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Assessment for Learning

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

Developed by the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education (WNCP), Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind is designed to support teachers in assessing their students. This document focuses on the kind of assessment that is an integral part of regular, daily classroom activity. It is designed to provide a framework for thinking as teachers, administrators and professional developers use classroom assessments.

Section II of this document looks at the three purposes for assessment: assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment of learning. Chapter 3: Assessment for Learning offers insights that are useful to classroom teachers as they develop their own assessments. As reviewed in this chapter, when planning classroom assessments, teachers should address the following questions.


Why am I assessing?
When the intent is to enhance student learning, teachers use assessment for learning to uncover what students believe to be true and to learn more about the connections students are making, their prior knowledge, preconceptions, gaps and learning styles. Teachers use this information to structure and differentiate instruction and learning opportunities to reinforce and build on productive learning, and to challenge beliefs or ideas that are creating problems or inhibiting the next stage of learning. They use this information to provide their students with descriptive feedback that will further their learning.


What am I assessing?
Assessment for learning requires ongoing assessment of the curriculum outcomes that comprise the intended learning. Teachers create assessments that will expose students' thinking and skills in relation to the intended learning and the common preconceptions.


What assessment method should I use?
Each time a teacher plans an assessment for learning, he or she needs to think about what information the assessment is designed to expose and must decide which assessment approaches are most likely to give detailed information about what each student is thinking and learning. The methods need to incorporate a variety of ways for students to demonstrate their learning.


How can I ensure quality in this assessment process?
Assessment for learning is of high quality when a teacher can use it to make decisions about students' learning with enough specificity to be able to provide descriptive feedback and to design the next stage of learning." Elements of high quality include reliability, reference points, validity and record keeping.


How can I use the information from this assessment?
Descriptive feedback is the key to successful assessment for learning. Students learn from assessment when the teacher provides specific, detailed feedback and direction to each student to guide his or her learning. Feedback for learning is part of the teaching process—the part that comes after the initial instruction takes place, when information is provided about the way that the student has processed and interpreted the original material. To be successful, feedback needs to be immediate and identify the way forward.


The chapter provides an example of a classroom teaching addressing these questions.
To access a template with these five questions, click on Template for Planning Assessment.
To read Chapter 3 of this document, click on Chapter 3 Assessment for Learning.
To read the complete document, click on Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind.


Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind, developed by Dr. Lorna Earl and Dr. Steven Katz from Aporia Consulting, in collaboration with the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education (WNCP) assessment team, 2006.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and are intended for general reference purposes only. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education or the Center, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Some resources on this site require Adobe Acrobat Reader. This website archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.