10 Principles of Assessment

Principle #4

Formative assessment (as learning) involves students in setting personal goals for learning and monitoring their progress through self and peer assessment practices.

When students are involved in the assessment process they are required to think about their own learning, articulate what they understand, and what they still need to learn – and achievement improves.

—Paul Black and Dylan William

Assessment as Learning empowers students to personally monitor their own learning and make adjustments and changes that enable their growth. The key goals of assessment as learning are to increase students’ self-motivation, self-efficacy, and ability to assess and guide their own progress. Assessment as learning gives students the tools that will enable them to take greater ownership and responsibility for their own learning.

The most effective learners set goals, use proven strategies for learning and self assess their work as they proceed. In essence, they self assess on a regular basis. Rubrics are helpful with self assessment. They provide the scaffolding that enables students to self assess according to set criteria and then set goals as they move towards the learning targets. Specific questions help students reflect and plan for improvement.

What aspect of your work was the most effective? Why?

What aspect of your work was the least effective? Why?

What specific actions would improve your work?

What do I need to do to get to the next step in the learning progression?

(McTighe and O’Connor)

This type of data is not considered for evaluation or reporting purposes.

Peer Assessments are recommended as stepping-stones to self-assessment (Wiliam, 2006). Some students may need to engage in structured peer assessment activities in order to develop the communication skills required to provide constructive and respectful feedback to their peers, and to eventually learn to assess their own work. The teacher’s role is to provide exemplars, frameworks, and models of the steps required for providing clear and descriptive feedback on student work. Feedback Frames are helpful tools for having students practise giving focused, descriptive feedback to their peers.

Classroom Examples/Teacher Testimonials

1. An Elementary Teacher provides students with the context of the assessment at the start of each math unit. A pre-test is given at the beginning of the unit. The test is corrected and handed back to students, along with a chart showing which learning target each question on the pre-test measures. Students use the chart to identify which targets they have already mastered and which ones they need to learn/practise. As the unit progresses, multiple “no-grade/no-risk” formative assessments help students monitor their growth and learning in relation to learning targets and prepare for the summative assessment (final test) at the end of the unit (Chappuis, 2009, p. 103).

2. A Secondary Teacher uses the first formal lab report writing activity in Science class to get students to write what they believe to be a proper lab report. Lab reports are then collected and handed out to another student, along with the lab report guidelines. Students assess their peers’ work and mark, edit, and make suggestions (no grades or numerical scores) on the lab report. The focus may be on a particular item, such as observations or sources of error. Students discuss their review of each other’s work and include the teacher when necessary to clarify requirements.

Teacher Tips

1. Use a cycle of reflective self and peer-assessment to help students take ownership of their learning and set their own learning goals in relation to established criteria for success. Self-assessment involves having students make judgements about what they know, have learned, or have mastered; justify or show evidence of their growth; and set goals for continued learning.

2. Allow primary students to move concrete items, such as checkers, buttons, or poker chips to track their learning in relation to specific skills like math facts or spelling (Chappuis, 2009, p.99). Older students can keep a list of learning targets for the term and regularly check off the ones they have mastered (Ibid, p. 102).

3. Provide students with frameworks and/or graphic organizers (e.g., Two Stars and a Wish) for peer assessments. Students should develop the language and skills required to provide quality, constructive feedback to their peers that is clearly aligned to learning goals.

4. Teach and review the process of self and peer-assessments frequently using examples of student work and modeling strong peer feedback strategies through video recordings and other examples (e.g., Project Tuning).