November 2023Technology

Using Formative AI for Assignments

By Wenjing Huang, Chinese Teacher, George School

Wenjing Huang


Formative (also known as GoFormative), a website that helps educators create digital assignments, see learners’ work and engagement in real-time, and give feedback faster than ever (for more details about the application, see Megan MacNicol’s article), is now releasing a new feature that incorporates artificial intelligence (AI). Formative AI can be added to the growing list of artificial intelligence tools that can help teachers create quick activities and assessments.

Name of the tool Formative AI logo with a circle with a checkmark in it
Primary purpose of the tool To generate questions and hints for educators to create assignments and assessments through a variety of question types. 
Cost Free to use if users opt in for early access in their Formative account (free or paid) settings – users who opt in may be contacted by Formative to give feedback about the features
Ease of use Simple and easy to use

Overview of Formative AI

Formative provides educators with all the tools you need to create your digital assignments, which can include different types of content as seen below (the ones with stars are available in the paid accounts). In addition you can also upload your own content such as PDFs or Docs, then add different question types or search for an existing item in their library to use with your learners. 

Picture 1 – Formative’s Content and Question Types - interface with columns - Content types: Audio, Embed, Image, Paired Passages, Slides, Text, Video, Whiteboard; Question types: Audio response, Categorize, Drag and Drop, File Response, Fill in the blank, Free response, Graphing, Hot spot, hot text, inline choice, match table grid, matching, multiple choice, multiple selection, numeric, resequence, short answer, show your work, true or false, video response; at the bottom of the picture: auto-generate content, upload your own content - enhance a document, library items - search existing items, layout - add a section
Picture 1 – Formative’s Content and Question Types

1. Activating the Formative AI Feature

Formative AI is a beta feature now available in all Formative account types. After signing in, simply go to “My Account”, select “Settings”, then at the bottom, you will find the option of “Early Access” Once here, turn on “AI Content Creation”. Note that this is available as of summer 2023, and the process to access the AI feature may change in the future.

Picture 2 – Activating the Formative AI feature - Formative interface - settings - my account - Early access: opt in to beta features below to help pre-release versions and provide feedback. - button activated for AI content creation. button not activated for formative student practice
Picture 2 – Activating the Formative AI feature

2. Generating a Formative

In this platform, each assignment you would like to create is referred to as a “Formative”.

After activation, go back to your “Formatives“ (second option on the left dashboard). At the top right corner, click “Add”, and then select “Auto-Generate Formative”. 

Picture 3 – Auto-generating a Formative - choices: new formative, auto-generate formative, enhance a pdf or doc, import a google doc, import google slides, enhance a video
Picture 3 – Auto-generating a Formative

After that, you will see a number of fields, as in Picture 4. You can type your Formative’s topic, which is like the title or topic of this assignment that you want Formative AI to create. Then you will be asked to choose a “Quiz” or “Lesson” for your assessment type, at which point you can select settings related to:

  • Difficulty: the options are Easy, Medium, Hard.
  • Length: the options are Short (5 questions), Medium (10 questions), Long (more than 10 questions).
  • Question Type: the options are Multiple Choice, Multiple Selection, Short Answer, True or False, Free Response, Numeric.
Picture 4 – A Formative’s basic information - auto-generate formative, feedback button, and choice of quiz or lesson. with fields: topic (US Independence Day), grade (10th), difficulty (medium), length (short), and question types (multiple choice, multiple selection, short answer, true or false), and then a button that says generate formative
Picture 4 – A Formative’s basic information

In addition, you can also click the“Feedback” button at the top right to submit your own feedback about Auto-Generated content, which allows the company to continually improve their website’s tools and content.

After that, it will tell you that the Formative is being generated. You can wait for the notification (which will show up in your account’s left side under “Notifications”) or watch it in real time by clicking on “View Formative”. It might take a few minutes to generate the content.

3. Editing a Generated Formative

After the content is generated, you can edit your content in the following ways.

First, you can edit the title of your Formative by deleting the default text “AI Generated:” and revising the rest of the words in the title. For example, the Formative title of the activity below should be “U.S. Independence Day”.

Picture 5 – A sample AI Generated Formative title - has title at the top with a mistake (US Independence Da)
Picture 5 – A sample AI Generated Formative title

Second, you can tweak the questions as well as their answer keys to meet your needs, since the first draft that the AI generates usually needs some revision.

Third, you can go to the top right of each question and change the point values. You can also decide whether you want to make the questions required, and most importantly, you can use all the other Formative features that you would typically use if you had manually created a Formative, including deleting a question you do not want and changing the order of questions. Both of these are available in the menu that you can access by clicking on the three dots next to the point value of each question.

Picture 6 – A sample AI Generated Formative question - multiple choice question (1 point): 1. Which year did the United States gain independence? with choices 1776 (correct), 1789, 1798, 1804. has button "add an answer choice" and then has options: answer choice explanations, randomize order, show your work, required (which is selected). also has options add a hint and tag to standards
Picture 6 – A sample AI Generated Formative question

After editing, you can click the blue button labeled “Assign” at the top right , like you would do in any other Formative assessment.

4. Adding a Hint

One remarkable feature that has been released is called “Add a Hint”. For each question, teachers can manually add hints one by one by typing in each text box. 

According to Formative’s description, students may request to see hints if they are provided. Hints are revealed in ascending order starting with hint 1. Teachers can see which hints the students requested when viewing their responses, which might help them make revisions or adjust their lesson plans according to the needs of their students. 

Picture 7 – Adding a hint to a question - 1. Which year did the United States gain independence? with possible answers: 1776 (correct), 1789, 1798, 1804. with button "add an answer choice". also has options answer choice explanations, randomize order, show your work, required, and then add a hint and a pencil icon to click to add the hint
Picture 7 – Adding a hint to a question

Furthermore, if you click the pen icon next to “Add a Hint”, it will show “AI Generated Hint Options” with three statements that you can either choose to confirm or regenerate.This feature greatly saves teachers time that would normally be dedicated to brainstorming how to support learners with hints.

Picture 8 – AI Generated hints for Picture 7’s question - AI generated hint options: 1 - This year is commonly associated with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 2 - It was during the American Revolutionary War that the United States fought for independence. 3 - Think about the famous phrase 'Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness' from the Declaration of Independence. Then there are buttons: Cancel, Regenerate, Confirm
Picture 8 – AI Generated hints for Picture 7’s question

Other AI Features in Formative

1. AI Generated Text Passages 

You can also use AI in Formative to generate text passages. When adding a question in Formative, click “Generate an item” on the bottom left or directly click the “Auto-generate” title on your Formative’s edit tab. Then in the Auto-generation Passage menu, choose “Text Passage” from the dropdown menu “Question or Passage Type”. 

Picture 9 – Two ways to generate an item - has content types, question types, and at the bottom, auto-generate content with button: generate an item
Picture 9 – Two ways to generate an item
Picture 9 – Two ways to generate an item - under "Add instructions" has a plus sign and several choices: auto-generate, free response, multiple choice, show your work
Picture 10 – Auto-Generate passage menu - fields to fill in: question or passage type (text passage), prompt (example: how to use the chain rule), grade, subject, genre, language, word count
Picture 10 – Auto-Generate passage menu

In this menu, you can add or adjust the following features:

  • Prompt: up to 1000 words for what you can type
  • Grade: K-12th grade, higher education, or adult education
  • Subject: a variety of subjects and for languages, it includes American Sign Language, ESL, and various world languages
  • Genre: choose a preferred genre from 16 types such as argument, biography, descriptive writing, essay outline, expository writing, fiction, narrative writing, poetry, and speech
  • Language: Formative now offers English, French, German, and Spanish (it might work for other languages, please see below)
  • Word Count: define a minimum and/or maximum word count as preferred

With these features, Formative can generate a text in English, for example, with the format of narrative writing for advanced ESL learners, and then it can use auto-generated questions to create reading comprehension questions for this passage. The available question types are Categorize, Matching, Multiple Choice, Multiple Selection, Numeric, Short Answer, and True or False with up to 1000 words for the prompt and three options for “Difficulty”. Use easy, medium, and hard levels of auto-generated questions depending on learner needs. This is faster than manually tweaking them, and it can also generate answer keys. 

Picture 11 – Adding questions to an Auto-Generate passage - you can see the text on the left and it has title "The Evolution of Food Delivery Apps". On the right there is a plus sign with a label that says "enhance text passage with questions" and a pencil icon with a label that says "enhance with auto-generated questions"
Picture 11 – Adding questions to an Auto-Generate passage

Following that, another type of English text under the same topic can also be generated for the same group of learners (for example, you could have it generate an argumentative rather than a narrative text). Based on the prompt, learners can write an argument and compare their writing to an auto-generated text passage to further explore the same topic. Other ideas are as follows:

  • Short answer or free response questions (available in free accounts): learners can try to find mistakes or weaknesses in the auto-generated passage, make comments, summarize the main ideas or details, or find the author’s perspective. 
  • File response or free response questions (available in paid accounts): learners can upload their own writing and compare their text with the auto-generated version and discuss the similarities and differences.
  • Show your work questions (available in free accounts): learners use drawing tools to draw graphic organizers or concept maps as a way of analyzing the auto-generated text.
  • In audio response questions (available in paid accounts): learners can record their speech as a follow-up task based on the auto-generated text for a topic.

One thing to point out is that for the other languages that are not listed in the above “Language” field of the Auto-Generate Passage Menu, you may want to try the prompt in your target language and adjust the “Subject” part to see whether it works. For example, I tried to type a prompt in Chinese, and chose “Chinese (Mandarin)” in the “Subject”, and it surprisingly generated a related text passage in Mandarin. This also works if I switch to other question types such as “Multiple Choice”, where both the questions and answer keys appear in the target language. 

2. AI Generated Feedback

Another Beta feature that you can turn on in your Early Access account settings is Formative’s AI generated feedback, which automatically generates feedback for students. Currently the types of questions that AI can generate feedback for are short answer and free response.

Picture 12 – Formative AI Generated feedback - has a dashboard with students names and results on the left. on the right you can see what one student answered and there is a box where you can type feedback. next to the box is a pen icon that you can use to generate feedback using AI.
Picture 12 – Formative AI Generated feedback

Below is a list of the AI generated feedback from Formative in English for short answer questions with correct answer keys that have been set up. 

Sample AI generated feedback if a short answer question’s response is correct:

– 👍 Good job! Your answer is correct. 

👏🏽 Well done! You correctly identified that … 

💡 Keep up the great work! To make your answer even better, you could explain …

📚 Consider expanding your response by providing an example of …

🌟 Awesome job! Remember to always support your answers with evidence or examples to make them more informative and convincing. 

😊 Overall, great effort! Just a small suggestion to make your answer more detailed and informative. Keep up the good work!

Sample AI generated feedback if a short answer response is not the same as the one in the answer key:

– 👍 Good job identifying that …

💡 Consider providing more specific examples or details to support your answer. 

💡 Try to explain how … 

💡 Use transitional words like “firstly,” “secondly,” “finally” to organize your ideas and make your writing flow better. 

💡 Remember to always capitalize the first word of a sentence.

The jury is still out about how appropriate the feedback generated by Formative is for students, but we can consider asking them what they think about it.


  • Ask learners to judge whether different feedback in different assignments are appropriate or not.
  • Ask learners to judge the feedback when the response is correct, then learn how to provide positive feedback to their peers in the target language.
  • Ask learners to judge the feedback when the response is not the same as the one in the answer key, then provide follow-up suggestions.


AI-powered question or assessment generators help educators create activities, tasks, quizzes, and tests more efficiently. Instead of starting from scratch, use this Formative AI tool as a co-pilot. You can get inspiration from these questions, variants of questions, answer keys, and hints that AI has generated.

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