4 Strategies to Support Assessment for Learning

As educators, our favorite assessments are those that help us and our students. They help us gauge where our students are, what they need, and what we can do to support them. They help students take actions to improve and to do so now, not at the end of a unit or term. Even better, they involve students in the process of assessing as they identify goals, monitor progress and reflect. This all sounds lovely, but the reality is that it can be hard and time-consuming to create and use effective assessments. The good news is there are actions you can take to create assessments that help both you and your students.

3 Types of Assessments

We often talk about three types of assessments:

  • Assessment of Learning 
  • Assessment for Learning 
  • Assessment as Learning
AssessmentOf LearningFor LearningAs Learning
WhatTeachers determine the progress or application of knowledge or skills against a standard.Teachers and peers check progress and learning to help learners to determine how to improve.Learner takes responsibility for their own learning and asks questions about their learning and the learning process and explores how to improve.
WhoTeacherTeacher & PeersLearner & Peers
HowFormal assessments used to collect evidence of student progress and may be used for achievement grading on grades.Involves formal and informal assessment activities as part of learning and to inform the planning of future learning. Learners use formal and informal feedback and self-assessment to help understand the next steps in learning.
WhenPeriodic ReportOngoing FeedbackContinual Reflection
WhyRanking and reportingImprove learningDeeper learning and learning how to learn
EmphasisScoring, grades, and competitionFeedback, support, and collaborationCollaboration, reflection, and self-evaluation

From Harapnuik, D. (2002). Assessment OF/FOR/AS Learning. It’s About Learning: Creating Significant Learning Environments. Blog.

Most of you, especially those teaching in public schools, have state or county-mandated assessments of learning. Those are unavoidable and they do serve a valuable purpose, primarily ranking and reporting. But they aren’t the only way, and probably not the most effective way, for you to assess student learning. Assessment for learning and assessment as learning allow teachers to better support students. Students learn more deeply and own their learning when they are involved in the assessment process.

4 Strategies to Support Assessment for/as Learning

We asked a few of our teacher and professional learning friends to share some of the strategies they use for supporting assessment for/as learning in the classroom. Here’s what they had to say.

 1. Ask students to reflect and self-assess. For example, have students submit a short reflection with their assignments. Students will become more aware of the skills they’re practicing and you will gain insight into how to better support them. In this example, a student reflected on how well they shared information during a presentation. Their teacher responded to their work and reflection and they discussed the work, reflection, and more detailed feedback in person. A student reflects on their skills practice and completes a self assessment, with teacher feedback below.

An example of a reflection completed by a student at Quest Forward Academy Omaha and shared with their teacher as they completed an assignment.

 2. Encourage students to respond to and discuss feedback. Assessment often sounds like something done to students and it doesn’t elicit the most pleasant responses or memories for many students (and for us adults, too!). Instead, reframe assessment as a conversation about student performance and learning, and one that students can lead and contribute to. Here are a few different ways to do that:

a. Ask students to respond to feedback with either a question or a goal.

b. Use feedback sentence starters to help students effectively respond to the feedback they receive. For example…

    • When you said…I wondered if…

    • I’m not sure what you meant when you said…

    • I’ll consider changing…because…

    • I’ll consider doing…. next time, because….

c. Create spaces and time to discuss key takeaways and actions students can take to improve. One option is to meet 1:1 with each student as students work individually or in groups on a project or assignment. Let students lead the conversation!

Giving students time in class to read and respond to feedback is necessary; to ensure students were reading it, I required them to do quick writes and respond to my comments with questions or their own insights. - Tracey Mansfield, OE Professional Learning Specialist, former English teacher for 12 years

 3. Provide timely feedback. Feedback is most effective when students still have their work fresh in their minds (as opposed to a week later when they’ve already moved on). Providing timely feedback is hard because teachers need time to provide thoughtful feedback. Commenting in Google Docs and recording short audio or video clips to share with students can streamline the feedback process.

"The biggest thing that has made a difference for me in getting students more invested in the assessment process is the immediacy of the feedback. I like using technology tools that tell students right away if they are right or wrong as well as following up in person as soon as possible when students are completing a task. When information is still fresh in their mind they are much more receptive to going back and trying again or revising their work to improve." Michael Anderson Math Teacher at Quest Forward Academy Omaha

 4. Provide feedback on skills, not just content and final products. When providing feedback, emphasize the skills students are practicing and ways they can improve. This helps them learn how to work and learn more effectively, which are skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives. Ed Vogel, a teacher at Quest Forward Academy Omaha, shares an example of how he encourages students to practice the skill of sharing, one of the twelve Learning Skills focused on at his school, along with four Work Skills and four Essential Habits.

"In my AP Literature class, we discussed the "Share" Learning Skill after presentations. I spoke with a few students individually who demonstrated mastery and a few who need improvement. We also spoke as a whole about what a good presentation would look like and how someone shares information professionally. I gave them time to revamp presentations and present a second time and saw vast improvement. This teaches students how to share instead of how to regurgitate content in front of people... It creates relevance in learning." Ed Vogel Teacher and Director of Mentoring at Quest Forward Academy Omaha

Assessment for/as learning can feel overwhelming, so we recommend starting simple. Don’t try to change all your practices at once. Pick one or two strategies and learn to do them well.

For more guidance from Opportunity Education’s team, be sure to bookmark our blog. Or, feel free to contact us to find out about our professional learning services and upcoming products and resources for teachers.

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