Challenges and misperceptions: formative assessment in Sumbawa and North Lombok

In countries across the world, formative assessment remains a key classroom level tool for informing teachers, parents and policy makers about how well students are learning, and how different schools might be performing against a national framework of educational standards.

Commonly, formative assessment tasks are given to students throughout a particular unit of work, in order to check progress and help fine-tune learning arrangements so that students remain on track. At its core, formative assessment is a key part of the journey to improving student learning outcomes and educational quality in the long term. In the early grades, this is especially important.

For many teachers across Indonesia, key areas of formative assessment remain an ongoing challenge. The full potential and advantage of using formative assessment tools in the classroom is often be lost. This includes formally recording the results of observations, questioning, quizzes, reviews and mini-tests to assess progressive student learning.

In 2017, INOVASI developed an introductory workshop on formative assessment for selected teachers in North Lombok and Sumbawa, with co-funding from local government budgets. Further workshops were then rolled out in Bima, Dompu, West Sumbawa and Central Lombok.

During the workshops, teachers were introduced to the differences between summative and formative assessment, and learnt the importance of creating an assessment portfolio for each student so as to better monitor learning and performance. Examples of formative assessment tools were introduced.

In working closely with teachers throughout the workshops, a number of key lessons emerged:

–        Challenges in developing a student portfolio: most teachers had not yet tried using a student assessment portfolio in the classroom and had trouble in choosing what pieces of student work to include in the portfolio. There was also a misperception that a portfolio was costly, because each student has to have their own folder and separate drawers are required to house them. In some instances, principals were not willing to cover this cost from BOSDA budget.

–        Differentiating between summative and formative assessment: almost all teachers had difficulty in understanding the differences between summative and portfolio assessment, thinking that formative assessment only referred to a final examination or assessment activity. In fact, these tools should be used during the unit or learning process to assess and improve student learning ability.

–        Student feedback: many teachers had a low ability to give verbal and written feedback on student work, even though this feedback is crucial for further improvement and learning. Over the course of the workshop, many participants felt more confident in giving feedback on the portfolio items and student works.


Many tools used during the workshop helped to improve teachers’ understanding, including key videos and module examples. However, the need to develop locally relevant examples and tools was evident. In addition, local misperceptions around the expense of a student assessment portfolio can be overcome by using and recycling readily available materials, including unused calendar folders and other materials.

INOVASI Education Specialist Mr Afifudin spoke of the importance of this workshop, and the particular need for teachers to learn the art of giving effective student feedback.

“Giving good feedback is essential, as teachers are used to using a test type model assessment where they simply score the test, rather than commenting or analysing a student’s response. From these workshops, the most significant impact we observed was the mindset change of the teachers, in how they viewed and used formative assessment”.

Said one workshop participant, grade one teacher from West Sumbawa Ms Dina Diana, “the benefits of this process for teachers is to reflect on pre and post learning of our students, so we can gather assessment and knowledge and know the needs of our students. In addition, students can assess themselves”.

Another primary school teacher from West Sumbawa, Ms Eka Sari Sumbawati, also learnt much about formative assessment concepts from the workshops.

“The process of formative assessment is very important because the assessment of students is not only the final test score, but we as teachers need to observe the development of learner understanding along the way. This assessment is not detrimental to students, because they can improve and enrich their learning along the way”, she said.

Moving forward, INOVASI will continue providing technical support to the Agency for Research and Development (Balitbang) to support their national formative assessment agenda. This may include supporting the development of a national framework on formative assessment and the framework’s quality assurance. A socialisation and training program may also be developed in parallel, with a plan to pilot this in one of INOVASI’s partner districts.

Challenges and misperceptions: formative assessment in Sumbawa and North Lombok