Have you noticed any changes taking place in Education recently? Conversations between teachers and students across the province have included emphasis on two small words that have now become very important in daily educational practices. The two little words that I am referring to are: OF and FOR. Surprisingly, these two words are changing the way assessments and evaluations are conducted in many classrooms today.
In the past, teachers have concentrated on assessment OF learning. This means that teachers give tests and quizzes, or assign reports and projects for the purpose of giving a mark at the end of a unit of study. They need to find out if students have learned the material, or not, and most importantly, they have to come up with a mark to put on a report card.
The practice that teachers are now adding to their evaluation plan is assessment FOR learning. This means that the assessment is ongoing and takes place in every class. It occurs as a regular part of all learning; the main purpose is to show students how well they are learning and how they can improve their learning.
Here are Five changes to regular classroom procedures that the assessment FOR learning approach might bring:
1. The specific goals of the lesson, the unit and the assignments are clearly described right at the start. Instead of the teacher deciding how everything will be marked, the students will brainstorm with the teacher what good quality work will look like, and what the criteria for the marking will be. Students will participate in developing the criteria of how they will be marked. When students have some part in deciding goals and identifying criteria, they are more likely to understand what they are trying to achieve and will hopefully want to achieve it.
2. Teachers will provide examples of work, both weak and strong so that students can judge for themselves how they compare to the standards. Learning can become more self directed.
3. Teachers will give descriptive feedback instead of marks in the early stages of learning. They will aim for specific comments that indicate how close the students have come to the target, what they did right, and what they need to improve. Their comments will focus entirely on the work, not the person, and will aim to be constructive for the learning and the motivation.
4. Students will be taught how to set goals, how to track their own learning and how to assess themselves.
Students might use their collection of self assessments to summarize their learning and set goals for their future learning.
5. Students will engage in self-reflection and share what they know with the teacher as well as with their peers. They might be asked to do a “ticket out of the door” reflection at the end of class that asks them what they have learned and/or what they might need more help with.
In summary, students become more aware of the process of learning. They will be just as aware of “how” they are learning as they are of “what” they are learning. This enables them to be more self-managing with their learning and creates independence in learning. It provides the opportunity to seek out new skills, knowledge and new understandings. This is the foundation of life-long, life-wide learning skills that are needed for effective adult learning.