The Lasso Way to Formative Assessment

Feb. 23, 2024

Formative assessment, by definition, is designed to provide both students and instructors with evidence that helps them understand how to proceed as they move through learning content.

Illustration of the start of a conversation about assessment

I’m a big fan of Ted Lasso and of Assessment, so you can imagine how excited I was to explore how Chris Hakala and JT Torres related formative Assessment to “The Lasso Way” in their recent article for Faculty Focus. If you are unfamiliar with the context, Ted Lasso is a television series that follows the story of an American football coach, Ted Lasso, who is hired to coach a soccer team in England despite having no prior experience with the sport. The character of Ted Lasso is known for his optimism, kindness, and unconventional coaching methods. And while you may not necessarily relate these characteristics to formative Assessment of student learning, the article will explain why you should.

This article has plenty of pearls of assessment wisdom, such as why patience is required to realize the power of formative Assessment or how Assessment, like teaching, is relational and depends on trust, vulnerability, and openness. However, I am currently reviewing assessment plans, and the line that struck a chord with me was that “assessment should prioritize movement.” 

Overwhelmingly, when programs meet a target measure, their action plan is to maintain an assessment strategy. This scenario makes sense if you view “Met” as the goal of the assessment process. But what if you consider “Met” a challenge, asking, “We’ve met this benchmark… how can we improve?” This month, I’d like to think of one way of developing an Action Plan with a mindset that prioritizes movement. 

When programs report meeting targeted results, they should feel a sense of accomplishment. However, if they prioritize movement, they should also consider ways to progress. To this end, meeting a target can become an opportunity to ascribe to a more aspirational one. One that might require a more focused effort to achieve. Like all aspects of Assessment, setting a new target should be a faculty decision, but programs can look beyond faculty for help. Consider engaging your students in the process. Ask them what they consider reasonable expectations and involve them in the rubric or survey revisions. Look to colleagues in other institutions or departments for ideas about what they do, and please reach out to an Assessment team member, Laurie Sheldon ( or Elaine Marchello ( for help and guidance.