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Assessment for learning

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

The New Zealand Curriculum, page 39

Assessment is a vital component of good teaching. To be effective, it requires curriculum and pedagogical knowledge as well as an understanding of why and how it is best carried out.

It is best seen as a way of checking the learning that has resulted from teaching and learning programmes rather than as a separate process, to be undertaken at the end of a unit.

… it is important that we assess what we value rather than narrow our focus to value what we assess …

Assessment is how we check that learning is taking, or has taken, place so that we can decide what needs to happen next. It looks back, it looks forward. It can play a key role in raising achievement and improving student outcomes when undertaken effectively and appropriately.

Ministry of Education, 2011, pages 18, 12

(Ministry of Education (2011). Ministry of Education Position Paper: Assessment (Schooling Sector) (PDF 4.9MB). Wellington: Learning Media.

Key principles of assessment

The key principles of assessment are:

  • the student is at the centre
  • the curriculum underpins assessment
  • building assessment capability is crucial to achieving improvement
  • an assessment capable system is an accountable system
  • a range of evidence drawn from multiple sources potentially enables a more accurate response
  • effective assessment is reliant on quality interactions and relationships.

Assessment should be based on policies that are consistent across the school.

Some of the characteristics of effective assessment are discussed in The New Zealand Curriculum: School curriculum design and review. In one of its 12 criteria for teacher registration the Teachers Council also recognises the importance of using assessment knowledgeably.

Developing student assessment capability

With the student at the centre as a key principle, it is vital that students know whether they are making progress or not. They should not be dependent on the teacher for this information. When students develop assessment capability they can take greater responsibility for collecting, interpreting, and using information about their own learning.

The skills to self-assess and reflect on learning can and should be taught. They are vital skills for lifelong learning. The report Directions for Assessment in New Zealand has this as its central theme.

Phases of assessment for learning

There are three aspects of assessment that serve different purposes in promoting effective learning. These aspects are discussed in more detail in the following sections.

Planning for assessment

When planning for assessment, consider:

  • what information should be gathered
  • how it should be gathered
  • who will contribute to and use it
  • how it will be used.

The following sections discuss assessment in more detail.

Last updated August 16, 2019