Professor Dylan Wiliam has devoted much of his career to the study of the way assessment can be utilised to support learning, rather than simply using it as a way to determine whether learning has taken place.
Broadly speaking, we call this type of assessment - assessment that is used to enhance and guide learning - formative assessment. This is distinct from assessment that is used predominantly just to measure whether learning has taken place, or to tick off designated skills or units completed, which we call summative assessment.
Black and Wiliam define formative assessment as “all those activities undertaken by teachers, and/or by students, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged.” (Black, Paul & Wiliam, Dylan . "Assessment and classroom learning". Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice 5 .)
Formative assessment is usually carried out both prior to teaching (Diagnostic or Pre-Assessment) and during a learning activity (Feedback). Formative assessment informs teaching and learning, and is a vital part of differentiated instruction.
CARS & STARS Online is structured to provide frequent classroom-based formative testing of students’ progress toward mastering the core reading strategies.
The Pretests helps teachers set students’ learning goals.
The Benchmarks provide frequent assessment tools that help teachers monitor students’ progress on mastering reading skills. There are five opportunities to benchmark students’ progress on mastering the core reading strategies.
The Post-tests assess the completion of the students’ learning goals.
CARS & STARS Online is devoted to progress monitoring, a process that uses frequent and repeated testing of the same skills and concepts. Frequent formative testing in this way allows teachers to make quick judgements about the effectiveness of their instruction as a built-in part of the program, as students progress from Pretest to Benchmark to Post-test.