Strategies for Assessment for Learning

Paul Main

Strategies for Assessment for Learning: All the research and techniques you need for making AFL happen in the classroom.

What are assessment for learning strategies?

Assessment for Learning is a process of gathering information about students’ knowledge, skills and understanding in order to inform teaching. It can be used as an ongoing part of the curriculum or it may take place at key stages such as end-of-year exams. The purpose of AfL is not just to test what you know but also to help teachers plan their lessons so that they are more effective.

The term ‘assessment for learning’ was first coined by Professor David Coleman who wrote his seminal book Assessment For Learning: A Framework for Understanding published in 1995. He defined AfL as follows:

"Assessment for learning is any activity which seeks to gather evidence on how well pupils have mastered specific aspects of subject matter."

In this way, AfL has been described as "a means of assessing student achievement". However, there is no single definition of AfL because each school will use different methods depending upon its own needs and resources. In addition, some schools choose to combine AfL with other forms of assessment such as formative assessments, summative examinations and portfolio work.

Why do we need assessment for learning strategies?

There are many reasons why schools should assess learners' progress regularly throughout the year. These include:

• To ensure all children achieve high standards

• To provide feedback to parents/carers

• To identify areas where improvement is needed

• To monitor attainment against national targets

• To demonstrate effectiveness of teaching

• To improve teacher practice

• To support continuous professional development

• To promote good citizenship

• To encourage self reflection

Assessment for learning provides the teacher with valuable feedback
Assessment for learning provides the teacher with valuable feedback

How do assessment for learning strategies work?

AfL takes two main approaches – direct observation and questioning. Direct observation is the most common form of assessment, but it can be time consuming to carry out in a classroom setting. Questioning provides an alternative method that allows teachers to assess students’ knowledge more quickly than they would with direct observation alone.Many of our members schools have been using the block building methodology as formative assessment strategies. This type of assessment digs deeper than just questioning. As children build what they know, they reveal their true understanding of the lesson content. Similar to using concept maps, the mental models reveal their complex structure of knowledge or schema. What are questions used for?

Questions provide information about what learners know and understand. They allow us to see if our pupils have grasped key concepts and skills. Questions help us identify areas where there may be gaps between their current understanding and expected standards. This helps us plan future lessons so that we cover all aspects of the curriculum effectively. It also gives us insight into whether our pupils need extra support when tackling new topics. If you are interested in developing open-ended questions as an effective feedback tool, you might be interested in looking at the universal thinking framework. As well as outlining essential actions involved in learning, the framework also provides essential questions related to different types of student learning. These are designed to dig deeper than multiple choice questions and can form the backbone of a really effective assessment tool.

Assessment for learning strategies and outcomes
Assessment for learning strategies and outcomes

Asking questions as an assessment for learning strategy

You should always try to get answers to any question posed during class. However, asking questions after every lesson isn't practical because it's too disruptive to the flow of instruction. Instead, you can ask a few key questions at the end of each unit or chapter and then use them as assessments in your final exam.

The following are some examples of good questions that could be asked:

* What did I learn about this topic?

* How does this relate to other topics we've studied?

* Why do I need to know this information?

* Is there anything else I didn't understand?

How do assessment for learning strategies improve learner outcomes?

Assessment is a key component of any educational system. It helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses in learners, which can be used as feedback to improve their performance. Assessment also provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learnt through various means such as written assignments or practical demonstrations. However, it has been observed that there are certain limitations with traditional forms of assessments. For example, many teachers find them time consuming and difficult to administer. In addition, some students may not perform well on these tests due to lack of preparation or anxiety about being tested. This leads to poor student engagement and low motivation levels. Therefore, we need to look at new ways of assessing our learners so that we can get more accurate information from them. One way of doing this would be by using technology-based methods. The use of digital tools allows us to collect data quickly and efficiently without having to rely on human judgment. These technologies include computer based testing, online quizzes, video recording, etc. They provide opportunities for educators to assess how much knowledge learners possess before they start teaching them. Embedding these strategies in your approach to teaching will help you achieve better results. The mental modelling strategy using the building blocks enables teachers to assess the levels of understanding in an engaging activity. This approach to deep thinking helps students to develop conceptual understanding and strengthens the learning process.

Assessment for learning as a feedback loop
Assessment for learning as a feedback loop


Getting started with assessment for learning strategies

Assessment for learning strategies should not be a one-way process. As well as revealing what students know to the teacher they also offer the perfect opportunity foAssessment for learning strategies should not be a one-way process. As well as revealing what students know to the teacher they also offer the perfect opportunity to address a misconception check. This feedback loop provides us the educator with helpful insights that can be used to move the student closer to the learning objectives. The following sections describe different types of assessment for learning tasks that could be useful for developing academic writing skills. They include: 1) multiple choice questions; 2) short answer questions; 3) essay-type questions; 4) peer review exercises; 5) self-assessments. 

Daily assessment strategies include Multiple Choice Questions. An MCQ is an open ended question where there are several possible answers. Students must select only one response from among four or five options. This type of formative assessment strategy provide teachers with valuable information about how their students understand concepts. Teachers may use these daily assessment strategies to determine if students have mastered content areas by asking them to identify which concept best describes the topic being taught. For example, when teaching vocabulary, teachers might ask students to choose between synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and polysemes. In addition, teachers often use MCQs to assess whether students have learned key terms related to specific topics such as science, history, math, etc. When using this type of task it is important to make sure that all items on the test are relevant to your course material. If you do not want to give students practice at answering questions outside of class then you will need to create new ones specifically for testing purposes. It is recommended that you write out each item before giving it to students so that you can ensure that they fully comprehend its meaning. You can find many examples of MCQs online including those created by Khan Academy.

Short Answer Questions Short answer questions require students to respond to a prompt with either a single word or phrase. There are two main advantages to using this form of questioning. First, because students cannot guess wrong, they tend to think more carefully about their responses than in other forms of assessment. Second, since students are required to explain why they chose certain words or phrases, they learn to express themselves clearly. However, like any form of assessment, short answer questions can be misused. Some instructors use them simply to see who has memorized the most facts. Others use them to gauge students' ability to synthesize knowledge into coherent explanations. To avoid misuse, it's essential to teach students how to constructively analyze written work.  

Whichever daily assessment strategy you choose to use it's important to make it engaging for your class. A good summative assessment should be fun and where possible, have a game-like quality

Using feedback effectively

Classroom feedback is a very important part of the teaching process. It can be used to help students understand their strengths and weaknesses, as well as provide them with information about how they are doing in class. Feedback also helps teachers identify areas where instruction needs improvement or revision. Task-focused feedback provides specific suggestions for improving student performance on assignments, tests, projects, etc., while formative assessment focuses more directly on what students know and don't know at any given time. In this chapter we will discuss ways that you can use classroom feedback to improve your teaching practice.

The following sections describe different types of feedback:

* Classroom feedback forms

* Student response systems

* Peer review

* Self-assessment tools

* Formative assessments

* Summative evaluations

Understanding different types of task focused feedback

Feedback has been defined by many sources as "the act of providing an evaluation of someone's work". The term may refer specifically to written comments from others who have observed the person performing some task; it may include verbal comments made during discussions or meetings; or it may simply mean giving a grade to a paper or test score. Regardless of its source, feedback should always be positive. If negative, corrective action must follow immediately so that the situation does not continue to deteriorate.

There are several reasons why feedback is necessary. First, if people do not receive feedback when they make mistakes, then they cannot learn from those errors. Second, without feedback, there would be no way to evaluate whether individuals were meeting expectations. Third, feedback allows us to see our own progress over time. Fourth, feedback enables us to compare ourselves against other people. Finally, feedback gives us insight into how effective our methods are working.

There are two basic kinds of feedback: summative and formative. Evaluative feedback tells us something about the quality of a product or service. For example, after reading a book, I might give myself a rating based on my overall impression of the text. This type of evaluative feedback is called summative because it summarizes all aspects of the experience. On the other hand, formative feedback indicates only one aspect of the experience for instance, the level of understanding demonstrated by a particular group member. Such feedback is usually provided verbally rather than through writing.

Summative Feedback as an assessment for learning strategy

A summary evaluation is often referred to as a final exam or report card. It includes grades, scores, percentages, rankings, and/or ratings. These results indicate whether the individual met his or her goals or exceeded them. They tell us nothing about the process used to reach these conclusions. However, summative evaluation is useful for comparing groups of learners within a single course or across courses. An important distinction between summative and formative evaluation is that the former involves evaluating outcomes whereas the latter evaluates processes.  

Using assessment for learning strategies for making improvements in learner outcomes

Assessment for learning strategies involves students becoming more active participants in their own education. It is a process of self-directed, student-centered and collaborative inquiry that focuses on the development of critical thinking skills through problem solving activities. In a recent study by NFER study, they examined whether or not there were differences between two groups of learners who participated in an AFL program at one university compared with another group of learners from a different institution. A total of 576 learners completed questionnaires before and after participating in the course. Results indicated significant increases in all four areas measured by the questionnaire: knowledge about the subject matter; confidence in understanding concepts related to the subject matter; ability to apply what they have learned; and interest in pursuing further studies in the area. This research provides evidence supporting the use of AFL as a teaching strategy within higher education institutions as well as schools. The findings also suggest that it can be used effectively across disciplines and levels of academic achievement. The purpose of the paper was to examine how teachers’ perceptions of classroom management practices influence teacher effectiveness. Data collected from three separate samples of primary school teachers revealed that perceived effective practice had positive relationships with both job satisfaction and professional commitment.

What learning theory is AFL based upon?

AFL improves learner outcomes by providing a framework for the design of instruction and assessment. Learning theories are used to guide instructional decisions, such as how much time should be spent on each topic in an educational program or what type of questions will best assess student knowledge. Learning theorists have developed models that describe how people learn. These models help educators understand which aspects of their teaching need improvement so they can make changes to improve student performance. The most widely known model is Bloom’s taxonomy, which was first published in 1956.  

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