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Delectus - Scientific Journal, Inicc-Perú - [ISSN: 2663-1148]




Vol. 4 No. 2 (2021): July-December [Edit closure: 01/07/2021]

RECEIVED: 22/05/2021 | ACCEPTED: 11/06/2021 | PUBLISHED: 01/07/2021

Suggested quote (APA, seventh edition)

García Riveros, J. M., Farfán Pimentel, J. F., Fuertes Meza, L. C., & Montellanos Solís, A. R. (2021). Formative assessment: a challenge for teachers in distance education. Delectus4(2), 45-54.

Formative assessment: a challenge for teachers in distance education

Janet Meluzka GarcÍa Riveros

César Vallejo University, Peru

Johnny FÉlix FarfÁn Pimentel

César Vallejo University, Peru

Luis Carmelo Fuertes Meza

César Vallejo University, Peru

Amparo Rosa Montellanos SolÍs

César Vallejo University, Peru

The purpose of this article is to carry out a review and critical analysis of the most relevant bibliography on formative evaluation in education and its implications. In this distance context, due to the state of health emergency, based on the problematic that means to evaluate currently in all the educational level; and the limitations faced daily by the teaching process in the classroom and now that it is provided in virtual educational spaces, the problem is aggravated considering inconsistencies in the management of the theories on evaluation, which is intended to be updated with respect to formative evaluation and feedback to improve learning outcomes. In the first part of this article, a theoretical vision of formative assessment and its importance for the current educational process is provided. In the second part, the limitations of the application of formative assessment in distance education and its implications for the development of learning are analyzed, including the most important elements that account for the scope of learning assessment. Then, the methodology used is considered, which focused on the documentary research of scientific articles of the last 6 years in indexed journals. It is concluded how important it is to analyze the results of the systematic review and to develop a discussion among the most relevant information of the considered bibliography. Finally, conclusions are drawn based on the development of the research.

Keywords: formative evaluation, distance context, feedback.

In the current global context, the educational requirements to provide quality learning are focused on formative assessment, which is a necessity to assess the learning processes in the development of competencies (Fraile et al., 2019). In view of the aforementioned, it is essential to reconsider the way of evaluating because in these times it constitutes one of the most complex problems of pedagogical practice in the classroom, in view that most of the time it is only quantitative, thus, the way of evaluating must present a change to relate to the achievement of learning beyond the elementary numerical result (Andrade & Brookhart, 2019). In addition, considering that educators must assume commitments to evolve in their assessment practices for learning.

In Latin America, the problem of evaluation refers to the limited use and management of formative evaluation instruments by teachers (Pérez et al., 2019). It should be added, that in Chile the educational practices of evaluation persist in the traditional approach in which rote learning predominates, therefore, it is time for teachers to reformulate their vision to the evaluation processes always bearing in mind the characteristics, needs and interests of students (Serra et al., 2018). In this way, to be able to achieve real learning levels that allow us to make improvement proposals. Based on this reasoning, we are committed to the development of a competency-based assessment that frames a comprehensive pedagogical process (Morales & Medina, 2020). Thus, we must reflect on the evaluative practice, giving priority to the formative function in the teaching-learning process.

In view of this, it is necessary to conceive formative evaluation as the cyclical process through which students and their teachers follow up, collect and process information in order to arrive at results that allow judgments to be emitted and decisions to be taken on learning. The information obtained can be used as feedback for each student to activate internal processes and self-regulate their learning (Black & William, 1998 cited by Valdivia & Fernández, 2020). Likewise, formative evaluation is a continuous activity that takes place throughout the educational process with the aim of regulating it; therefore, assessing the results is not the most important thing, but understanding the process, controlling it and identifying possible difficulties and to what extent these can be corrected with new proposals for training activities and strategies foreseen for the benefit of student learning (Cunill&Curbelo, 2021).

With regard to formative assessment, it aims to develop responsible and conscious learning in the student through the accompaniment of the teacher that allows building a learning structure in a systematic way; thus, schools should promote innovative learning proposals with relevant tools and resources for this purpose.  In this context, it is essential to be clear that formative assessment is characterized by using different techniques, means and instruments among which are; observation, the checklist, rubrics, the interview, the portfolio, different types of organizers, the performance record and others that are functional for educational actors (Segura, 2018).

On the other hand, it is important to point out that the phases of formative assessment are motivate and feedback which consists of identifying the learning spaces in which the student is from his starting point to the point where it is desired to reach in order to eliminate the learning gap (Black & William, 1998 cited in Bizarro et al., 2019). Likewise, it should be kept in mind that the procedures for formative assessment consider three methodological devices due to the importance they have in terms of the frequency of their use in educational practices in the classroom: questioning, feedback through grades, and co-assessment and self-assessment (Moreno, 2016).
In addition, it is necessary to point out that formative assessment is based on the constructivist paradigm that is based on the search for evidence in an intentional way, involving and engaging students in the management of their own learning from metacognitive and reflective processes (Minedu, 2019). Adding in this regard, the changes in formative assessment are mainly due to the influence of constructivist, cognitive and sociocultural theories of learning where the student regulates his own learning and key aspects are highlighted, such as the planning of learning objectives; continuous feedback that includes self-assessment, co-assessment and peer assessment (Medina &Deroncele, 2019).

On the other hand, it is emphasized that the assessment of achievement levels must take into account the systematic, systemic, participatory and reflective process (Pasek de Pinto &Mejía, 2017). In order to develop formative assessment, it is necessary to take into account the importance of feedback as a strategy, but this time oriented among peers, that is, among classmates in the classroom, which is defined as the information a student receives through a peer about the related tasks he/she performs to improve his/her academic performance (Huisman et al, 2019). In addition, evaluation congregates the center of the entire educational process through the interactions that are generated in the classroom, starting from the experiences and activities proposed for at appropriate times to perform feedback, which verifies the level of learning achieved (Rodriguez & Salinas, 2020). 

Likewise, the emotional involvement of the students, which is expressed on the basis of feedback, during the reflection of their own self-evaluations, is of utmost importance (Leighton, 2019). It should be noted that the teacher is the one who should guide the student's interpretive process by promoting higher-order capacities of critical and reflective character (Pellegrino, 2020). In addition, feedback is formative because it improves skills and they recommend that academic interaction be in student teams; as this develops greater commitment to the improvement of learning (Huisman et al, 2019). However, there is little systematized psychological research on students and the interpretations of feedback they make through mental models (Leighton, 2019).

At present, perhaps the future may seem uncertain especially in this time of pandemic (Díaz, 2020). However, in order for us to have control over the future of education, we must make serious transformations in the evaluation system starting from constant feedback with our students and using it as a strategy to improve the development of complex thinking through distance education (Medina &Deroncele, 2020). In this regard, it is necessary to understand that evaluation can be performed without necessarily including a quantitative grade; in fact, a formative and permanent evaluation can have greater impact and be more motivating for the student (López, et al., 2019). It should be noted that evaluating in a relevant way guarantees the assessment of progress in the learning process of each student, so that by developing the required competencies always accompanied by their teacher they will be able to identify and reflect on the problems of their community and propose innovative actions for improvement that will contribute to solving problems and transforming their reality (Buenrostro, 2016). In this sense, formative evaluation is important because it allows showing students where they are in the learning process and where they can get to, as well as helping them to progress by becoming aware of how to do it, with the conviction that learning and evaluation are inseparable to the extent that they favor the constructive, reflective and effective learning process (López, 2017).

On the other hand, it should be taken into consideration that formative evaluation makes students be active, participatory with their peers and teachers; they share their learning purposes and understand how they are progressing, what they need to contribute, how to do it and when to do it to improve, in this process students develop their self-evaluation and co-evaluation skills (Heritage, 2007 cited by Moreno 2016). Consequently, to evaluate in a formative way is to make students autonomous in the management of their own learning by becoming aware of their weaknesses, difficulties, needs, interests and strengths in which they will increase their self-confidence and self-assurance. Given the current perspective since the beginning of the pandemic, many governments were forced to create and propose educational processes that respond to the needs of the so-called new normality, which were implemented considering the different virtual environments and accessibility of each reality. From what happened, distance education was implemented as a challenge for educational actors by changing the teaching and learning process to a form lacking direct and personalized contact, which puts the quality of learning at risk (Intriago, et al., 2020). A highlighting concern in this context of distance education, is that online assessment offers a tendency towards traditional forms of assessment (proctored exams and written assignments), as well as few opportunities for variety in assessments and limited development of generic skills such as communication skills, technological abilities for reading and writing, problem solving, teamwork and other similar ones(Dorrego, 2016).

Based on this reality, we should consider what advantages we could take advantage of this virtual educational process, which was considered for many years in educational development, but its real importance was limited. It should be noted that virtual education in schools was considered only as a support, and this in the case of having resources for its implementation, now the scenario has changed becoming an opportunity to continue with school learning (Barrón, 2020). On the other hand, it is suggested that distance evaluation starts with self-evaluation, that is to say that students are the protagonists responsible for the assessment of their own learning; self-evaluation is the fundamental basis by which information is collected, systematized and unified with the purpose that the educational institution reflects on its weaknesses and strengths in order to improve them with creative and realistic proposals (Bañuelos& Montero, 2017). Likewise, we must take into account that when making use of information and communication technology, teachers must be clear about the pedagogical foundations of learning and evaluation while observing which aspects improve or delimit the achievements of these processes so that other study or teaching strategies can be implemented (Lezcano&Vilanova, 2017).

In conclusion, after the analysis of the literature on evaluation, formative evaluation, feedback and its implication in distance education, it is essential to reach a reflection that allows opening the pedagogical fields of action to improve the practices of formative evaluation. It is essential to reach a reflection that allows the opening of pedagogical fields of action to improve formative evaluation practices and even more so now in this context of distance education where the teaching challenge is to adapt existing strategies and innovate others that are adapted to the reality of learners. For this reason, the objective of this article is to analyze and reflect on the updated and relevant information related to formative assessment in the current context of distance education as a theoretical proposal that broadens the panorama for educational agents to reconsider the educational service provided in schools.

A descriptive literature review will be conducted in order to broaden the theoretical panorama of formative assessment in the current context of schools that constitutes a challenge for teachers in their daily performance. According to Vera (2016), the descriptive review updates the reader on useful concepts in areas in permanent evolution. It should be noted that it has great utility in teaching, and will also interest many people in other related fields. The analysis-synthesis method was considered for this purpose, which allows us to perform an analysis of the scientific arguments found and synthesize the relevant information (Deroncele&Medina, 2020).

It should be noted that the epistemological analysis is based on 34 "open access" references found in Scopus, Ebsco, Scielo, Proquest, Dialnet with the search term or descriptor using only the title of the article and with a time restriction considering the last 6 years. Documentary analysis was also used as the main method, taking into account that the main objective was the systematization of the information found. The state of the art is proposed as a methodological line based on two constituent pillars: heuristics and hermeneutics (Londoño et al., Calderón, 2014, cited in Medina &Deroncele, 2019, p.599).

Evaluation is a key piece to produce necessary information throughout this process, forging in the student the identification of his strengths, opportunities for improvement and above all his formative potentialities (Deroncele et al., 2020). From the virtual environment, it is crucial to conceive a learning environment, even more powerful and capable of producing a revolution in education (Díaz, 2020). In this way, a logical historical starting point is proposed, which helps to understand how this concept is imprinted in the current educational phenomenon and how it represents an opportunity for evolution and social transformation (Villalaz& Medina, 2020).

In education, the Internet is used and virtual environments begin to emerge as educational options, some of them as the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). From this moment on, we should consider that the opportunities to take on an online educational process always had sufficient historical space and time. However, this was not taken advantage of or valued at the time.

For a long time, virtual education did not represent a pedagogical priority until the pandemic (Barrón, 2020). By then, everything was dizzying and demanded that, automatically, the actors and institutions urgently incorporated a remote evaluation. In order to bring about a true revolution in education, it is necessary to adapt the curriculum taking into account the skills of the 21st century, such as innovation, media management and the use of ICT; and to reinvent the evaluation system, so that it responds to an integral pedagogy with a formative orientation (Morales and Medina, 2020).

If one wants to take the concept of formative assessment to remote and non-face-to-face education, the challenge becomes even more difficult, but it is not too late to devise how to do it in a reality such as the Peruvian one. There are even positions that integrate three proposals: assessment for learning, assessment for learning and learning for life (Moreno, 2016; Medina and Deroncele, 2020b). When the student sees achievements reached in a real way, he/she is motivated to continue learning. For this, more efficient face-to-face and virtual evaluations must be achieved that help students to monitor their own success. 

In this regard, learning assessment, which is the basic concept of this analysis, it has as its main objective to measure the achievement of the learning goals presented in the curriculum, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The assumption is to encourage a permanent change in students' knowledge through the development of competencies. This type of evaluation would be effective through the method or procedure implemented by the teacher in the classroom, coherently relating the evaluation indicators to the learning goals.

The educational actors and particularly the teachers who are the ones who facilitate learning demonstrate a great predisposition to assimilate and adapt to the changes brought about by the difficulties in developing current educational processes that are often unknown because they were not trained to teach at a distance and even less to evaluate (Díaz, 2020). It should be noted that educational theory can be constantly reformulated in a system that is chaotic by nature where, according to Medina and Deroncele (2019; 2020b), the teacher must seek simplicity within complexity by defining his or her teaching profile.

The capacity for adaptation and reinvention of millions of teachers in the world has been demonstrated in the face of the accelerated process of digitalization that face-to-face education has undergone, now taken to an environment of virtual totality. As a result of this chaotic system produced by the pandemic, order has been achieved within chaos (Barrón, 2020). It has given way to uncertainty where creativity has been imposed to achieve a logic within the new educational methodologies inaugurated by teachers in a virtual learning environment (Díaz, 2020).

However, as previously mentioned, we surely do not yet have the ideal teacher profile in Peru to develop a formative evaluation in this new virtual educational system. The teacher profile must develop a political action to solve problems in their professional practice, becoming the transforming leader that society needs (Villalaz and Medina, 2020). The school must develop critical and reflective thinking to be able to solve the problems that the country needs (Medina and Deroncele, 2020a), not only from Lima, the capital of the country, but also from rural areas. On the other hand, at the country level, there is still no clear path on how to go up the steps and, therefore, how to configure an evaluative culture that contemplates these aspects (Morales and Medina, 2020).

In the report of the state of public teacher policies (Cuenca and Vargas, 2018), comprised in the period 2012-2017, an educational reform that achieves teacher welfare focusing on preparing the field for effective teaching, attracting and retaining talent and managing good performance is established. Although there are attempts to improve this fact, we still have a deficit in salary ranges and a lack of integration between groups of teachers within the institutions in which they work is denoted: individualism instead of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work.

This challenge can be met by working what OECD (2017) proposes about innovative learning environments, whose main constituents are technology, continuous and self-directed learning, a partnership between home and school, research and a comprehensive formative assessment that answers the following questions: where are our students, where are we taking them, what do we need to take them there? Therefore, this second challenge is obtained with a teacher from his reflective role who must review: what is his purpose in teaching, how has he envisioned it, and what needs to be readjusted in this process; without waiting for the final moment of learning. Reflection allows this flexible disposition because it makes the teacher take a break from his "know-how" to focus on his "pedagogical being". That is, he/she must understand who the student is and what he/she needs to learn (Medina and Deroncele, 2020b). It is a challenge that also involves the formative and adaptive process of the teacher; since the great challenge is to rethink education in the teaching process from a complex and transdisciplinary perspective, in other words, through the different disciplines and beyond any discipline teaching the student how to understand the world in a better way (Medina and Deroncele, 2019).

The future may seem uncertain, especially in this pandemic era in which we live (Díaz, 2020). However, in order for us to have control over the future of education, we must make serious transformations in this chaotic system in which we are, starting from constant feedback with our students and using it as a strategy to improve and develop complex thinking (Morin, 1999; Medina and Deroncele, 2020b), through distance education. That is why the OECD (2016), proposes formative assessment as feedback and points out that this term derives from the field of systems engineering; since it is information that generates impact and this same concept is transferred to education to improve the educational outcomes of students.

In this same perspective of students' emotional involvement, Leighton (2019) states that little is known about the students’ interpretations make based on feedback, how they use it, and how they draw conclusions from their own self-assessments. It is up to the teacher to assist the student's interpretive process (Pellegrino, 2020). However, there is little systematized psychological research on students and the interpretations of feedback they make through mental models. Interpreting feedback requires, according to Leighton (2019). Meanwhile Huisman, Saab, Van Den Broek and Van Driel (2019) reaffirm the importance of feedback, but this time oriented towards peer feedback, that is, from the same peers in the classroom, which is defined as the information a student receives through a peer about the related tasks he or she performs to improve his or her academic performance. In this scenario, feedback is formative because it improves the ability and they recommend that several students interact and not only with a peer; since this way a greater commitment is developed for the improvement of learning.

  1. It is essential for teachers to reflect on their role as educators and agents of change; they have the possibility of continuously adapting and adapting all evaluation processes according to the context, needs and interests of the student, deploying the principles of learning by competencies in their actions.
  2. Formative evaluation in the current context requires changing traditional practices now in virtual classrooms and spaces, thus contributing to the evolution of teaching and learning in distance educational spaces; using different resources and digital applications to energize the development processes of competencies that are proposed. This implies a commitment to training teachers in digital competencies to incorporate in their current pedagogical practice, as well as to conceive and reflect on the formative evaluation processes that should always be considered as fundamental in the assessment of learning achievement levels.
  3. The application of formative evaluation in the classroom favors the performance of students considering reflective or discovery and descriptive feedback as strategies to verify the levels of achievement of proposed competencies, which are evidenced through the productions and performances required in each learning experience. If in the reality of face-to-face educational practice, these evaluative processes are a difficulty; then it is time to understand that if consistent changes are not assumed in the use of strategies, instruments, development of planning, analysis of educational proposals, the limitations of the formative function of evaluation will continue and even more so in distance educational spaces where communication is more limited due to economic and social gaps that hinder connectivity and access to virtual resources.
  4. In formative assessment, students are active participants with their teachers, so the individual and collective performance of students who are co-participants in their own assessment must be evaluated, which implies feedback based on the evidence, thus generating a transformation of the evaluative practice in the improvement of learning with autonomy and reflection. In recent years, evidence has shown that formative assessment improves the development of competencies, which are linked to metacognitive abilities, improves the quality of learning and is lasting in life. With formative assessment, students become active, participative with their peers and teachers; they share their learning purposes and understand how they are progressing, what they need to contribute, how to give and improve in this process by developing their self-evaluation and co-evaluation skills.
  5. Feedback is fundamental for the evaluation process and constitutes a key strategy in formative evaluation, since the teacher and the student need to interact in a synchronous and asynchronous manner, thus making self-knowledge and self-regulation effective as pillars of transformation and continuous improvement. This highlights the importance of reconfiguring the ethical sense of evaluation, very different from that of an inquisitorial or fearful process.
  6. Through the analysis of the students' evidence in the proposed activities, the teacher can provide an assessment of the learning process to clearly identify the achievements and difficulties in the development of the learning objectives; he/she also has the possibility to make a comprehensive analysis of the results and then propose their improvement by putting into practice the reflective feedback of learning in a timely manner.

Conflict of interest
There has been no conflict of interest.

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