The particular shape of a formative evaluation will depend on the context, including the program being evaluated and the resources available. A well-developed form of formative evaluation is described in the Action-Evaluation essay. Other forms of formative evaluation may be more appropriate where it is not possible to involve all stakeholders as consistently as is preferable in a full action-evaluation approach. For example, a training team might discuss amongst themselves the progress in their week-long training every evening, but involve the participants in an explicit formative evaluation for a short session in the middle of the training. Formative evaluation does not need to take over a project and infuse itself into every aspect of the work, but should be incorporated to the extent that it can improve work.
Until more reform happens, high-stakes assessments and the sheer numbers of tests students are expected to take will continue to be issues of prominent debate in the education world. The future of assessment is online and adaptive. In fact, as we move towards this future, tests will become increasingly precise, meeting students where they are, and pinpointing exactly what they need to learn. With this kind of data-rich precision, assessments should become less frequent in number and in intensity. After all, in the end, the problem is less the idea of testing itself, but how we design them, apply them, and make use of their data. Done the right way, assessments are a great way for educators to better understand their students’ progress, because helping students learn is the primary objective of education.
As teachers and students are engaged in a continuous process of gathering evidence, making judgments, and adjusting/differentiating instruction with all students when a class, course, or unit begins, the frequency with which students are assessed, are engaged in forms of self-assessment, and teachers are making adjustments forward or backward are all part of effectively teaching and assessing with learning progressions. Pinchok and Brandt (2009), among a number of experts, "believe that the timeliness, flexibility, and ongoing nature of formative assessment techniques are most helpful in informing instruction for teachers and closing achievement gaps for students and for preparing students for the short- and long-term formative and summative benchmarks they must meet" (p. 10).