Assessment for Learning

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The term ‘assessment’ refers to all those activities undertaken by teachers, and by their students in assessing themselves, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged

In classrooms where assessment for learning is practiced, students know at the outset of a unit of study what they are expected to learn. At the beginning of the unit, the teacher will work with the student to understand what she or he already knows about the topic as well as to identify any gaps or misconceptions (initial/diagnostic assessment). As the unit progresses, the teacher and student work together to assess the student’s knowledge, what she or he needs to learn to improve and extend this knowledge, and how the student can best get to that point (formative assessment). Assessment for learning occurs at all stages of the learning process.

Assessment for learning

  • comprises two phases—initial or diagnostic assessment and formative assessment
  • assessment can be based on a variety of information sources (e.g., portfolios, works in progress, teacher observation, conversation)
  • verbal or written feedback to the student is primarily descriptive and emphasizes strengths, identifies challenges, and points to next steps
  • as teachers check on understanding they adjust their instruction to keep students on track
  • no grades or scores are given – record-keeping is primarily anecdotal and descriptive
  • occurs throughout the learning process, from the outset of the course of study to the time of summative assessment

‘The big 5 principles of assessment for learning

1. The provision of effective feedback to students.

2. The active involvement of students in their own learning.

3. Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment.

4. Recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self-esteem of pupils, both of which are critical influences on learning.

5. The need for students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.

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