Assessment for learning encourages all pupils to take responsibility for and become more active in their own learning. Wikipedia defines the ultimate purpose of assessment for learning: “to create self-regulated learners who can leave school able and confident to continue learning throughout their lives.”
There are two types of assessment for learning – formative and summative assessment. Summative assessment takes the form of end of term/year/topic testing or exams, whereas formative assessment is ongoing throughout the term/year and requires the involvement of the teacher, TA and pupil. It involves explaining the learning objectives and expected learning outcomes to pupils and checking their understanding of this. It then involves helping them self assess. This often starts with peer assessment, which will help build their self assessment skills. The pupils then start to self assess their own work, noting both their achievements and what they could improve one, always keeping in mind the learning objective and how far or close they are to it. Also within the formative assessment framework are open ended questions, observations, checking on work and other methods throughout the term/year.
This has many benefits for the pupils in their learning. Firstly, pupils can feel empowered to improve their performance if they are actively involved in their progress – this raises their motivation, as they are doing the best for themselves, which in turn will raise self esteem. If a child just completes a page of work, hands it in, has it returned marked – whether they have done well or badly, they will feel disengaged from the process as they had nothing to do with it. If the class mark the work together, or in small groups, not only will the pupil see where they went wrong, they will also be able to recognise what aspects of their own work they need to improve. This is more assessment AS learning from the pupils’ points of view. This also leads to effective and immediate feedback from teachers and TAs to give better support to the learning needs of the child.
Formative assessment for learning plays a crucial role in planning for future learning, by the teacher, the learners and the TAs.
The teachers will plan for the long and medium term in advance, using children’s personalised targets or learning goals alongside the topic work for that term. The short term, or weekly planner, is very heavily based on regular, daily assessment for learning. Often the Monday plan will be very full, and fairly inflexible, but the rest of the week will alter depending on the assessment that takes place on the Monday and future days. It is important that the Learning Objectives for each session are identified and devoted to specific learning goals, and are not either wasted time carrying on from a previous session if this is not required, or that they are not too far advanced if it became obvious from assessment the previous day that the class, or some groups within it, were not ready to move forward. How the session will be assessed is therefore very important, and how the information gained from that assessment is used is vital to planning.
It is important that learners understand their assessments for learning – these will involve criteria specific to that lesson and that child – the LO; plus any targets set individually for them (their personalised learning goals); plus any additional learning goals for children with additional or special needs. During the lesson, it is important the children understand that they are being assessed on all of these goals, and not just the LO and success criteria for the day. Thus they will be able to see if they have moved on in all areas. With more practice this will start to become second nature to the children as they self assess regularly. This will help them plan their work in the future, remembering all areas they are expected to make improvements in, as well as those they are struggling in. It is important that the children know, and the teachers and TAs tell them, that they are being assessed against their own previous work and achievements, and NOT against anyone else in the class. Therefore to achieve, they just need to do better than they did the previous day, not necessarily better than Child A sitting next to them.
For the TA, assessment for learning can help them plan out the lesson within their group. They can explain the LO to the group as a whole, and remind the children what their individual targets are as they go along. They can ask open-ended questions throughout the duration of the lesson to assess the pupils. They will be aware of general weakness and strengths within the group as well as individual ones, and can plan the structure of the lesson/questions around that, depending on what information they gained from the assessment the previous day. It may be that Child A completed the work, but under self assessment said they were still unsure of how to use adjectives, for example, so the TA could work on that the following day, incorporating it into the lesson plan. By sharing this information with the teacher, it may even become a LO for the following day/week if there are others also requiring further time for this. This can show the learner that their feedback from self assessment is valuable and listened to, giving them more self confidence. The TA can also ask the children to give a quick thumbs up/down to show whether they have understood so far. Those that have can carry on, those that are unsure can spend a little longer working through it with the TA. This is a quick, simple way for the children to demonstrate how they feel towards a task without having to single themselves out.
Summative assessment (eg end of term exams, SATs, GCSEs) can give the teacher, pupils and TAs a (usually) final result on how the learner has performed, but it would be mostly formative assessment that would be used in planning.
Therefore, I can conclude that assessment for learning is valuable to help learners become clear of what is expected from them, both in the short term in the LO and success criteria of a task, and in the long term with their personalised goals. It is also helpful for the teacher when planning a lesson, to give it structure in the LO and make it relevant to the children’s needs, depending on the results from previous assessment and self assessment. And for the TA it helps within the lessons to show how the learners are understanding, to check on understanding and to feedback to the teacher for future planning. Finally, it can help both the teachers and the TAs provide constructive, useful feedback to the learner, which is both relevant and immediate, thus making it highly effective.