Formative Assessment and Consequential Validity: A Practice Yet to be Effectively Implemented in Saudi Higher Education

Muhammad Umer


Standardized tests have been found in various settings strongly influencing students’ learning processes as well as outcomes, but such tests have been reported being unhelpful in improving student learning. In contrast, formative assessment (FA) is employed to help students know the level of their learning during a course and allow them to increase the standard of their learning, through knowing their learning weaknesses, receiving informative feedback from their teachers and applying adequate learning strategies, in order to achieve the formulated goals of the course. A thorough examination of empirical published research in the field revealed that insightful studies in Saudi academic context are still awaited. Therefore, this exploratory study was an attempt to investigate consequential validity of formative assessment at a Saudi university. To examine the nature of the consequential validity, data were collected from 960 English-major students via a survey (of whom 465 responded), 18 classroom observations and 4 focus-group interviews. The data underwent both statistical and content analysis. The results showed that FA, in the context of this study, seriously lacks intended consequential validity—positive impact on students’ learning. Besides, the data indicated a strong unintended consequential validity i.e., negative bearing of FA on what the students learnt, how they learnt it and the depth of their learning. Therefore, it is recommended that FA practices should be urgently revisited with expert understanding for the sake of students’ improved learning. Finally, teachers should be trained in how to employ FA tools more skillfully and effectually.

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