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Assessment for learning – readings

There is a wealth of reports and articles available concerning the principles and practices of formative assessment. We feature a key selection of them here. Some of these articles, where they have relevance, are also featured in other pages of this website. The 'Black Box' articles and online presentations are collected together, and you can link to them from the boxes below.

In conversation with John Hattie

Educational Leaders reports on the Spring 2013 issue of the Ontario Ministry of Education paper In Conversation, which is an interview with Professor John Hattie entitled Know Thy Impact: Teaching, Learning and Leading. In this, Professor Hattie sets out eight mind frames for leaders and teachers from his research and book on ‘visible learning’. Much of this discussion focuses on how the attitudes and actions of teachers, when assessing what is taking place in the classroom, can best be framed to increase the focus on the process of learning.

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Seven Practices for Effective Learning

Educational Leaders highlights an Educational Leadership article by Jay McTighe and Ken O'Connor, available at the ASCD website. McTighe and O’Connor summarise the key assessment practices that improve teaching and learning, providing descriptions and examples of diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment. For each kind of assessment described, the authors provide a classroom-based example, making this a very accessible introduction to, and/or reminder of, effective assessment practice.

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Learners in the driving seat, Chris Watkins, (2009).

Who is responsible for students’ learning? This 2009 article by Chris Watkins from the UK looks at how young people themselves can take the lead – and the excellent results that can follow. Although the assessment regime in the UK is very different from that in New Zealand, the principles of self-regulated learning apply in both contexts.

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Making Classroom Assessment Work, Ann Davies and Mary Hill, NZCER Press, Wellington, (2009).
In simple and easy to follow steps, Making Classroom Assessment Work shows how teachers can use assessment to boost learning.

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Assessment: Feedback to promote student learning Dorothy Spiller (2009).

This article from the Teaching Development Unit of the University of Waikato examines some of the issues associated with feedback on assessment and provides some guidelines for effective practice.

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Student Engagement in the Middle Years of Schooling (Years 7-10): A Literature Review, Robyn Gibbs, Ministry of Education (2010)

This research report looks into the relationship between student engagement and student achievement, and considers what teachers can do to raise levels of student engagement within their year 7 to 10 classes and schools. This report features here because many of the 'answers' to the vexed question of student engagement focus on the practices of formative assessment.

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Research and Evaluation of Narrative Assessment (2010).

The Research and Evaluation of Narrative Assessment and Curriculum Exemplars for Students with Special Education Needs report (2010) was conducted over a three-year period (2007-2009). The purpose was to evaluate the development of exemplars and the introduction of professional development and learning for teachers in the use of learning stories, and also collect baseline data on current assessment practices used in primary and secondary schools for students with high and very high educational needs.

PDF icon. Research and Evaluation of Narrative Assessment (2010) (PDF 3 MB)

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National Education Findings of Assess to Learn (AtoL) Report
This report by Jenny Poskitt and Kerry Taylor, published in July 2008, describes the impact that the Ministry of Education’s professional development Assess to Learn (AtoL) project had on teachers, students, and schools in New Zealand.

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Learning to love assessment, Carol Ann Tomlinson

From judging performance to guiding students to shaping instruction to informing learning, coming to grips with informative assessment has been an insightful journey for Carol Ann Tomlinson, one of the gurus of differentiated learning. (Educational Leadership December 2007/January 2008).

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PDF icon. Rick Stiggins, Assessment through the Student's Eyes (PDF 397 KB)

In this article from Educational Leadership in May 2007, Rick Stiggins argues that our mission compels us to embrace a new vision of assessment that can tap the wellspring of confidence, motivation, and learning potential that resides within every student. To enable all students to experience the productive emotional dynamics of winning, we need to move from exclusive reliance on assessment that verifies learning to the use of assessment that supports learning – that is, assessment for learning.

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Clarity in the Classroom, Michael Absolum, Hodder Education, Auckland, (2006).
With an emphasis on 'assessment for learning' principles, and well-developed learning-focused relationships, Clarity in the Classroom provides key strategies for developing effective and meaningful classroom practices.

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In his 2004 paper, Keeping learning on track: Formative assessment and the regulation of learning, Dylan Wiliam outlines some of the research that suggests that focusing on the use of day-to-day formative assessment is one of the most powerful ways of improving learning in the mathematics classroom.

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OECD report: The Nature of Learning: Using research to inspire practice

Three teachers.

The recent OECD project titled Innovative Learning Environments has put together a volume called The Nature of Learning: Using research to inspire practice. This is based on extensive research findings on different aspects of learning and applications. It provides a powerful knowledge base for the design of learning environments for the 21st century.

This downloadable booklet is a summary of The Nature of Learning, highlighting the core messages and principles for practitioners, leaders, advisors and policy makers. The principles outlined are guides to inform everyday experiences in current classrooms, as well as future educational programmes and systems.

When you look at the seven principles, you'll see that Assessment for Learning is at number 6, a key message for educators about its importance .

Check out this New Zealand Curriculum Online blog about The Seven Principles of Learning.

And you can analyse how well your learning environment reflects what is known from current research using this chart, developed by Ellen Hauser and Bernadette Pearce, Sandhurst Catholic Education Office, Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Word 2007 icon. Seven learning principles chart (Word 2007 107 KB)

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Formative assessment videos

These online videos feature Dylan Wiliam, one of the gurus of assessment for learning, talking about a range of formative assessment aspects. In them he reviews the nature of formative assessment and how teachers can use it to gain better insights into student learning and achievement. These videos are all available on YouTube. 

A good place to start is to watch Dylan Wiliam outline five key assessment strategies and how they interconnect. Listen as he describes the roles and relationships of teachers, learners and their peers. 

View videos on YouTube.

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Visible Learning

John Hattie

In these two You Tube presentations, John Hattie, at present director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, discusses the principles and practices of effective teaching and learning, explored in detail in his influential book Visible Learning (2008).

View the videos:

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Using Classroom Data to give Systematic Feedback to Students to Improve Learning

Carol Dwyer and Dylan Wiliam

How can teachers capitalize on evidence about student learning that is generated in their classrooms every day? How can this information best be collected and used to increase student learning?

This webpage provides a summary of how best to provide feedback to students, on the website of the American Psychological Society. Reinforces the main ideas in Dylan Wiliam’s work.

Read more »