Huafu International strongly endorses the use of Assessment for Learning (AfL) in all its programmes. Key to AfL is the differentiation between formative and summative assessment. AfL also includes the following aspects: developing classroom talk and questioning; giving appropriate feedback; sharing criteria with learners; peer and self assessment; thoughtful and active learners.
Formative assessment, which provides ‘assessment for learning’, determines students’ knowledge and skills, and is used to inform instruction and guide learning. It occurs during the course of a unit of study. Sources which can be used to provide formative assessment are quizzes, homework, portfolios, works in progress, teacher observation, class work, conversation. These types of work might receive feedback from the teacher in the form of comments, but should not be graded or given a mark of any kind. In the literature, the terms ‘AfL’ and ‘formative assessment’ are often used interchangeably.
Summative assessment, which provides ‘assessment of learning’, typically occurs at the end of a unit of study to determine the level of achievement. It will lead to a mark or grade. Examples of work which can be used to provide summative assessment are unit tests and end of semester exams. Labs and lab reports can also be used as summative assessments, as can presentations, essays, and other coursework which measure student achievement. Summative assessments may also be used formatively inasmuch as they can be used to inform instruction and guide learning for the next phase of study, though it should be remembered that this is not their primary function.
Knowledge of the difference between formative and summative assessment permeates the whole school. Students are given instruction on this in their classes, parents are informed during parents meetings, and there is regular staff training on this aspect.
Developing classroom talk and questioning
Asking questions, either orally or in writing, is crucial to the process of eliciting information about the current state of a student’s understanding. However, students can give the right answer for the wrong reasons, and for this reason superficially ‘correct’ answers need to be probed and misconceptions explored. Teachers need to spend time planning good diagnostic questions, possibly with colleagues. Students can also be trained to ask questions. Increased thinking time can also be productive, as can a ‘no hands up’ rule so that all students can be called on to answer.
Giving appropriate feedback
Feedback is always important, but needs to be approached cautiously. Negative effects can happen when the feedback focuses on student’s self-esteem, as when marks are given, or when praise focuses on the student rather than the learning. Research has shown that giving comment-only feedback is more effective in achieving student progress than giving a grade or grade and comments feedback.
Sharing criteria with learners
Sharing learning intentions, expectations, objectives, targets, and success criteria are crucial to students’ success. These should be framed in student friendly language wherever possible. Students need regular discussions and examples to develop their understanding.
Peer and self assessment
The previous three areas emphasise the role of the teacher. This area emphasises the student’s involvement. Peer assessment is an important complement to self assessment as students learn to take on the role of teachers and to see learning from their perspective. At the same time they can give and take criticism and advice in a non-threatening way, and in a language which is more comprehensible. Most important, both peer and self assessment places the work in the hands of the students.
Thoughtful and active learners
The ultimate goal of Assessment for Learning is to involve students in their own assessment so that they can reflect on where they are in their own learning, understand where they need to go next and work out what steps to take to get there. This is sometimes referred to as self-monitoring and self-regulation. In other words, students need to understand both the desired outcomes of their learning and the processes of learning by which these outcomes are achieved, and they need to act on this understanding.