Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Assessment for Learning


Week 21 Activity 1

Early perceptions of assessment

As a young person going through all of the obligatory stages of schooling including higher education, I never really appreciated what was behind the practices and principles of assessment. I felt it was just testing. It tested whether I'd been listening in class and whether or not I could repeat information that was ingrained in print in my textbooks. I had and still do have a good memory, so I always had pleasing reports to take home for signing. The cycle of passing tests and having reports signed by my parents year after year, is all I recall about assessment. I didn't feel that it really assessed what I knew, but what teachers wanted from me and I certainly didn't view it as a practice that aided or improved my learning. There wasn't any student involvement. We were informed  when a test would be taking place and it was assumed that you'd do the necessary preparation. This of course is all subjective. It's relieving to see however, that assessment practices and principles have changed since then and that assessment for learning is being researched and discussed.

Assessment for learning

This week on H817 we examined several papers revolving around assessment. According to the Assessment Reform Group (1999) who wrote Assessment for Learning: Beyond the Black Box, increasing the quantity of testing doesn't correlate to improved learning, which is a point that I agree with. Rather, they came to the conclusion that assessment practices need to be implemented that will have a positive effect on students' learning. This requires actively involving them in the processes of assessment, thus giving them a sense of empowerment. It also relies on qualitative teacher feedback. The latter means that teachers need to be provided with training and support if assessment for learning is to be effective. This report lists several characteristics of assessment to promote learning. Despite being written in 1999 the characteristics are still applicable today.

In 2002 The Assessment Reform Group published 10 principles for learning:

  • is part of effective planning
  • focuses on how pupils learn
  • is central to classroom practice
  • is a key professional skill
  • is sensitive and constructive
  • fosters motivation
  • promotes understanding of goals and criteria
  • helps learners know how to improve
  • develops the capacity for self (peer) assessment
  • recognises all educational achievement
I think what is perhaps not immediately visible from seeing the principles listed in this manner, is what is required on the part of  teachers and students for these to be implemented in such a way, that learning is promoted. 

Teachers will require proper training and support as mentioned above but also a learning environment that is conducive to dialogue between the teacher and students and amongst the students themselves. An environment that promotes the type of learning culture that is required if assessment for learning practices are going to successful. I think that most teachers would agree that these principles are part and parcel of assessment for learning today in varying degrees, but where it becomes complicated is with the integration of automated assessment methods. How well do the principles align when explored in the context of technology enhanced learning and varying online environments?


Assessment Reform Group (ARG) (1999) Assessment for Learning: Beyond the Black Box [online], 2012/ 01/ beyond_blackbox.pdf (accessed 10 July 2013).
Assessment Reform Group (ARG) (2002) Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles [online], (accessed 10 July 2012).
Black, P. J. and Wiliam, D. (1998) ‘Assessment and Classroom Learning’, Assessment in Education, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 7–74.

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