This is page 2 of Dr. Hess' article titled, "5 Key Ideas Underlying Formative Assessment." Click here to see page 1.



Progress indicators (PIs) in a learning progression describe typical observable evidence of learning along the learning continuum for each larger learning objective (e.g., Students will apply organizational strategies and multiple reference sources to analyze, integrate, and communicate fact-based information on topics, concepts, and events for authentic and varied audiences;  Students will apply reasoning using properties of two- and three-dimensional shapes to analyze, represent, and model geometric relationships). Teachers can utilize the descriptions in a learning progression to plan instruction and assessment tasks, as well as to interpret where students are on their learning pathways.



A conceptual view of learning progressions is one of overlapping learning “zones” along a learning continuum (Hess, 2008). At the lower end of the progression are “Novice” learners (at any grade level), who may (or may not) demonstrate the necessary prerequisite skills and concepts needed that can be built upon over time. A starting point for learning can be established, perhaps with a short pre-assessment or formative diagnostic assessment.  Guided, targeted, and scaffolded practice can be employed to develop subsets of understanding (skills/concepts broken into smaller manageable and meaningful learning chunks). Later during the instructional cycle, instruction and assessment target students’ ability to develop schemas to organize and connect new learning and work more independently - what “Expert” performers consistently do. (The Zone of Proximal Development is the range of potential each person has for learning at any given time, Vygotsky, 1978).

























Sample Formative-Interim-Summative Assessment Planning along a Learning Continuum





















“ … consider where the lesson resides in the larger learning trajectory… The right learning target for today’s lesson builds upon the learning targets from previous lessons in the unit and connects to learning targets in future lessons to advance student understanding of important skills and concepts.”


Moss & Brookhart, Learning Targets, (2012, p.2)






Karin Hess, Ed.D, is a recognized international leader in developing practical approaches for using cognitive rigor and learning progressions as the foundation for formative, interim, and performance assessments.



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© since July 2014 Karin Hess, Ed.D.