How can I support my children to learn better?

Parents can support children to become independent learners and reach their potential. Digital formative assessment can empower your children in their learning journey and help you to follow what they do at school and to support them when needed.

Parental expectations and assessment

As a parent, what do you expect from your child at school?

It is not always easy to know how you can best support your child with their school tasks. You probably try to follow what your child does at school and check if they have good grades. But keeping up with children’s learning can be quite a task at times – on top of all the other tasks in life. Is your child perhaps sometimes overwhelmed with a task at school and you feel you can’t help? This video has some new ideas and insights on how to support your child.

Why is formative assessment important for my child?

How do you keep track of your child’s progress at school? As a parent, it is not always easy to tell what they can already do or not. Now imagine how difficult it can be for teachers to know what each student in their classes already know. Assessment is a powerful instrument that can improve teaching and learning and formative assessment helps them make decisions on how to adapt their teaching according to children’s needs.

Simply asking students what they know already for example via a short quiz at the end of the lesson is one way. If the teacher uses this information to plan their next lesson, this is an example of what we call formative assessment.

Formative assessment is not a single method but numerous practices that can help the teacher and your child know where they are and what to do next. In this toolkit, we explain how digital tools can facilitate formative assessment and how you can support your child in digital formative assessment. These tools can be e-portfolios, digital diaries, concept maps, online polls and many more. We will explore the benefits of digital tools further below. For a general overview, check out the pedagogical and digital tools glossaries.

To see some examples, check out this video for some digital formative assessment practices mentioned by teachers.

Formative assessment and examinations

How does formative assessment relate to an assessment based on tests or exams?

Assessment sounds like teachers’ work, but formative assessment is an activity that your child can do as well, as in this video. Formative assessment is any assessment activity that helps the teacher adapt their teaching to children’s needs and that helps them know how they are doing in their learning and what to do next.

Grades help you understand whether your child is doing well at school. Formative assessment is not about grades but is part of daily classroom teaching. Teachers check on what students do and do not understand and adapt their lessons accordingly. Students may receive feedback from the teacher or fellow students or may assess their own work to decide on what next steps to take to improve their work.

As a parent you might worry that focusing on formative assessment will interfere with students’ studies for graded (e.g. end of year or external) tests. But it is not a case of one or the other: graded tests are as important as ever. Feedback on what your child already knows or on how to better learn is designed to help them prepare better for the next graded test, and at the same time learn how to learn and to feel more responsible for their own learning.

Research has shown that formative assessment can help students get better grades (e.g. in English: Bhagat & Spector, 2017; Faber, Luyten & Visscher, 2017; Wall et al. 2006). Formative assessment can also help students who struggle with certain subjects, promoting equity.

Thanks to formative assessment teachers will also know your child better and will make better decisions to improve their learning. Your child can also perform better in graded tests thanks to increased motivation and a better understanding of what they need to do to improve.

Formative assessment is also about students assessing themselves or their peers. When students assess their own work or give feedback on the work of their classmates, they are reflecting on their own learning and what they should do next. Students and teachers typically work together to define the criteria for such an assessment, which helps the student understand what they are expected to learn. Students and teachers typically discuss together what a good piece of work should look like (e.g. nice visuals for a presentation) which helps students to know what is expected of them. Research shows (in English) that such an exercise makes students more efficient learners.

According to research (in English), parents find that formative assessment reduces anxiety in children and prepares them for the school environment. Parents also report that they are happy that the focus is on what skills their children are learning.

How can digital formative assessment benefit my child?

Digital tools can enhance formative assessment in many ways. Formative assessment with the help of digital tools is what is known as digital formative assessment.

Digital tools can give students feedback on their work in many ways. For instance, they can get immediate feedback when doing a self-paced exercise created by the teacher in a mobile learning app. They can also receive feedback from the teacher during asynchronous work, e.g., when the student submits a piece of work in the morning and the teacher provides feedback the same evening.

Effective feedback gives students and teachers something that they can work with. It provides directions on what to do next to improve learning outcomes. Digital tools can take this further by providing data that helps identify quickly where students are experiencing the most difficulties. DFA (=digital formative assessment) tools can also record student data and keep it in one place for the teacher and student to consult and see progress over time.

DFA can give you a deeper understanding of your child’s learning than simple test grades as a percentage, number or letter. An e-portfolio can give you richer and deeper evidence of your child’s accomplishments over the school year, and help you understand better how they are learning and how they like to learn.

Your child can become autonomous and better learners with DFA. They can go back to past feedback and reflect on their own learning. They can learn with mobile learning apps anytime, anywhere.

Teachers can use DFA to design student-centred and collaborative activities. Thanks to this, your child can hone their 21st century skills such as creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. These skills will help them adapt to the fast-changing world in their future life and career.

Your child can learn difficult concepts better with concept mapping, e-portfolios and digital games. Digital tools such as online quizzes also have visual features that can make a simple assessment more attention grabbing, competitive and engaging. Digital tools ultimately can unlock the creativity of both teachers and students.

DFA practices help students (and teachers) learn how to navigate the digital world. Your child discovers communication platforms, becomes an independent user of e-learning, creates digital content and practices presentation and visualisation skills. And, importantly, your child can become a more critical user of digital media.

Digital formative assessment and online safety

Parents worry, understandably, that children are not safe online. Teachers are expected to keep them safe and protect their data. You can always ask them how they do that if you are unsure. This video addresses questions concerning data privacy when using digital educational tools.

How can I support my child’s learning?

We hope we have raised your interest in digital formative assessment, its benefits, and the change of role that it brings about. While it’s not your job to know about all school subjects that your child is learning or to help with all their homework, you can support your child in many meaningful ways. What do you think your role as a parent is in your child’s learning is?

You can support your child by showing interest in their learning and celebrating their learning journey, regardless of grades. Every child wants their parent or carer to be proud of them. If your child sees that you find their learning important, they are more likely to find it more important too.


Home is first and foremost where your child can relax from the stress and demands of school, enjoy themselves and spend time with the family; for many, but not all, it’s the one place in the world where they know they are loved unconditionally, regardless of their grades or anything else. Your home should also be a place that is safe for your child to talk openly about their struggles and mistakes in learning.

A good routine, time and a quiet space are also important for doing schoolwork at home. Sometimes your child may need to use digital devices at home. For example, homework that is part of a “flipped classroom” is prepared before class. Discuss with your child on how to best organise this activity at home in terms of space, time and digital equipment needed.

Put trust on your child’s teachers, especially when they are trying something new. Of course, that does not mean that you should trust teachers unconditionally. It is your right to ask questions when you are unsure about whether what teachers are doing is good for your child. Just remember, the teachers of your children want the best for your child, and they are trying to improve if they are trying something new.

You probably already check your child's grades every now and then. But do you also know what they are learning right now and what your they enjoy the most (or the least) at school? Just ask your child – they might well find your questions silly at first, but don’t give up. Most children are pleased to know their parents’ interest is sincere. Tell a bit about yourself – your child will be glad to know that you also struggled sometimes when you were their age.

It’s not only useful it to talk to your child but also to their teachers. Schools sometimes offer parents an opportunity to talk together with your child and teachers. Such a positive and open exchange can be a great way to get to know each other better, and for you to know how you can best support your child.