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Assessment for learning

Assessment is an integral part of the learning journey for both students and teachers. Its main purpose is to improve the students’ learning and their teachers’ teaching. Assessment information should be gathered, analysed, and used in ways that help achieve this purpose.

This is an ongoing process:

“Assessment for the purpose of improving student learning is best understood as an ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning.”

The New Zealand Curriculum

Assessment is bigger than NCEA. It is the means (provides the evidence) by which we are able to judge how effective our teaching is, and for whom. And it is the means by which students can measure their progress.

Knowledge of the learner is vital if assessment is to be appropriate and fit for purpose.

“Teaching is only about motivating and supporting the student to make considered and reflective decisions about his or her learning. The learner is at the heart of it all.”

Absolum, 2006, page 24

Assessment for learning must be underpinned by:

  • the utmost confidence that every student can improve
  • the concept of “ako”.

Ako is expressive of the idea that teaching and learning are reciprocal processes; the implication being that teachers and students must share and value each other’s sense making.

A range of approaches can be used

Assessment for learning uses a range of approaches to gather information about how students learn, what they know and are able to do, what interests them, and what issues they have in relation to their learning. These processes deliberately encourage students to reflect critically on their own progress in response to feedback. In this way, teachers find out what works and are able to make informed teaching and learning decisions.

The range of approaches includes:

  • day-to-day actions such as learning conversations
  • mental observations (which may or may not be recorded as notes)
  • student self and peer assessments of their capabilities and learning needs
  • detailed analyses of student work as the basis for informed feedback
  • use of assessment tools (for example, written tasks, structured interview questions, observation checklists).

The form of the assessment is less important than the use to which the information gathered is put.

Learn more:

Diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment

Assessment is often thought of as diagnostic, formative, or summative. But information gathered for one purpose can almost always be used for another.

For discussion and suggestions, go to:

Learn more (online assessment resources):

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Last updated October 3, 2012



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