The Importance of Assessment

Assessment: Summary


Learning goals and success criteria are co-constructed and clearly communicated 

of individual 

Students actively engage in assessing and reflecting on their learning, acting on feedback from peers and teachers to feed forward to next steps in learning.

Assessment is an ongoing process of gathering, analyzing, reflecting and acting on evidence of student learning to inform teaching.

Assessment involves teachers and students collaborating to monitor, document, measure, report and adjust learning.

Source: Okinawa International School |

Reminder: Children Still Love Learning

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Something I've been reminded of over and over again the last few weeks as I talk with my own children, and educators around the country working in K-12 classrooms: Children still love learning. They don't always like school, and therein lies the paradox, as school is supposed to be a place where we learn.

As I was wrestling with these two thoughts, Tim Smyth posted this on his @historycomics Instagram page:

What's so fascinating about this sentiment is that we all KNOW this intrinsically. I wonder what would happen if we stopped asking the question at school: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content PREPARE children for ________?

And, if instead, we asked the question: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content keep children loving learning?

We Know a Few Things to be True:

  1. Standardized assessments do NOT predict student success.

  2. Many decisions around curriculum and what/how we are teaching are tied to success on those assessments (ex: Common Core standards correlation to state tests, AP curriculum connected to AP assessments, etc)

  3. Student engagement drops steadily (and their view of having fun and doing interesting things in school) each year they are at school.

  4. Many teachers are forced into a tough spot between doing what they know works in learning (giving choice, inquiry, designing for creativity, project-based learning) and doing what they believe they have to do in order to "cover" the curriculum, meet standards, and prepare kids for tests.

In short, most of what we are doing in an "assessment-centric" education system is not working, has been proven to have no correlation to student success, leads to disengaged students, and teacher burnout.

But, our system remains unchanged in many places. And, the burden falls on school administrators, teachers, and support staff to try and make learning meaningful and relevant under these circumstances.

Here's the real kicker: In the midst of it all, children are still here in our schools every single day. They are with us in school for over 14,000 hours between Kindergarten and 12th Grade.

And, they still love learning, when the learning is meaningful.

There are too many people that want school to stay the same, even as many of us educators are shouting from the rooftops that things have to change.

Not for us (although that would be nice), but really for the children. Isn't that why we are doing this work in the first place?!?

There is so much we don't have control of or influence over. But, if you get the chance to make a decision for the children in your school or classroom, I hope we can ask the question: Will this activity/lesson/assessment/content keep children loving learning? And design based on that answer.

Assessment For-As-Of Learning

Assessment is integral to all parts of teaching and learning. It is not just the simple act of measuring what students have learned, rather it is a ‘state of mind’ which permeates every aspect of teaching and learning. In its simplest form it is everything we do that guides learners by helping them to answer the three most important questions they have as learners ‘Where am I?’, ‘Where do I need to be?’ and ‘How can I close the gap?’. Effective assessment must always be ongoing, varied and purposeful, and it also must be a collaborative process that involves students, families, teachers and our community.

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To that end, the strategies of Assessment fall into three domains, assessment AS learning, Assessment OF learning and Assessment FOR learning. These domains can be understood as follows:

Assessment FOR Learning

Assessment FOR learning are the strategies and tools teachers utilize to gather data on student progress for the purpose of helping students to learn. The focus here is not on grading, reporting or judging. Rather, teachers are intently involved in trying to understand exactly how students are interpreting and understanding their work, because it is only by acquiring that understanding that teachers can accurately plan for the next steps in each child’s learning.

Strategies in this domain may include teachers changing the way they teach based on what they find in the following ways:

  • Asking students to complete an assessment at the start of a unit or topic to find out what they already know

  • Examining work in progress to look for evidence of understanding or misunderstanding (portfolios, homework tasks, drafts, etc.)

  • Teachers set up collaborative or active learning groups so that they can circulate, listen to conversations and learn where students are in their understanding

  • Skillful questioning designed to elicit understanding

  • Maximum ‘visible thinking’ strategies to make it clear what students are thinking (e.g., asking students to write answers on whiteboard and hold them up, rather than have students work in their own books)

No grades or final judgments are attached to assessments FOR learning. The sole purpose is to find out where students are so that we can help them move forwards.

Assessment AS Learning

In assessment AS learning the focus is on the meaning the student is making from the assessment process. If assessment FOR learning is designed to give data to the teacher, then assessment AS learning is the way in which the student herself benefits from reflecting on assessment. This is how students actually learn THROUGH assessment.

Examples include:

  • Students engage in peer and self-assessment and begin to understand what quality work looks like and how they might improve their own work

  • Students become involved in goal setting, monitoring their own progress, reflecting on the results of their learning and planning for next steps

  • Teachers design rich and rewarding assessment tasks which are of inherent learning value in and of themselves

Assessment AS learning is never graded; its sole purpose is to support students in owning their learning and navigating their personal journey as a learner.

Assessment OF Learning

Assessment OF learning is the type of assessment that most parents will think of when hearing the word assessment. This is the measurement of the extent to which students have mastered the learning goals. It is the type of assessment which usually ends up in grades and report card comments. Examples include:

  • Tests, major projects, assignments or any other substantial piece of work on which teachers make a judgment of attainment for the purpose of reporting to parents in a report card comment or grade

  • Collections of evidence over time which are then, at a fixed point in time, judged for the purpose of making a report card comment or grade. For example, a teacher may collect evidence of writing samples over the course of a 6-week unit, and then write a judgment as to the current status of a child’s learning based on all available evidence

Source: Nagoya International School

Assessment For-Of-As Learning

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Source: Unknown

Assessment Of-For-As Learning

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Source: Globally Connected Learning

Assessment & Learning

Assessment and Learning.m4a
Created by RACHEL FRENCH FRENCHSource: Professional Learning International - 59.32- Jan 24 2019
There is now a large and growing evidence base that helping teachers develop their use of minute-to-minute and day-by-day assessment is one of, if not the most powerful ways to improve student learning. In this episode, Sarah Gilmore interviews Dylan Wiliam about why and how assessment for learning, or formative assessment works.Over the last 15 years, his academic work has focused on the use of assessment to support learning (sometimes called formative assessment). He now works with groups of teachers all over the world on developing formative assessment practices.To learn more about Dylan you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter, and to find out more about the Teacher Learning Communities project discussed in this episode, you can visit the Dylan Wiliam Center website.

Enhanced PYP - Assessment

Enhanced PYP Assessment.m4a
Created by RACHEL FRENCH FRENCHSource: Professional Learning InternationalRun Time: 56:27 - Jan 24 2019
In this episode, Angeline Aow interview Suzanne Tomlinson about assessment. Suzanne has been an IBEN member since 2005 and has gone on to lead a huge range of in-school and regional workshops for the IB, Taaleem, the Aga Khan Foundation and IBSCA in the UK as well as being involved in school evaluation for the PYP. Suzanne was recently invited to be part of the PYP review and her experience as a teacher and leader has taken her to all parts of the world including Germany, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Oman and now as a Director in Albania.

The Formative Assessment Learning Cycle

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Source: ASCD Website

What to Do When We Aren't Making an Impact

Run Time: 2:27 - Jun 7, 2017
This short video from Douglas Fisher basically briefly summarizes the ‘why’ of assessment. This refers back to why, how and what we monitor, document, measure and report in the assessment process. At the end of the day, it is to inform learning and teaching which means assessment should make an impact on what/how we teach and what/how the learners learn.
Source: Inquiry Into Learning Blog

The Value of Testing

Run Time: 4:45 - Apr 28, 2017
So very much depends on how we assess student work. You might consider using this video as a conversation starter for meetings (department, PLC, faculty) to spark discussion of the purpose of assessment, how current assessment practices miss the mark, and what types of assessments best serve student needs. Again and again, schools that unleash students on meaningful challenges find that test scores on mandated exams don’t decline — and often increase. A child who can’t wait to get to school, whose mind is racing all day long, is a child who is learning. And that beats a child pushed through test-prep worksheets.
Source: What School Could Be Website

Personal Qualities Not Measured by Tests - Poster

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Source: Siylvia Duckworth

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Timed Tests Are a Habit We Can’t Seem to Quit

Timed tests are entrenched in the school system, but they aren’t a fair or accurate reflection of students’ mastery and content knowledge, a 2020 review of dozens of studies concludes. They provoke anxiety and exclude far too many kids—including students with disabilities, English language learners, and those who simply need more time (and that’s most of us).

“Speed and intelligence are not very highly correlated,” the researchers note, echoing a plea voiced by educators and researchers for decades. The answer is refreshingly simple: “The best way to improve a time-limited test’s reliability is simply to remove its time limits.”

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Doing so improves the validity of tests - probably because with more time students can read instructions more closely, check their work, and keep their anxiety under control. “As instructors, we are not assessed by how speedily we can demonstrate our mastery,” the researchers conclude. “Why then do we continue to administer time- limited exams, which are less valid, less reliable, less inclusive, and less equitable?”

Source: Edutopia

Thoughtful Articles About Assessment

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  • The Way We Talk About Assessment Matters | ASCD | May 2, 2022 | Focusing more on the process and less on the product will lead to the kind of learning that will set students up for future success.

  • Gathering Feedback from Student Work | ASCD | Apr 1, 2022 | Student work is a source of rich feedback to teachers—and of professional learning—when teachers study it together.

  • The Assessment System That Made Me Love Grading Again (Yes, Really!) | ASCD | Apr 1, 2022 | A revision-based assessment system, driven by clear rubrics, can mean less stress, more effective feedback, and greater student learning. (note: this article is written from a high school context, but it is certainly applicable to all grade levels.)

  • Five Inconvenient Truths About How We Grade | ASCD | Sep 1, 2020 | Of all the areas in contemporary education in which we've made some genuine strides of progress, how we grade students may well be the last bastion of outdated conventions that persist so incessantly. It's time to slay the "monsters" that drive our grading practices.

  • The PYP Self-Study – A Collaborative Journey to Evidence Learning | The SharingPYP Blog | Mar 24, 2021 | "Going into the self-study process for our first evaluation, I sought out meaningful ways to present the process to the school community as a program coordinator. What better way than to develop it into a unit of inquiry! Using the school’s chosen inquiry cycle and our customized planning template, we developed a unit plan."

  • Importance of Teachers Developing a Reflective Routine | Edutopia | January 4, 2021 | Teachers who take time daily to reflect on what worked in class and what didn’t can better assess areas for improvement and begin to make necessary adjustments.

  • What Does It Mean to Be ‘Assessment Capable’? | What Ed Said Blog | January 2, 2021 | Questions Assessment Capable Teachers and Learners Might Ask Themselves.

  • Why Are We Still Giving So May Tests? | By AJ Juliani | January 2021 |This article focuses on the testing culture in education, what some of the research says, and how we can move towards performance tasks. Also, listen to The Backwards Podcast to learn more about assessment and backward curriculum design

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