News Jamal Abedi Paul E. Heckman

$3.2 Million Grant to Study Formative Assessment in Mathematics

August 2010

Portrait of Paul Heckman (left) and Jamal Abedi (right)

Professors Jamal Abedi, principal investigator, and Paul Heckman, co-investigator, received a five-year $3.2 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation. Work on “Formative Assessment in Mathematics: Current Status and Guidelines for Future Developments” starts on September 1, 2010.

This research will increase understanding of the use of formative assessment in mathematics instruction in K-12. Formative assessment is intended to assess student knowledge and mastery during the teaching and learning process enabling teachers to adjust their instruction to address possible deficiencies in student understanding and mastery of particular concepts and problems.

The project’s focus on math stems from concern about persistently low statewide achievement in math compared with the rest of the nation. The achievement gap for underrepresented students is even greater, particularly in math. The project will have three phases.

Phase I will consist of a statewide survey of K-12 mathematics’ teachers to identify current assessments and practices. In Phase II, based on the survey results, formative assessments at 120 schools with high percentages of underrepresented student populations will be analyzed for validity, reliability and accessibility, with particular attention paid to the needs of ethnically and economically underrepresented students, English learners, and students with disabilities. The researchers will also assess alignment with California content standards and measure the impact of formative assessment on student achievement on standardized state tests.

In Phase III, the researchers will select a group of schools with strong formative assessment practices and academic growth for in-depth, focused qualitative case studies to explore and document best practices. Ultimately, the project will produce conclusions, recommendations, guidelines and tools for the development and use of new or improved formative assessment instruments.

According to Abedi, the products and recommended best practices that will come out of this research have broad potential to improve student achievement outcomes, particularly for traditionally marginalized students. Lessons learned will be applicable nationwide and across academic subjects.

Read the UC Davis News Release.

Note: The Institute of Indian Hills at the Claremont Graduate University under the directions of Dr. Nazanin Zargarpour serves as a subcontractor for this grant and will help with administration of the surveys.

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