Propel Learners Forward with
Assessment for Learning
On this page, you’ll find everything you need to get started with formative assessment, including expert advice, professional development training, and classroom tools.
Help learners reach for their goals, accelerate their progress, and go further by embedding assessment for learning into your daily teaching!
What is Assessment for Learning?
Assessment for Learning is the practice of using regular assessment activities to gather evidence that will inform teaching and learning decisions. It is sometimes referred as formative assessment, continuous assessment, or learner-oriented assessment.
The aim is to gather insights about where the learner is, and identify what their strengths and weaknesses are. This information is in turn used to provide continuous effective feedback, guiding learners to reflect on their learning, take action, and move forward on their learning journey.
Get expert advice and practical recommendations with our definitive guide to assessment for learning! Download now and find detailed guidance to help you embed formative assessment into your daily teaching!
Professional development training
Research shows that Assessment for Learning practices are among the top 10 most impactful elements of classroom teaching, leading to better results and higher exam scores. We are here to help you embed them into your daily teaching with professional development training from our experts.
Discover Assessment for Learning:
Watch Gordon Stobart’s webinar on Assessment for Learning and discover three assessment practices which contribute to more effective learning. Get practical tips for your teaching!
COMING SOON: Professional development modules:
Improve your skills and knowledge at a time that suits you! These professional development modules will offer self-access support to help you get started with Assessment for Learning and Effective Feedback.
Each module takes 15-30 minutes to complete. They include an introduction to methodologies and practical ideas to put in to practice immediately.
Watch this space!
Classroom tools and Practical Tips
Students thrive when they understand what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how to improve. Support learners on their path to success with resources to help you share learning objectives, encourage goal setting, and explain the skills being learned.
Download our toolkit of practical resources to help you implement formative assessment in your classroom today!
Find Out More
Want to know more about assessment for learning? Read our detailed summary!
What is Assessment for Learning?
When we hear the word ‘assessment’, we usually think of tests or exams – but these are typically forms of summative assessment. They are often used to measure attainment, looking back at the end of a term or school year to measure what a student has achieved. They are also used to rank or grade students, measuring success or failure after learning has taken place.
Unlike summative assessment, assessment for learning – sometimes referred to as formative assessment or continuous assessment – occurs throughout the learning process. It looks forward, using assessment practices to influence the learning journey and help learners make sustained progress, instead of focusing on end results. Teachers can use a range of different tools and approaches as part of formative assessment. These can include tests and exams, if they are used to gather information that informs the learning process directly. They can also include informal, everyday practices, such as listening to classroom dialogue and asking questions in order to monitor learners’ progress. Teachers can then use the observations gained from these approaches to address problems, monitor the effectiveness of their own practice, target specific areas for improvement, and more.
This information is employed to provide effective feedback that propels learners forwards. Feedback that gives students an awareness of their learning processes can help them become more involved, independent, and effective learners, encouraging self and peer assessment. Research suggests that effective feedback can be one of the most powerful contributors to learning, helping learners reach for their goals, accelerate their progress, and go further.
What are the benefits of Assessment for Learning?
Assessment for Learning offers many benefits to teachers, learners, and institutions. Here just a few:
- Higher attainment: Research shows that Assessment for Learning practices are among the top 10 most impactful elements of classroom teaching, leading to better results and higher exam scores.
- Better insights and continuous progress: Regular informal assessment identifies opportunities for intervention, improvement, extension, and reinforcement. With better insights, you can offer personalised support, helping learners improve where they need to and make continuous progress.
- Greater student autonomy: When students understand what success looks like and how to improve, they are able to evaluate their own work, encouraging self-assessment, and self-regulated, lifelong learning.
- A deeper understanding: Students thrive when they understand what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how it fits into their learning journey, fostering a deeper understanding of the knowledge and skills they learn in class.
- More creative and flexible approaches to teaching: With better insights, teachers are able to experiment more creative and flexible teaching approaches, tailoring lessons to their students’ needs.
- Better mixed ability teaching: Assessment for learning has been shown to narrow the gap between higher and lower achieving students, by helping each learner reach for their goals and make progress where they need to.
What does AfL look like in the classroom?
Assessment for Learning is not a completely new approach to teaching – it is a set of practices that enhance learning. Many teachers already use some of these practices as a natural part of their day to day teaching. Assessment for learning is about using them regularly and systematically to monitor students, offer feedback, and modify teaching decisions.
Assessment for learning is underpinned by the following practices:
- Learning Intentions
- Success criteria
- Effective feedback
Diagnostics: Diagnostics is the practice of collecting evidence about what the learners know, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and where they could improve. Teachers can do this in a variety of ways. They can as questions to measure understanding, monitor classroom dialogue, investigate errors or mistakes, and observe classwork to recognise where learners are struggling. Tests and exams can also be used to gather information that directly influences the learning process. The questions students ask can also give a clearer indication of what they understand, so teachers can also encourage them to ask more.
Learning intentions: Students thrive when they understand what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how to improve. By communicating a clear learning intention (sometimes known as a learning objective), teachers can help learners understand the value of what they are learning. They should also explain how the lesson supports this objective, and how it fits into the overall learning journey. Learning intentions can be set formally by giving students clear, written objectives, or informally by asking questions such as “Why do you think we are doing this?”
Success criteria: Teachers should also explain what success looks like to help learners understand what they are trying to achieve. They could do this by offering examples of good performance – such as a successful piece of work from an anonymous student – or by asking questions like “What do you think a good essay would include?”. By negotiating or providing clear success criteria, teachers can help students make use of feedback more effectively, assess the standard of their own work, and become more autonomous.
Effective feedback: Research suggests that effective feedback can be one of the most powerful contributors to learning. It can help learners reach for their goals and go further, allowing them to ‘close the gap’ between their current and desired performance. Feedback can be formal (notes on work, report cards, etc.) or informal (oral feedback, classroom dialogue, etc.). Key features of high-quality feedback include:
- It offers detailed advice on how to improve, instead of general comments such as “do better” or “practice your writing skills”.
- It is well timed and clear – it is given to the learner when they will find it most useful, in a format they can relate to.
- It focuses on the learning intention and the next steps the learner can take to meet the success criteria.
- It is achievable and suggests actions that will help the learner improve.
Together, these different elements of assessment for learning will help learners think for themselves, assess their own progress, and take a more autonomous role in their learning journey.