In order for teachers to understand their students’ needs and adapt their teaching accordingly, teachers use a variety of tools, including assessments. Formative assessments, including in-class assignments, essays, and quizzes, can help teachers “take the pulse” of their class by identifying learning gaps among students. Low -achieving and neurodivergent students—whose mental functions are different from that which is considered normal—have shown positive feedback in response to formative assessments, however more research is needed.
To understand what role formative assessments can play in benefitting neurodivergent students, what difficulties come up when implementing formative assessments, and whether formative assessments are effective in decreasing students’ stress, I conducted seven structured interviews with three students and four teachers.
My interviews revealed that formative assessments are most effective when carefully selected and implemented in a professional manner. Teachers emphasized that not all assessments are created equally, and some can even be detrimental to student learning and increase stress. Students believed that formative assessments were beneficial for adapting the speed of teaching to the pace of class, but what they saw as most important for both their learning and mental well-being was the relationship between students and teachers. Since formative assessments come with a heavy workload for teachers, more training and higher pay would be required to ensure that the use of such assessments led to higher quality teaching and learning.