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Research report

Assessment for learning

Maria Teresa Florez and Pamela Sammons

Assessment for learning – where the first priority is to promote learning – is a key means of initiating improvement. The strategies and principles underpinning assessment for learning form the basis of this review.

Assessment that is for learning, as opposed to merely of learning, looks forward as well as back. Teachers who assess in this way are concerned not just to confirm and verify what their students have learnt, but also to help their students and themselves understand what the next steps in learning should be and how they might be attempted. This kind of assessment has a 'formative' purpose: it helps to shape what lies ahead rather than simply to gauge and record past achievements.

The main strategies considered important for Assessment for Learning (AfL) – sharing learning goals, formative feedback, peer and self-assessment, and the formative use of summative tests – have been found to be overwhelmingly positive in terms of their potential to promote improvements in teachers' classroom practice.

This review proposes that in order to encourage AfL, subject departments:

  • have an atmosphere in which teachers are expected to watch others in action – to actively support peer observation
  • recognise and value current skills and help teachers to identify their current formative practice.
  • have meetings where teachers discuss learning
  • give teachers time to plan well by encouraging them to mark less, but mark better.