Formative logoFormative is a real-time, interactive assessment tool.  A formative assessment is a formal or informal opportunity to do two things: identify which students are struggling AND intervene.  “If an educator does not make an intervention, then they have not done anything formative.  However, if a teacher is looking at every moment of the day as an opportunity to make an intervention, then they are in fact always formative” (Craig Jones).

Tool Snapshot

Price Free
Type of learning Behaviorism
Ease of Use ★★★★✩
Privacy ★★✩✩✩
Accessibility ★★✩✩✩
Class Size Unlimited
ISTE Standards for Educators Analyst


Access: Formative can be accessed on any web browser on a Windows, Android, or Apple operating system.  There is a YouTube channel that holds easy-to-understand mini-tutorials.   An active community forum provides innovative tips and assessments.

Cost: Formative is free to both teachers and students.  Teachers and school districts can purchase a premium version with more features.

Accessibility: Formative does not explicitly provide accommodations for learners with special needs.  However,  the tool can be used in conjunction with screen-magnifying and screen-reading programs.

Privacy: Students under 13 must have parental consent to use Formative.  Formative requires teachers to provide parents’ e-mail addresses so that consent can be obtained.  Alternatively, parents can directly e-mail their consent to For all features to be operational, users need to permit cookie access.  Cookies collect internet activity, and can be used by advertisers to direct ad pitches. Other user information gathered by Formative include Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, browser types, internet service providers, referring or exit pages, click stream data, operating systems and the dates and times the site was visited.  Formative states that the information gathered is meant to improve the user experience, including information that is shared with outside websites that Formative links to (and that are clicked on by users).

Terms of Use: Users understand and accept that all content uploaded is considered to be in the public domain. Formative maintains a “worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable and transferable license to use, edit, modify, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, perform, and otherwise fully exploit the User Content in connection with the Website and our (and our successors’ and assigns’) businesses, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Website (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels (including, without limitation, third party websites and feeds).” Formative prohibits content that is copyrighted, obscene, pornographic, defamatory, sexually explicit, violent, or discriminates against protected groups.  Users are forbidden from using the tool for commercial transactions, such as contests or sweepstakes. Formative was designed for users in the United States, and makes no claim to be legal in other countries.  Tellingly, Formative provides an e-mail address if anyone wishes to give feedback on their terms of service.

Equity: Formative has the potential to enhance deep learning among at-risk learners.  Too often, at-risk learners may be labeled as unmotivated, lazy, or lacking focus.  Formative provides an opportunity for all students – especially at-risk students – to track and receive comments on their progress.  This may serve to improve equity in education, as teachers can provide meaningful feedback in real-time.

Formative and the SAMR Model

  • Substitution:  Substitution materializes when technology supplants an analog process.  The exams provided by Formative can substitute exams that have traditionally been distributed using pencil and paper.
  • Augmentation:  Augmentation occurs when technology functionally improves an analog process. Uploading an answer key to Formative makes grading seamless, rather than requiring the teacher to dutifully check the answer key for each student submission.
  • Modification:  Modification is realized when technology notably overhauls an analog or digital process.  Formative’s highly participatory community forums enables teachers to enrich their professional learning networks with others who hold diverse, deep, and dynamic backgrounds and experiences.
  • Redefinition:   Redefinition takes place when technology creates a product that was not previously possible.  The tool’s ability to let teachers observe students’ work in real-time, from one screen, is a significant redefining characteristic.

Learning Activities

  • Pathophysiology: A pathophysiology lecturer completed a lesson on childhood disorders of the gastrointestinal system.  Students have voiced misconceptions about pyloric stenosis, a congenital disorder.  The lecturer uploads an image of the duodenum and pylorus, and asks students to draw the disorder’s progression on the image.  The lecturer evaluates each student’s grasp of the content in real-time, and provides individualized feedback.
  • Algebra: An algebra teacher visits the Formative community forum, where a math coach shared a code that embeds the Desmos graphing calculator as a content item in a question. The teacher copies and pastes the code into a worksheet, activating the graphing calculator.  She instructs her students to complete the worksheet so that they can gain practice in graphing linear equations. The teacher helps individual students identify errors made, in real-time, when solving linear equations with unknown variables.
  • Microeconomics: After completing a lesson on the challenging topic of capital supply and markets to students who are not majoring in economics, a professor asks the class to self-reflect on the lesson.  The first question is an evaluative multiple choice question, and students can either choose one of three options:  (A) I understand; (B) I somewhat understand; or (C) I do not understand. The second question is an open-ended question, where students complete the following sentence: “After today, I can …” The final question is also open-ended, and students are prompted to explain a concept about capital supply and markets that was salient to them.

How to Use Formative



Burns, M. (2017). #FormativeTech: Meaningful, Sustainable, and Scalable Formative Assessment With Technology. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

Hodgson, J. H. (2016). One-to-one technology integration: An examination of academic tasks and pedagogical shifts and changes to the instructional environment (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Proquest Dissertations Database.

Nicholas, R. (2016). Using apps in the geography classroom. Interaction, 44(4), 44-46.