Assessment For Learning: My Evolving Thoughts!

At our last staff meeting, we had a very interesting conversation on pedagogical documentation. With a focus on inquiry, there’s also an even bigger push to assess the “process” rather than the “product.” There are many different ways to collect evidence of learning during the process, and this document — especially on Page 5 — shares numerous ones.

Right now, I have a wonderful student teacher, Ashley, from Brock University, and she’s really embraced the inquiry process. Not only is she eager to facilitate learning in this way, but she has some excellent ways to document this learning: from photos to learning stories to conferences to observational notes. I’m so impressed with how much she knows about the students, but even more so, what she does with the data that she collects.

I’m a planner, and with a student teacher, I really like to plan ahead. While I always attempt to plan a week at a time, I also know that students need to drive our teaching, and not the written plans on the paper. We need to be willing to modify our plans to ensure that students meet with success, and this “assessment for learning,” allows for this to happen. For example, today we started looking at the speeches for our Election Campaign. Yesterday, when the students did a “quick write speech activity,” Ashley noticed that they struggled with expanding on their ideas in their introductions and conclusions. She also noticed that some students shared opinions, but did not share the evidence to support them. Today, she addressed these needs by creating a speech of her own, and having students work together to edit the speech. Some students used GoogleDocs to do so, and some students wrote comments directly on a paper copy.


This student used the paper copy and an iPad to ask her questions and then revise the speech.

When talking at the end of the day, Ashley mentioned that students needed a lot of prompts to create a good introduction and conclusion. Many students only focused on spelling or grammatical errors, and needed to see beyond these mistakes to the importance of developing good ideas with strong proof. Her assessment helped her see these errors, and now she can address them. For tomorrow, she’s going to write three introductions and three conclusions. Students will use colour-coded post-it note tabs to categorize these written pieces from weak to strong. Ashley’s even going to make a couple of spelling errors in the strong one, so that students see that writing is about more than just spelling. They’ll then use these models to look more closely at what makes a strong introduction and conclusion: assisting them as they write their own. Was this the initial plan for tomorrow? No. But assessment dictated the need, and student success matters, so it’s time to change the plan.

I used to think that I really understood “documentation of student learning,” and I certainly do it a lot, but now I need to take what I do, and make it better. Documentation is only a part of the assessment process. This recent staff focus on different assessment strategies, and my own conversations with Ashley, have helped me clarify what “assessment for learning” really means and how I can improve my own practices: by consistently using my daily documentation to inform my next stepsHow do you capture the learning that’s happening in the classroom? How do you use this assessment to plan ahead? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


8 thoughts on “Assessment For Learning: My Evolving Thoughts!

  1. Your right about inquiry and so is Ashley. It’s great that you’ve discussed that spelling isn’t ‘the world’. Many students focus on spelling only, but that’s not right.
    What is your observation on this bad focus?

    • Thanks for the comment, Yusra! While it’s always great to correct spelling, I think that there is so much more to writing than spelling. I’m glad that we can focus more on these other areas including generating ideas and providing evidence to support them.

      As for your question about the “bad focus,” I’m not exactly sure what you mean. I think that before, I documented a lot of learning, but maybe didn’t always spend the time looking closely at my observations, and using them to decide where to go next. This week with Ashley has taught me about the need for nightly reflections, and using these reflections to drive future learning.

      Hope this helps! I always appreciate hearing your student voice!
      Miss Dunsiger

  2. Aviva,
    Great reflective post on assessing your own teaching and introducing the concept and expectation of assessment for learning. The linked posts and Google Docs example are helpful. It will be interesting to see how students assess the three introductions and conclusions. Kudos to your student teacher!

    • Thanks for the comment, Joe! I really hope that tomorrow’s examples help the students add more specific details to their speeches. I’m very curious to see the results, and then figure out where we need to go next.


  3. Aviva… you have captured the struggles and the joys with assessment. We are so used to product as teachers that we have lost our confidence with really looking at assessment to drive how we and the kids learn. You and your class are capture experts and we learn from you because you make learning so visible. As we become more confident with assessment for learning, we can also work to use more assessment as learning. Luckily, you and your student teacher have that dialogue and conversation with each other, with the students and you let us join in too.

    • Thanks for the comment, Karen! I’m so glad that you mentioned “assessment as learning.” This self-assessment component is so important, and hopefully as Ashley and I share our thinking aloud with the students, this will help them also take a closer look at their own learning and their own next steps. We also need to ensure this daily self-assessment time, where students can communicate what they’ve learned and what they still need to know (metacognition matters). Creating this environment where we all share as a community of learners is so important!


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