An Enhanced Formative Assessment and Self-Regulated Learning Program: From the Classroom to the Workplace

Case Report

Austin J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2014;1(1): 1002.

An Enhanced Formative Assessment and Self–Regulated Learning Program: From the Classroom to the Workplace

Jay Finkelman1*, John Hudesman2, Bert Flugman2 and Sara Crosby3

1Department of Psychology, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, USA

2Center for Advanced Study in Education, City University of New York, USA

3New York City College of Technology, USA

*Corresponding author: Jay Finkelman, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 617 W. 7th Street, Ninth Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017, USA

Received: January 20, 2014; Accepted: February 24, 2014; Published: March 05, 2014


Effective instruction in the classroom and training⁄evaluation in the workplace have been the focus of countless approaches and claims, not all of them contained within a complete theory of learning or substantiated with the appropriate research. This article will describe an Enhanced Formative Assessment Program that uses the self–regulated learning (SRL) model. SRL teaches students and workers to become more efficient and effective learners through a three stage cyclical process. The first planning stage teaches the learner how to set goals, select appropriate strategies, and make efficacy judgments. The second practice stage teaches them how to monitor their progress in real time. And the third evaluation stage allows learners to measure how close they came to achieving their goal, and more importantly, sets the stage for the next SRL cycle so that they can make additional progress. We will more fully describe the model and the research that supports its efficacy in the classroom as well as its potential applications to the workplace.

Keywords: Formative assessment; Self–regulated learning; Mastery learning; Transfer of training; Industrial training and performance evaluation.


This paper describes a five–step Enhanced Formative Assessment Program that uses self–regulated learning to maximize learning. In its most elemental form, formative assessment involves the use of an assessment instrument, e.g., a classroom quiz or workplace evaluation, which is administered by the teacher or supervisor. The results of this assessment are then returned to the student or supervisee. Inherent in this process is the belief that by using these assessments together with the subsequent feedback produced by the teacher or supervisor, the recipient‘s work product will be enhanced.

In order to optimize the usefulness of formative assessments, researchers have concluded that certain “built ins” must be included. For example, the best outcomes are usually obtained when feedback includes specific suggestions about what the recipients can do to improve their skills [1]. By contrast, feedback that focuses on praise or punishment is far less effective. Additionally, it is necessary that the recipient of the feedback must actively participate in the formative assessment process, [2–4]. In other words, when students or supervisees receive feedback, together with specific suggestions for follow up, there must be an explicit requirement that they engage in activities that demonstrate that they are actually using the feedback to improve their performance.

An example of constructively using feedback in the classroom would be requiring students who incorrectly answer a math problem to use the teacher’s feedback to solve another mathematics problem that uses the same strategies. Similarly, in the workplace, a supervisee might be required to use the feedback they receive from an evaluation to improve some aspect of their work performance, e.g., using a recommended sales technique when making a specific number of new sales calls.

Finally, the researchers also emphasized that teachers and supervisors must also make adjustments to their teaching or supervision in response to the assessment evidence. In other words, they are also expected to make changes to their teaching and management styles on the basis of the new information generated by the assessment. We will discuss this topic in a later section, but suffice it to say that teachers and supervisors all–too–often give lip service about their willingness to change their instructional or supervisory approaches, but these adjustments are often not carried out in practice [5].

When a feedback system contains these components, there is ample evidence that students and workers improve their performance. For example, across a range of content domains students’ achievement gains generated with formative assessment were among the largest ever reported for education interventions [3,4,6]. Underscoring the importance of formative assessment and feedback in the learning process, a review of 196 formative assessment⁄feedback studies found that when properly implemented this approach resulted in a positive mean effect size of 0.79 an effect size greater than students’ prior cognitive ability, socioeconomic background, and class size [1]. In summary, for formative assessment to be effective it must include a multi–step process that involves both teachers. (Supervisors) and students (supervisees) using feedback to constructively alter their behaviors.

However, while formative assessment positively impacts performance, it is our belief that it can be improved upon. Most of the above cited work focuses on the content elements of the learning process, e.g., learning mathematics content strategies in the classroom or increasing product sales in the workplace. In addition, many programs also incorporate a variety of learning–how–to learn skills, e.g., how to set goals or manage time. We believe that this type of instruction is incomplete. In order for learners to maximize the effectiveness of using these content–based and learning–how–tolearn skills, it is important that they be contextualized within a more complete framework of learning that allows students and workers to gain an understanding of how these specific skills can best be implemented and evaluated. A focus of this article is to demonstrate how self–regulated learning (SRL), which is a generalized theory of how we learn, can be combined with formative assessment to maximize student learning and worker productivity.

The SRL component of formative assessment

The SRL approach guiding our work borrows heavily from Zimmerman’s model [7–10] and Grant’s model [11–13]. It is characterized by multiple feedback cycles, each of which consists of three main phases as illustrated in Figure 1 [14,15]. First is a planning phase, in which students (supervisees) learn how to effectively review their past efforts, analyze the task, choose those strategies that best address their specific learning challenge, set identifiable goals, and make self–efficacy judgments about their work. Next is a practice phase where students or supervisees implement their plan, monitor their progress, and make real time adjustments to their learning plans. This is followed by an evaluation phase, during which students or workers assess the effectiveness of their strategies based on feedback from the instructor or supervisor. They then build on successful strategies and modify or replace less effective ones. The students’ or supervisees’ responses from the evaluation phase become the basis for the planning phase in the next iteration of the SRL cycle.