combined with an approach supportive of  growth mindset helps students take ownership of their learning.

What does it look like in practice?

Embedded formative assessment is light-weight and happens as students work rather than as a separate process. It can be observation of how students collaborate or stay on task, digital check-ins that start with a question rather than an answer, or other non-invasive practices.


There is too much emphasis on high stakes summative assessment that meets the interest of external stakeholders as opposed to formative assessment that meets the needs of learners and teachers.

There is also a risk of going too far – of see the numbers and data instead of the child. This can lead to the child’s real needs being missed as their performance is rated on a checklist of statistics.