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Assessment for Learning (AfL) Unit 1: Rationale and Overview

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1 Assessment for Learning (AfL) Unit 1: Rationale and Overview
Welcome to the first of seven training workshops on Assessment for Learning. Although not a statutory requirement of the revised curriculum, Assessment for Learning is at the heart of good teaching and can be a valuable tool in helping us to deliver the statutory elements of the curriculum. For these reasons, we will be looking at ways to integrate AfL with our current practice. But first, we need to understand what AfL is and why it is important for improving pupil development. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

2 Learning Intentions for this Unit
You will: be able to answer the question ‘What is AfL?’; know the pedagogical context for AfL; know some of the outcomes of research into AfL practice in classrooms and across schools; have an awareness of the key areas of classroom practice associated with AfL; know where to access further information. These are the learning intentions for this unit – the intended outcomes for your learning today. (Pass out Activity Sheet 1) The activity sheet you’ve just received, called ‘Answering the Big Questions’, lists these learning intentions in question form and provides a space for your response. Feel free to complete this sheet with your comments and observations as we move through this unit. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

3 Key Purposes of Assessment
Activity 2 Key Purposes of Assessment (Pass out Activity Sheet 2) Before we look at Assessment for Learning in detail, I’d like everyone to take a moment and reflect on your current assessment practices. Each of you has Activity Sheet 2, titled Key Purposes of Assessment. Read the question in Box 1 and write in the answer as it relates to your context. Then partner up with one or two others near you and discuss the similarities and differences between your current practices. Why are there differences? (Pause as they complete Box 1 and discuss) Finally, still with your partner, read and complete the question in Box 2. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

4 Assessment for Learning:
Assessment for learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go next, and how best to get them there. - Assessment Reform Group Now that you’ve considered how you define and use assessment in your context, take a look at this definition for Assessment for Learning from the Assessment Reform Group. How does this definition match up against your own purposes for assessment? Are there any clear similarities? What are the differences? © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

5 Assessment of & for Learning
Summative Assessment - occurs after the learning - to prove learning - measures learning - done to learners - widens the ability range… - externally referenced - outcome focused Formative Assessment - occurs during the learning - to improve learning - grows learning - done with learners - narrows the ability range - personally referenced - process focused There are two types of assessment: summative and formative. We are all very familiar with and experienced in using summative assessment. This is assessment in the form of marks and grades given, for example, at the end of an activity, topic or year to measure and prove learning. Assessment for Learning, on the other hand, is formative assessment. This means that assessment takes place during the learning process and seeks to improve the learning rather than measure performance at the end of it. This slide indicates some of the other key differences between summative and formative assessment. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

6 What is AfL Based On? Based on the constructivist view, which says:
‘However neatly we may design, package and deliver learning experiences, in the end learning is a process that is instigated and managed by the learner. It’s the learner who constructs the learning.’ ‘How can I help my pupils to become better learners?’ Assessment for Learning is founded upon a Constructivist view of learning, which strongly recognises that learning is something that happens in the mind of the learner … it’s something they do. No matter what artistry we employ as teachers, learning is still something that learners have to do for themselves. It’s all too easy to get into the habit of talking about learning as a product – as the outcome of teaching. AfL focuses on learning as a process, giving pupils the opportunity to reflect and make sense of their recent learning experiences. It makes sense that if learning is a process that must happen in the minds of learners, then anything we can do to help them take skilful charge of their learning is a good idea … but it’s painful to hand over control. The question is not ‘How can I teach better?’ but ‘How can I help my pupils to become better learners?’ © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

7 Activity 3 Draw the Titanic Be detailed. Draw it in profile.
(Pass out blank paper and pens) (Note: During this activity, be as ‘dictatorial’ as you wish. For example, insist on test conditions and silence, read out results to the class, make comparisons on performance, etc. The idea is to realistically play the ‘teacher’ role and use this exercise to spring assessment on them, compare them to their peers publicly, make them a little insecure, and keep them in the dark about what you expect out of them.) To illustrate some important aspects of AfL, we’re going to do a drawing activity. Using the paper and pens provided, I’d like you to each draw a picture of the Titanic. You need to: Be as detailed as possible Draw the Titanic in profile Depict the ship in full daylight and afloat (not sinking ). You have 3 minutes to complete your drawing. Be detailed. Draw it in profile. Depict it in full daylight and afloat. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

8 Full Marks Exemplar © PMB 2007
(Pass out Activity Sheet 3 – stay in teacher-mode) Now that you have completed your drawing, here is a picture of a drawing that would get full marks. Using the marking sheet provided, grade your drawing. (Allow a few minutes for participants to mark their work, then ask questions such as: How did you all do? What did you score? Did anyone score full marks? Hands up those who did. Did anyone score less than 10? What went wrong? Did you not know we were having a test? Then end role play and discuss how participants felt being in the pupils’ shoes) How did this activity make you feel as a learner? How did you feel when you saw the ‘full marks’ drawing on this slide compared to your drawing? How did you feel as you were tallying up your mark? What did you think was being assessed? What would have helped you do better in this assessment? What would have made this a better assessment? © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

9 Why Use AfL in Your Classroom?
AfL helps pupils to: understand the reason and focus for learning; recognise success in learning; identify and work towards a goal; and understand how to make improvements and achieve their goals. The purpose of that activity wasn’t only to put you in the pupils’ shoes; it was also to demonstrate why AfL is important to the learning process. Had I been clear and transparent with you at the beginning of the activity about the purpose of the assessment, shared the ‘secrets’ so that you knew what was being assessed and why, and made plain what success would look like, you would have been able to produce a better drawing. For example, although I said to be detailed in your drawing, I wasn’t clear about how detailed I meant. If I had said: include the accurate number of portholes, funnels and masts; and place all items in their correct location as they appeared on the actual Titanic You might have drawn your picture differently, more accurately, and received a higher mark. Assessment for Learning ensures that pupils receive this vital information, which in turn allows them to: understand what they are learning and why; recognise when they’ve been successful; identify and work towards a goal, whether set by the teacher or themselves; and understand how to improve and reach those goals. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

10 Evidence – Black and Wiliam
There’s an over-emphasis on grading and giving marks. To pupils, assessment that compares them with others seems to be more about competition than personal improvement. Feedback from these comparative assessment approaches reduces morale. These benefits, and others, are substantiated by research. One of the seminal studies on the impact of Assessment for Learning was carried out by Black and Wiliam in Their study, ‘Inside the Black Box’, reviewed 250 research articles on assessment from 160 journals published over a nine-year period. From this lengthy review, they concluded the following: The giving of marks and the grading function are overemphasised, while the giving of useful advice and the learning function are underemphasised. Assessment approaches are often used in which pupils are compared with one another. Pupils interpret the prime purpose of these to be competition, not personal improvement. Consequently, assessment feedback from these approaches teaches low-achieving pupils that they lack ‘ability’, causing them to believe that they are not able to learn. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

11 Evidence – Black and Wiliam
Range of typical performance enhancements in ‘assessment for learning’ groups Performance Range in control groups Low High Performance Range in Assessment for Learning groups Finally, Black and Wiliam concluded that no other single improvement initiative improved performance levels to the extent that formative assessment did. Black and Wiliam’s review of at least 20 studies on classroom assessment showed that significant, and often substantial, quantifiable learning gains were achieved in the classrooms conducting formative assessment experiments. There is a long known effect of drift as learners get older, especially among those pupils at the bottom end of the performance range. Evidence shows a tendency for learners at the bottom end of the range to ‘catch up’ due to the increased performance AfL stimulates. This slide shows the range of improvement indicated in the research. It reflects pupils of all learning abilities. The improvement ranges from 15 to 30 percent, with differential effects in post-primary of around 2 full grades at GCSE after 2-3 years. These figures have since been underpinned by subsequent research in UK schools like the Kings-Medway-Oxfordshire formative assessment project (1999 onwards) and The Gillingham Partnership’s formative assessment project ( ). Low High Average effect size: 25% shift in performance compared to control groups after 2.5 years, and a reduced ‘spread’ in the performance range. Source: Black and Wiliam (1998) © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

12 Evidence – Carol Dweck Rewards and rankings encourage pupils to focus on marks rather than their learning needs. Students then avoid risk and difficult tasks. - Carol Dweck These findings also correlate with Carol Dweck’s research in the USA. Dweck has spent 20 years researching students’ motivations for learning. Dweck found that practice that focuses on rewards like gold stars, grades or place-in-the-class ranking encourage learners to focus on their performance rather than their learning. This suppresses the risk-taking that is part and parcel of new learning because risk means decreased likelihood of reward. Learners, especially high achievers, actively avoid ‘extending themselves’ in the interest of securing rewards. Note – This does not suggest that children’s learning should not be celebrated, far from it. But it does indicate that the celebration should focus on the learning and not the reward itself. This will become clearer as the AfL strategies, particularly feedback strategies, are explained in later units. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

13 AfL’s Main Elements Learning Intentions Success Criteria
Formative Feedback Effective Questioning Peer- and Self-Assessment and Self-Evaluation The main elements of AfL are as follows and will be covered in more detail in their respective training sessions. LEARNING INTENTIONS inform pupils about what they are going to learn, and why. SUCCESS CRITERIA are the steps or key ingredients that are pertinent to the new learning. Pupils and teachers negotiate these before the learning begins, and it is only these items that the pupils are measured against. FORMATIVE FEEDBACK provides pupils with information on the successful areas of their learning performance as well as areas to improve next. Feedback should be based on the agreed success criteria. EFECTIVE QUESTIONING is about asking questions in a way that provides you with key information that you can use to determine where learning currently is, expand learning, and plan for future learning. It’s also about encouraging more pupil questioning. PEER- AND SELF-ASSESSMENT and SELF-EVALUATION consider not only what they and their peers have learnt but also how they learn best. (You may wish to complete the answer to the fourth question on your worksheet: ‘What will I be doing in the classroom that’s different?’). © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

14 AfL in the Classroom Learning, Teaching & Assessment Cycle Planning
Intentions Improvement Questioning Questioning Learning, Teaching & Assessment Cycle Peer & Self-Assessment & Evaluation Here is a diagram showing how these elements of AfL fit into the Learning-Teaching-Assessment Cycle that shapes classroom practice. Most of the non-AfL steps do not require explanation. However with AfL, PLANNING is critical. Consideration must be given to framing learning intentions, which declare the learning rather than the activity with which pupils are about to engage. You’ll also see that there’s an IMPROVEMENT stage, which follows self-evaluation and feedback. This is an important part of AfL. Once feedback is offered, pupils are provided with the opportunity to read, process and respond to improvement prompts made in their feedback. They carry out these improvements to the work in question, not just to future work. When integrating AfL into your classroom practice, we recommend that you take one area at a time and allow for its development rather than rush into a succession of rapid changes. Also, do not underestimate the time, effort and planning required to effect real improvements. Engaging with the suggested strategies at a superficial level is not enough. Take time to understand the rationale underpinning each element and to make sense of it in your own classroom context. Input Questioning Formative Feedback Success Criteria Learning Activity © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

15 AfL Summary AfL is formative assessment;
seeks to improve learning rather than prove it; can significantly and measurably improve pupil performance; and requires understanding, careful planning and gradual integration to be meaningful and successful. So to summarise: AfL is formative. It focuses on improvement rather than proving. It can significantly improve pupil performance. Must be understood, planned and integrated gradually in order to be meaningful and successful in your classrooms. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

16 Key Closing Messages Assessment for Learning can be invaluable as you seek to implement the Revised Curriculum. There is much successful practice in schools already. It’s not all new! It’s as much a change in culture as a change in practice in classrooms. You can’t do it all tomorrow – it takes time! And finally, although not statutory, AfL can be invaluable to us all as we work to implement the Revised Curriculum. This isn’t a revolutionary concept. Many of us will have been using elements of AfL for some time. But to be successful and have maximum impact, we need to work to change not only our classroom practice, but also our classroom culture, involving pupils more in their own learning and giving them more responsibility for it. Expect its integration to take time. Implement elements in stages so that you are thorough in your provision and so the pupils can get used to the new approach. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

17 Further information Publications: Websites:
Inside the Black Box, Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment (Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam, 1998) Assessment and Learning in the Secondary School (Ted Wragg, 2001) Formative Assessment in the Secondary Classroom  (Shirley Clarke, 2005) Formative Assessment in Action: Weaving the Elements Together  (Shirley Clarke, 2005) Websites: Finally, here’s a list of publications and websites where you can find more information about Assessment for Learning practice in classrooms. (Pass out Handout 1) Details on these same publications appear on this handout. © PMB 2007 © PMB 2007

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