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Assessment for learning

Assessment for learning is the process by which assessment information is used to answer these questions for the student:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going?
  • What do I need to do to get there?

Assessment for learning positions the student at the centre of teaching and learning and enables independent learning.

“Teachers also use assessment for learning to enhance students’ motivation and commitment to learning. When teachers commit to learning as the focus for assessment, they change the classroom culture to one of success.”

Earl and Timperley, 2009 (Earl, Lorna M. and Timperley, Helen (Eds) 2009. Professional Learning Conversations: Challenges in Using Evidence for Improvement. New York: Springer.

Assessment and the student

Assessment, teaching, and learning are inextricably linked. For the student, assessment provides crucial evidence to support the learning process. Assessment focuses learning, provides evidence of progress, and reveals what works and what doesn’t. Self-assessment is closely allied to metacognition: as students develop the capacity to self-assess, so they grow their metacognitive capabilities.

Students need regular indications of their progress in relation to the agreed goals or objectives. Feedback is the means by which they know whether they are on track or off. Feedback is essential for motivation.

Feedback may come from a formal assessment built into a unit of work; equally well, it can come from scaffolded peer assessment against agreed criteria or be in the form of regular teacher comments.

Students also need to reflect regularly on their own work, questioning and validating their thinking, and determining next learning steps.

For more on assessment for learning and assessment in the classroom, visit Assessment Online.

Assessment and the teacher

For the teacher, the collection and analysis of data is integral to teaching as inquiry.

Assessment information enables teachers to:

  • plan and modify teaching and learning programmes for students, groups of students, and the class as a whole
  • identify students’ strengths and give specific guidance on how to further develop these
  • identify and address students’ learning needs in clear and constructive ways
  • involve whānau in their children's learning.

Teaching as inquiry and assessment for learning

Assessment for learning feeds directly into teaching as inquiry: diagnostic assessment data informs the focusing inquiry; formative assessment informs the teaching inquiry and, along with summative assessment, is a chief informant of the learning inquiry.

While it can be useful to think of assessment under the headings diagnostic, formative, and summative, the fact is that assessment can often serve more than one of these purposes. What matters most is that all assessment is used to benefit the student by furthering their learning.

Assessment data can be gathered from observation, conversations, or by examining examples of student work. Formal assessment opportunities should engage students in worthwhile tasks and give them every reasonable opportunity to demonstrate their best skills or work.

This approach helps teachers and students to make connections between assessment and learning and helps teachers develop their understanding of student contexts. <link to the make connections section of the pedagogy section>

Read snapshot 1: Ngā hau e wha to see how a teacher got her students to demonstrate their understanding of poetry using non-standard task types.

Assessment for NCEA

English programmes should be designed around the students and their learning, not achievement standards.

The Conditions of Assessment Guidelines Level 1 | Level 2 | Level 3 suggest a wide variety of English learning experiences that can be assessed against particular NCEA standards. The Conditions are in a Word document accessed from the right-hand menu on the linked page.

Providing effective feedback

The evidence is that feedback can have a strongly positive impact on student learning. But not all feedback is effective.

“To be effective, feedback needs to be clear, purposeful, meaningful and compatible with students’ prior knowledge, and to provide logical connections. If feedback is directed at the right level, it can assist students to comprehend, engage, or develop effective strategies to process the information intended to be learnt. Thus, when feedback is combined with effective instruction in classrooms, it can be very powerful in enhancing learning.”

John Hattie, Visible Learning (2009)

To learn more, download the Effective Feedback PowerPoint found on this page at Assessment Online.

While the teacher has primary responsibility for providing feedback, consider training your students to assess each other’s work – and their own. Besides increasing the amount and timeliness of feedback going on in the classroom, when students become able to self and peer assess, they become less dependent on the teacher telling them how they are going.

Increasing students’ assessment capability involves modelling the process and providing suitable scaffolding (for example, prompts) or frameworks.

For example:

  • Students identify specific strengths in their own or a peer’s work and provide straightforward suggestions on how to develop these further. A simple pattern could be “Aim to do X by doing Y.”
  • Students self-assess their own work and propose goals for further learning. These proposed goals become the focus of a conference with the teacher.
  • Students are paired up for the purposes of providing peer assessment and feedback. They use a series of prompts that have been well modelled on previous occasions.

Learn more:

  • Visit Assessment Online for information and resources related to assessment for learning.

Last updated October 15, 2020