Assessment for learning


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Assessment is a key part of the teaching and learning process. It enables students to see how they are doing and identify areas for improvement. It allows teachers to see what students have learnt. Cambridge Assessment define it as:


Assessment for learning (AFL) is an approach to teaching and learning that creates feedback which is then used to improve students’ performance. Students become more involved in the learning process and from this gain confidence in what they are expected to learn and to what standard.


The article goes on to state:


Traditionally, AFL has been closely associated with formative assessment because practices such as questioning and providing feedback help ‘form’ or ‘shape’ student learning. This differs from summative assessment which typically is an attempt to measure student attainment at the end of a period of learning.


The National Foundation for Educational Research classifies them as follows:








Peer assessment

Self assessment

Essays in uncontrolled conditions



Teacher assessment


Further analysis or tests



Target setting



Essay in uncontrolled conditions


It goes on to state that there are there are five main processes that take place in assessment for learning:

(i) Questioning enables a student, with the help of their teacher, to find out what level they are at.

(ii) The teacher provides feedback to each student about how to improve their learning.

(iii) Students understand what successful work looks like for each task they are doing.

(iv) Students become more independent in their learning, taking part in peer assessment and self-assessment.

(v) Summative assessments (e.g. the student’s exam or portfolio submission) are also used formatively to help them improve.


Wiliam states that:


The idea that assessment is intrinsic to effective instruction is traced from early experiments in the individualization of learning through the work of Benjamin Bloom to reviews of the impact of feedback on learners in classrooms.


Brown states that “Assessment is probably the most important thing we can do to help our students learn”. She goes on to state that: “assessment needs to be ‘fit-for-purpose’; that is, it should enable evaluation of the extent to which learners have learned and the extent to which they can demonstrate that learning”.


Cambridge Assessment International Education argues that:


Assessment for learning (AfL) is an approach, integrated into teaching and learning, which creates feedback for students and teachers in order to improve learning and guide their next steps.


The article lists the following three aspects:


1.     Where the learner is going. Sharing the aims of a lesson and success criteria helps learners to see what they are aiming for and what they need to do to achieve those aims.

2.     Where the learner is now. Techniques such as effective questioning will help teachers to gauge what individuals and groups have learnt during a lesson, generating evidence of learning that both teacher and students can make use of.

3.     How can the learner get there? Teachers use this evidence of learning to inform choices about what they will do next with a class or individual students. Learners can use this evidence to make decisions about their learning such as how to spend their independent study time.


The article goes on to state that AfL helps learners and teachers focus on the aim of their learning. This can help students understand what constitutes ‘excellence’, take responsibility for their own learning and plan how they might move forward. AfL encourages assessment and learning to be seen as an integrated whole. The clarification of objectives and feedback about student learning will have a direct impact on the devising of teaching and learning strategies. According to research ’feedback’ has a positive effect on learner achievement (ranked 10th out of 150 factors), particularly if it involves feedback from learner to teacher. This is important as teachers need this information from learners in order to effectively modify their teaching.


Dunn lists the following aspects of assessment:


·      Assessment for learning enables teachers to use information about students’ knowledge, understanding and skills to inform their teaching. Furthermore teachers provide feedback to students about their learning and how to improve.

·      Assessment as learning involves students in the learning process where they monitor their own progress, ask questions and practise skills. Students can use self assessment and teacher feedback to reflect on their learning, consolidate their understanding and work towards learning goals.

·      Assessment of learning assists teachers to use evidence of student learning to assess student achievement against learning goals and standards.


ResouceEd suggest that technology can be use for instant assessment; helping to boost engagement, identify knowledge gaps, and support deeper learning. It goes on to list the following benefits: increased flexibility, improved feedback, recognise and cater for differences, understand the importance of emotion, and consolidate learning.


Engage in assessment lists the following pros and cons of using technology enhance assessment:



·      Improves authenticity and alignment with learning outcomes

·      Helps to clarify marking criteria

·      Spreads the assessment load for staff and students

·      Improves student engagement and promotes deeper learning


·      Finances and staff time

·      Accessibility issues

·      Large scale introduction requires a significant level of institutional buy in

·      Sense of isolation


This Techedvocate article lists the following examples of the use of technology for education:


·      MOOCs and online assessment: this can include for example discussion boards and quizzes.

·      Students can create and display their work online

·      Using programmes to compile and analyse student data and results

·      Teachers can make use of technology to track student progress and improve their own performance and lesson plans

·      Technology can benefit students by encouraging them to use their critical thinking and reasoning skills, be more creative, and gain skills using the computer and other devices. Students can learn to present their own media projects online and or in front of their class

·      Discussions boards and other online platforms enable students to continue dialogues outside of the standard classroom. Educators can observe chat boards in order to understand what concepts need to be reviewed and or what concepts students are not grasping













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