School Improvement in Maryland

Assessing FOR Learning

The ultimate goal for monitoring student progress is to ensure that all students are successful in attaining proficiency on state and district standards. Teachers need to teach and assess the indicators they are responsible for teaching on an ongoing basis so that they will know where their students are at any given time in relationship to those indicators.

Teachers need to regularly ask these four questions:

  1. What do I want my students to know and do?
  2. Where are my students?
  3. What evidence do I have to know that?
  4. What do I plan to do about it?

How do you assess for learning?

In his Phi Delta Kappan article, "Assessment Crisis: The Absence Of Assessment FOR Learning," Stiggins asserts that "we can realize unprecedented gains in achievement if we turn the current day-to-day classroom assessment process into a more powerful tool for learning." Stiggins uses the term Assessments for Learning as contrasted to Assessments of Learning. He distinguishes between them in the following way: "If assessments of learning provide evidence of achievement for public reporting, then assessments for learning serve to help students learn more. The crucial distinction is between assessment to determine the status of learning and assessment to promote greater learning."

He goes on to say that "Assessment for learning is about far more than testing more frequently or providing teachers with evidence so that they can revise instruction, although these steps are part of it. In addition, we now understand that assessment for learning must involve students in the process.

"When they assess for learning, teachers use the classroom assessment process and the continuous flow of information about student achievement that it provides in order to advance, not merely check on, student learning. They do this by:

  • understanding and articulating in advance of teaching the achievement targets that their students are to hit;
  • informing their students about those learning goals, in terms that students understand, from the very beginning of the teaching and learning process;
  • becoming assessment literate and thus able to transform their expectations into assessment exercises and scoring procedures that accurately reflect student achievement;
  • using classroom assessments to build students' confidence in themselves as learners and help them take responsibility for their own learning, so as to lay a foundation for lifelong learning;
  • translating classroom assessment results into frequent descriptive feedback (versus judgmental feedback) for students, providing them with specific insights as to how to improve;
  • continuously adjusting instruction based on the results of classroom assessments;
  • engaging students in regular self-assessment, with standards held constant so that students can watch themselves grow over time and thus feel in charge of their own success; and
  • actively involving students in communicating with their teacher and their families about their achievement status and improvement."

"In short, the effect of assessment for learning, as it plays out in the classroom, is that students keep learning and remain confident that they can continue to learn at productive levels if they keep trying to learn. In other words, students don't give up in frustration or hopelessness."

Read more from Rick Stiggins