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9.2.1 Formative Evaluation

The term ‘formative evaluation’ was originally coined by Scriven (1973) to classify evaluation that gathered information for the purpose of improving instruction as the instruction was being given.

The performance of the learner was the primary focus in Scriven’s version of formative evaluation. Information about the learner’s immediate retention of skills and knowledge, retention over time and attitudes were used to shape instruction as it proceeded. Formative evaluation was considered to be an integral part of instructional design and delivery.

With regards to the evaluation of the school curriculum, formative evaluation is the process of looking for strengths and weaknesses in the content, materials and methodology as the evaluation process unfolds. Weaknesses are attended to before the whole process is completed.

In curriculum context, formative evaluation can be considered to be the process that looks for evidence of success or failure of a curriculum program, a syllabus or a subject taught during implementation. Formative evaluation answers two questions:

  • Is the instruction successful?
  • If it is not successful, what can be done to avoid failure?

It ensures that all aspects of the program or project are likely to produce success. It provides information that can be used to stop doubtful projec from being implemented. It is therefore a conceptual and physical exercise that is carried out before a program comes to an end.

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