Assessment in practice

Effective teaching and learning practices integrate ongoing assessment and feedback with high quality instructional practice.

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Practitioner assessment

The practitioner leads and drives the learning program for their group of learners. The impact of effective teaching and learning practices on learner achievement in making progress along the learning continuum is significant regardless of family background. Effective teaching and learning practices impact on learning potential and achievement when they are relevant to community, individual characteristics and interests, family circumstances and cultural heritage. Effective teaching and learning practices integrate ongoing assessment and feedback with high quality instructional practice.

The ongoing process of learning and development

Practitioners manage the ongoing process of learning and assessment. As part of this process they need to provide a firm foundation in terms of the curriculum area including providing appropriate examples and practice in what is being taught and learned.

Effective assessment is integrated into ongoing learning from starting a developmental learning sequence, unit or topic, learning the curriculum and demonstrating progress and achievement, to planning the next steps in learning.

Strategies for integrating assessment into the learning and teaching process challenge and motivate the learner:

  • Discuss and clarify with learners what are the learning goals and the success criteria
  • Use effective classroom discussion, questioning, observation, activities and tasks to elicit evidence of how learners are progressing towards the learning goals
  • Provide feedback that assists learners to move their learning forward
  • Encourage learners to take ownership of their own learning
  • Use learners as resources for one another.

Teaching practice ensures assessment supports learning when practitioners discuss with learners their existing knowledge and understandings and share with them the learning outcomes and success criteria for the activities in which they are participating.

This discussion enables learners to be clear about the nature and quality of work required to achieve success.

Classroom interaction and feedback provided by the practitioner should assist learners to review their progress and to plan the next steps forward.

Classroom dialogue encourages and enables learners to think and talk about their thinking and learning and thereby deepen their understanding of this learning and develop their ability to act as independent learners.

Growing ability in understanding how to learn in the curriculum area being studied will strengthen student ability to review their own learning and comment productively on that of their peers.

Further Reading

  •  Visible Learning Part 1,  Visible Learning Part 2,
    John Hattie, summarises the findings from his meta-analysis of research papers into what works and what does not to enhance learning achievement. He concludes by arguing for the importance of teachers collecting evidence about what is happening in their classrooms so that the learning occurring there becomes visible to them.
  • Classroom Assessment: Minute by Minute, Day by Day, Leahy,S., Lyon, C., Thompson, M., & Wiliam, D.
    Leahy, Lyon, Thompson and Wiliam elaborate on five strategies they regard as key parts of ongoing assessment and provide examples of how teachers have implemented them.
  • Working Inside the black box: assessment in the classroom, Black P., Harrison C.,Lee C., Marshall B., Wiliam D.
    This article continues the discussion by Black and Wiliam and others of the benefits of ongoing assessment. It also comments on strategies that teachers have developed as key parts of ongoing assessment, namely questioning, feedback by comment rather than grading and peer and self-assessment.
  • Differentiation: It starts with Pre-Assessment, Skinner E.
    This article describes a classroom method whereby a teacher starts with determining where the students are at in their learning at the beginning of the start of new topic and based on the evidence uncovered organises the next stages of the learning process.
  • Using student assessment for professional learning: focusing on students’ outcomes to identify teachers’ needs (pdf - 623.75kb) Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Paper No. 21, May 2011
    Helen Timperley argues that the improvement of both student learning and teachers’ professional learning is an interactive cyclical process. It begins with teachers examining assessment evidence about learners’ knowledge and skills and considering what they need to know to improve the learning process. This reflection assists teachers to deepen their professional knowledge and refine their skills and enables them to engage students in new learning experiences. To close the cycle teachers gather assessment evidence again in order to consider the impact of their changed teaching. Timperley also discusses the essential role of school leaders in promoting the types of professional learning that will support teachers in improving students’ learning outcomes.
  • Visible learning: what’s good for the goose… Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Research article, April 2010
    A summary of John Hattie’s research into what influences work in schools to improve learning. It outlines Hattie’s findings on the extent to which six basic factors; the child, the home, the school, the teacher, the curriculum and approaches to teaching contribute to achievement. It reports that Hattie’s basic message is the importance of “visible learning” and ‘visible teaching” whereby learning is the explicit goal for not only learners but also teachers.

Moderation

"A parent who has triplets in different classes can rightfully expect the children to be assessed equitably, that is their teachers will develop similar assessment tasks and similar assessment criteria that will be applied consistently across classes."
Teacher, 2000

Moderation is the means by which a school can ensure that teachers across classes make consistent and defensible judgements about learner achievement. Moderation begins with teachers sharing their understanding of the curriculum achievement standards and their expectations about the types and quality of learners' work that will provide evidence of learner achievement against the standards.​​

Making consistent, valid, evidence-based decisions

When teachers collaborate on assessment as well as planning the learning program they develop assessment tasks that provide more reliable evidence for making decisions about where a child is in their learning and what the next steps in the learning program should be.

Moderation improves understanding of learner achievement

Teachers engaged in moderation share and deepen their understanding of the curriculum standards, the learning intentions and the success criteria by which learner achievement will be measured. By sharing and discussing samples of learners' work they clarify expectations and develop a common understanding about the elements that define the work as being at a particular achievement standard.

Consistent assessments improve judgement of children's progress

When consistent, reliable assessments are made at different points in time and over time, judgements about any one learner's progress and the learning progress of the whole cohort are more accurate.

Moderation means confidence

Reliable assessment data can be discussed confidently with learners and their parents. Adjustments to the learning program can be made more confidently as they are based on reliable assessment data.

Moderation is a process

A process for moderating assessments of learners' work that is agreed by all teachers of those learners will be most effective and produce the most consistent assessments.  Teachers may meet to moderate:

  • one or two assessment tasks
  •  a range of assessments to make  overall teacher judgements​

Participants in moderation

At the basic level, moderation is undertaken by all the teachers of a particular year level or subject in a year level.

Given that in any one grade or group, children may be spread across 5-6 levels along the learning continuum, it can be useful to invite teachers of another year level to participate in moderation. This can help develop a shared understanding of the qualities of student work expected at different levels on the learning continuum.

Moderation amongst teachers in neighboring schools develops a shared understanding about student learning in a district. It also broadens the range of experience at the discussion table.​

Moderation in practice

A useful resource to help put moderation into practice is Teacher moderation: collaborative assessment of student work​. This handbook provides a step-by-guide and case studies illustrating how moderation works in practice.

Sound advice about managing moderation can be found on the New Zealand TKI site​.

Learning and development in the early years

Assessing children's learning

Early childhood professionals assess children’s learning in ways that:

  • inform their practice 
  • include children’s views of their own learning
  • are authentic and responsive to how children demonstrate their learning and development
  • draw on families’ perspectives, knowledge, experiences and expectations
  • consider children in the context of their families and provide support to families when necessary
  • value the culturally specific knowledge embedded within communities about children’s learning and development
  • are transparent and objective, and provide families with information about their children’s learning and development, and about what they can do to further support their children
  • gather and analyse information from a wide range of sources to help them assess and plan effectively
  • provide the best possible advice and guidance to children and their families.​

source: VEYLDF p. 13

​Further Reading​​​​​​​

Effective instructional practices

Ongoing assessment and associated feedback are essential elements in enabling learners to make progress in their learning. Effective strategies for integrating these essential elements into learning start with clear learning intentions.

In the early years (birth to eight years old), assessment for learning and development informs practice, includes learners views, draws on families perspectives, knowledge, experience and expectations and uses multidisciplinary approaches.

Practices that have most impact on learner achievement​​

The impact of effective teaching and learning practices on learner achievement in making progress along the learning continuum is significant regardless of family background or socioeconomic status. Effective practices include high quality instruction and ongoing assessment and feedback.

Hattie’s research identified the effect size of a range of instructional practices:

​Influence​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Effect size
​Feedback​​​​1.13
Instruction​​al quality​​​​1.00
Direct instruction​​.82
Remediation/fee​​dback.65
Peer tutoring​.50
Mastery learning.50
Parent involvement.46
Homework.43
​Questioning.41

​Source: Hattie, J. Teachers make a differ​​​​​ence, ACER, 2003​

An effect size of 0.40 is considered significant. It is clear that feedback is highly significant. The effective practitioner engages in high quality instructional practices which include direct instruction where required along with frequent assessment and feedback to the learner that includes strategies for improving learning.​

The McREL organisation’s research led to development of a set of nine essential instructional strategies that have been further developed by Marzano. Their research indicates that teachers who use these strategies improve student learning and achievement.

Further Reading

Shared clarity about the learning

Learning intentions

The planning for a semester, unit, or lesson begins with determining the learning goals or learning intentions – what the learner should be able to know, understand and do as a result of the learning. The practitioner and l​earners take responsibility for the learning and they collaboratively develop the learning intentions. Clarity of learning intentions and explicit sharing of them with learners are essential for learners to become engaged and motivated to achieve progress in their learning.

Success criteria

The next step is identifying the criteria by which achievement of the learning intentions will be measured. Involving learners in this step engages and motivates them to want to achieve. Useful success criteria are specific, they describe what success looks like and they are measurable.

Clarity

It is essential that the learning intentions and success criteria are explicit and understood by learners, their families and the practitioner. Providing models and examples of work that meet the success criteria enable learners to understand the depth and quality of work required to meet the expectations jointly set with the practitioner.

​​​Checking clarity is shared​​​

Learners should be able to answer these questions –​

  1. What are you learning?
  2. Why are you learning this?​
  3. How are you learning this?
  4. How will you know when you have learned it?​

Practitioners should be able to explain to the learners –​

  • What is to be learnt – the learning intentions
  • How the learning intentions are linked to the bigger ideas and understandings that the learners will learn
  • How children will be learning
  • How the learning activities are relevant to the success criteria
  • How learners will demonstrate their learning – what learners will say, make, write or do with reference to sample assessment tasks
  • How this new learning will impact on future learning

Differentiation 

When development of learning intentions is shared, the planning reflects learner need and ensures the depth of learning required is appropriate for each learner. Deep teacher knowledge is essential when designing Learning Intentions. The practitioner must know well their learning domain and the progression of learning within that domain to appropriately assess where a learner is at in their learning and to identify the next steps in the learning.The main purpose for developing effective learning intentions is to help answer ​the question, ‘What knowledge, skill and understandings do I want the learners to acquire as a result of the learning?' ​ Once the overall Learning Intentions are framed, then consideration can be directed to differentiating those Intentions whilst keeping the integral focus of the session.

Further Reading

Gather a range of evidence

The value of evidence

When used formatively, both formal and informal assessment provide valuable evidence of learning, misunderstandings or lack of understanding. Practitioners and learners analyse this evidence and use it to further learning for a whole group, a small group and individuals.​​​​​​​​

Further Reading

  • John Hattie - Visual Learning Part 1 John Hattie - Visual Learning Part 2
    John Hattie, summarises the findings from his meta-analysis of research papers into what works and what does not to enhance learning achievement. He concludes by arguing for the importance of teachers collecting evidence about what is happening in their classrooms so that the learning occurring there becomes visible to them.
  • Classroom Assessment: Minute by Minute, Day by Day
    In Classroom Assessment: Minute by Minute, Day by Day, Leahy, Lyon, Thompson and Wiliam elaborate on the five strategies that are key parts of ongoing assessment and provide examples of how teachers have implemented them.

Learner self-assessment

​​Reviewing and reflecting

​​​​​​​​Self-assessment involves learners reviewing their own work and learning and reflecting on their progress against the success criteria they developed in conjunction with the practitioner. They consider how well they have performed the work being undertaken and the strategies they have used. It assists them to recognise and affirm their achievements and understand what still needs to be learnt, what they need to do next and the type of assistance they may require in order to progress. 

Self-assessment can build motivation and belief in learners’ own ability to learn and motivate them to take more responsibility for their own learning. 

One popular strategy which students can utilise in everyday classroom activities is the adoption of symbols in the traffic light colours of red, yellow and green which they display to their teacher to indicate that they understand, are not quite sure, or do not understand what the teacher or another student has said.  

​Success criteria and reflection

Self-assessment against the success criteria encourages the learner to reflect on their learning of key concepts, understandings and skills in a learning domain and on their learning strategies (metacognition).

Peer Feedback

Peer feedback involves learners in feedback on one another’s work in relation to the success criteria collaboratively determined at the beginning of the semester, unit or lesson.

Learners discuss the extent to which each other’s work meets the success criteria and learning outcomes established by the class at the start of the learning process.

​Peers provide advice and help each other to improve their work. By thinking and discussing what needs to be improved in a piece of work learners begin to gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes a satisfactory realisation of the success criteria. 

Peer feedback can assist learners to become teachers of each other and to develop a growing understanding of how to learn in the learning domain area being studied. 

​Before engaging in peer feedback , it is helpful if learners develop self-assessment strategies and practise how to comment effectively on one another’s work in a supportive manner.

Rubrics and self-assessment

Rubrics describe the quality expected in a learner's response to an assessment task. They enable the learner to self-assess against the assessment criteria, review their work and reflect on what needs to be learned to achieve the standard expected.  When peer reviewing other learners refer to the rubric to help them provide appropriate feedback to the learner.

Further Reading

  • Assessment Matters: Self-Assessment and Peer Assessment
    Dorothy Spiller discusses the role of self-assessment and peer assessment in ongoing learning and provides guidance on how to introduce these forms of assessment to learners and prepare them to use them in a supportive manner in the classroom.

Effective self assessment tool

​​​What is effective learner self-assessment?

For formative assessment to be productive, pupils should be trained in self assessment so that they can understand the main purposes of their learning and thereby grasp what they need to do to achieve.​ The practitioner can assist learners to reflect on what they have learned, how they learned that knowledge or skill and what they need to learn next by prompting some questions that will challenge the learners’ thinking about learning. Black P. & Wiliam D. (1998).
Inside the black box: raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2)​

The practitioner can assist learners to reflect on what they have learned, how they learned that knowledge or skill and what they need to learn next by prompting some questions that will challenge the learners’ thinking about learning.​

Prompts that can assist learners to reflect on their learning

These questions are useful prompts to assist learners to self-assess.

  • ​What did I learn today?
  • How do I know I learnt this?
  • What am I confused about?
  • How can I clarify this?
  • What do I want to know more about?
  • How am I going to find out more?
  • What am I going to work on next?
  • I was surprised by…
  • I was challenged by…
  • I was excited when I discovered…

As the learner is working through a learning activity they might assess their progress internally. If the learner can discuss or write down some of their self-assessments, the verbalisation and clarification of ideas that comes from interaction with others in oral or written form assists learners to remember their learning and their successful learning strategies.

Some useful self-assessment tools

  • Digital portfolio, learning reflection journal
  • Discussion, whole-class or small-group
  • Self-evaluation form​
  • Self-assessment checklists and inventories
  • Teacher-student interviews

Further reading