Assessment for Learning

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An approach to assessment which is applicable to all key stages and is based on ten underlying principles drawn up by the Assessment Reform Group in 2002. It centres on the processes by which learners find and interpret evidence which enables them and their teachers to decide what stage they are at with their learning, and what they need to do to progress to the next level. AfL encourages self‐assessment by pupils, which helps them to decide how they can improve their own learning. This approach allows pupils a measure of control in their own learning, and one of its central tenets is that assessment should focus on the work, not on the individual. It is based on the belief that it is as important to consider ‘how’ learning takes place as it is to consider ‘what’ has been learned. AfL fosters a sense that it is all right to make mistakes, and thereby it develops risk‐taking, one of the ‘soft skills’ which the creativity initiative aims to foster. Weaknesses are therefore handled constructively so that the pupil is helped to identify for themselves how they might improve. At the heart of AfL is the belief that everyone can make progress. Teachers give feedback to, and receive feedback from, pupils; and this feedback should be used to inform future lesson planning in a way that links teaching more effectively to learning. The use of open questioning and listening to pupils’ reasoning while they work are among methods used to help teachers assess understanding and knowledge. AfL is most successful when pupils are shown models of what is expected so that they have an understanding of what is required and can use the model to check their own work against these criteria without fear of criticism. It is essential to provide success criteria which learners understand so that they are clear about the learning goals. The intended outcomes of AfL are that self‐esteem increases, and pupils learn to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and the best ways in which they learn. It develops thinking skills and encourages pupils to reflect on their work and how to improve. The emphasis on formative assessment is shared between pupil and teacher with the aim of increasing pupil motivation and engagement, as well as learning. AfL is based on a constructivist approach to learning, and its ten underlying principles are, in summary, as follows: lesson planning should incorporate opportunities for formative assessment; pupils’ full range of achievements should be recognized; the focus should be on how, as well as what, pupils learn; pupils should be encouraged in self‐assessment, reflection, and self‐management; AfL should be central to classroom practice; it should also be considered as an essential professional skill for teachers; it should encourage a commitment to appropriate goals and involve a clear and shared understanding of the criteria to be met; pupils should be given, as part of formative assessment, constructive advice on how to improve their performance; assessments and feedback should be conducted sensitively and constructively; assessment should always take account of the need to encourage and sustain pupils’ motivation to learn.


Subjects: Education.

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