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Assessment for learning

Teachers engage in formative assessment practices when they:

  • share learning intentions
  • establish success criteria with students
  • use effective questioning techniques
  • provide written feedback to students about their learning
  • identify next steps for learning
  • develop students’ ability to reflect on their learning using self and peer assessments.

Formative assessment is a powerful tool that can either inhibit or enhance learning because it requires understanding of both the learning context and the context of the learner. It involves a two-way exchange of information between teacher and student (ako), is an ongoing process, and will only occur where student-centred learning approaches are used.

The effectiveness of formative assessment approaches is based on the establishment of a learning-focussed relationship in the classroom. To achieve this, both the teacher and student need to recognise that through working together the learning and the achievement of each student will be enhanced. The result is active learners, who are motivated to learn, seek descriptive feedback and reflect on their own learning. 

To support this teachers need to create a classroom where openness, respect, honesty prevail and where they become guides and mentors, providing quality feedback, while challenging and motivating students to do better, respecting their capacity to learn and doesn’t waste their students time with distractions and irrelevancies.

(Absolum, 2006)

Effective teachers:

  • use a range of activities, ongoing informal and formal assessments to help students identify their prior knowledge and knowledge gaps
  • support their students to monitor their learning progress (co-constructed or self-monitored)
  • determine what they need to do next to further their students’ learning
  • support students to identify their individual next step learning.

Learn more:

  • Assessment Online has detailed information and ideas relating to assessment in the context of the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Absolum, M. (2006.) Clarity in the classroom: Using formative assessment. Auckland, NZ: Hodder Education.

Student-centred approaches

In a student-centred approach to learning, students gradually become able to assess their own progress. Teachers can support students to develop the ability to collect, analyse, and use information about their learning and achievement. When you put students at the centre of all teaching you will be using a range of formative assessment practices (as listed above). Students then begin to take responsibility for their own learning and recognise that assessment is a useful and important part of their learning; it helps them to know where they are on their learning journey. Through formative assessment, teachers help students become more aware of what they are learning and how and why they are learning it.

As students become less dependent on the teacher for assessing their progress, they are able to take greater ownership of their own learning. This has a positive effect on engagement and achievement.

Last updated December 13, 2012