Essential 4: Assess for Learning

  • Why is this essential?

    Learning is an ongoing process. Assessing for learning is not about primarily about testing. When an educator assesses for learning he or she gathers information about student thinking and discusses that information with the student in order to make adjustments during the learning cycle (a new question, a deeper discussion, a link to prior learning, etc.) and to provide instructive feedback to students.


    To transform teaching and to ensure students are on track to succeed, every educator needs a clear, coherent, and aligned system of high-quality assessments. A comprehensive assessment system includes unit or benchmark assessments, diagnostics, performance tasks, observation or conferencing notes, daily exit tickets, informal classroom conversations, etc. Such a system maximizes the gathering of information and minimizes disruptions to the learning cycle. Each element of the system has a clearly defined and understood purpose. Depending on the time of administration and intention of the teacher, assessments can serve different purposes. The primary emphasis within a comprehensive assessment system should be on utilizing assessments in a formative manner in order to provide feedback to students and teachers. Formative assessments are “no stakes” their purpose is to support student growth.

    Feedback is one of the most powerful ways to improve and celebrate learning. In order to provide effective feedback, educators need to design student learning experiences purposefully to create authentic opportunities for students to articulate their thinking and ask questions. Information about where students are in their thinking and the questions they have must then be used as a foundation of discussion with the student about what next steps might be.



    4.1 Educators enable students to understand where they are in  learning, where they are going, and how to get there, by (Wiliam NCTM, 2007):

    • Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and success criteria
    • Engineering effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning
    • Providing feedback that moves learning forward
    • Activating students as learning resources for one another
    • Activating students as owners of their own learning

    4.2 Educators use formative assessment as a daily practice that emphasizes assessment for learning rather than as an evaluation of learning in order to adapt classroom instruction. (Wiliam, Teachology Conference, 2012).

    4.3 Educators develop a trusting rapport with students to create a safe environment for multi-directional feedback.

    4.4 Educators provide students with feedback that reassures students that they are capable of meeting the standard, identifies a specific gap between student performance and the standard, and presents actionable steps to work on. (Cohen and Steele, cited in Hammond, 2017)

    4.5 Educators use information gathered through a comprehensive assessment strategy that includes formative and summative assessment in order to monitor student progress and design appropriate supports or opportunities for acceleration.

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