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Welcome to the Canadian Assessment for Learning Newsletter.

Save the Dates
6th Annual CAfLN Conference and Symposium
May 2-4, 2019
Delta, BC

President's Greetings

Lorna Earl, Ph.D.
 

Hello all CAfLN members.  Welcome to the CAfLN Newsletter.  We are very excited that Katie White of Saskatchewan has taken on this task – another way for CAfLN members to stay connected.

Well, here we are, once again, into a new school year.  For all of us who are CAfLN members, it signals the next leg of our Assessment for Learning (AfL) journey. I think it is only fitting that my greeting in the inaugural CAfLN Newsletter focuses on the nature of AfL and addresses some of the subtleties that make AfL practice both challenging and rewarding.

Although Assessment for Learning has become a staple in most curriculum and assessment documents across the country, teachers tell us that it is hard to do and they often feel that they aren’t sure what AfL really looks like. They are not alone. This has been a topic of discussion in many places around the world. 

In 2002 the Assessment Reform Group provided a wonderful graphic to describe AfL in action 

 

You can find the whole document at
https://www.aaia.org.uk/content/uploads/2010/06/Assessment-for-Learning-10-principles.pdf.


Since then they have refined their thinking and offered this definition.

Assessment for learning is any assessment for which the first priority in its design and practice is to serve the purpose of promoting students’ learning. It thus differs from assessment designed primarily to serve the purposes of accountability, or of ranking, or of certifying competence. An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information that teachers and their students can use as feedback in assessing themselves and one another and in modifying the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes ‘‘formative assessment’’ when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs.
(Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, and Wiliam, 2004, p. 10)

More recently, a group of international assessment experts (from Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States) who meet periodically to discuss AfL, consider new AfL research and consider how it is progressing in our various countries. The ideas that we generated in a Conference in March 2009 are summed up below. This is intended to make clear the central focus of AfL is learning by students.

Assessment for Learning is part of everyday practice by students, teachers and peers that seeks, reflects upon and responds to information from dialogue, demonstration and observation in ways that enhance ongoing learning.
(Klenowski, 2009) http://eprints.qut.edu.au/28741/

So, clearly, Assessment for Learning is not just a set of activities or a shift in how report cards look. It is a fundamentally different way of looking at learning and teaching that will permeate everything that happens in classrooms and schools.

In my experience this journey is one that continues and deepens as we explore what AfL means in different contexts and with different students. In CAfLN, we strive to provide a forum for members to think and learn together as they develop their expertise and hone their skills to support all students in high level learning.

Let us know what AfL means to you and what it looks like in your context. Very excited to share the journey with all of you. 
 

One Question, Two Responses


How do I know when to use Assessment for Learning?
 
Response #1 (Lori Jeschke, Director of Education, Prairie Spirit School Division, Saskatchewan, Canada)

As a leader of learning, I ask myself daily, what is it that I need to pay attention to? 

In the work of learning that I get to do, the tenets of Assessment for Learning are ever present and serve as my guiding framework in all areas of work. Because the very core of our work is LEARNING, knowing the learning destination, being able to describe what quality looks/sounds/feels/ like, getting and giving feedback, gathering evidence of learning, and determining our first next steps is the 'what we do' in our day-to-day work in our division.

Several examples of knowing when to use Assessment for Learning include: we use an exit slip at our Board meetings to gather evidence on how we are doing in terms of our My Prairie Spirit Boardroom statements; Our Senior Admin team brings artifacts in response to the question How Do We Know? to our Learning Goal meetings; the Learning Destination for our School Division is shared in a variety of ways within the Division with clear descriptions of what quality looks like/sounds like/feels like and learn and grow together through feedback, evidence gathering and next steps.


Response #2 (Ken O'Connor, Author and Educational Consultant)
 
My answer would be any time students are learning.  
 
When students are learning they need frequent feedback from their teacher, from their classmates, - and from themselves - so that they can answer the learning questions - Where am I going? Where am I now? and What do I need to close the gap or get better? This feedback needs to be mostly from informal formative assessment - minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, and day-to-day - and sometimes from formal formative assessment (practice, drafts, and quizzes) and it needs to be in words, not symbols. 
 
To paraphrase Jay McTighe, teachers who use formative assessment for learning understand that ongoing formative assessment provides feedback that enhances instruction and guides student revision. When we use formative assessment this way students understand that learning is a messy process in which you don’t always ‘get it’ right away and that mistakes are good for learning. This isn’t all teachers need to do to create a culture of learning but understanding that formative assessment is the purpose for most assessment goes a long way to making school about learning, NOT the accumulation of points and the determination of grades.

Try This!

A great way to involve students in assessment for learning is to create a learning context in which they

1) create a product,
2) formally reflect on strengths and challenges, 
3) recreate the product, applying what they learned,
4) and reflect a second time, considering formally what they adjusted in their second attempt and whether it brought them additional success.

This allows them to engage in criteria, to consider the decisions they made and how they might adjust them, and see the impact of being able to try something a second time. 
CAfLN Member Profile

Denine Laberge - Current CAfLN Secretary
1) Who are you?
2) How do you spend your days in relation to education?
3) Why Assessment for Learning?
4) Why the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network?
 
My name is Denine Laberge. I have been teaching for 24 years, most of it at the junior high level although I have recently been moved up to high school. I now teach math only, from remedial courses in grades 7 and 8 to Pre-calculus courses in grades 10, 11 and 12. I am just at the tail end of my masters comp exam, which focuses on grade 9 math and the needs students bring with them to the classroom as they transition out of the elementary setting into the world of high school.
 
Assessment for Learning is crucial in the work that I do because in math, the constant checks on learning or lack thereof can be all the difference between a student succeeding and the same student abandoning hope. If I have the information I need, I can do a better job teaching them and helping them to fill in the gaps. If they have constant feedback, they can share the responsibility of ownership of their learning along the way. I believe that assessment for learning is our best tool to ensure that the student is an active participant on his or her learning journey and not just a sightseeing passenger.
 
The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network has allowed me to connect with people who have the same interests as I do. I have had some great conversations with other educators, which have inspired me to try new things and to replace practices that were less effective. I have been pleasantly surprised when I was able to learn from teachers who work in a completely different field from my own (band directors, English teachers) and adapt their ideas to my math program, keeping it fresh and strong.

 

Welcome New Members

Peel School Board, Mississauga, Ontario (institutional)
Rose Pillay - BC (new)
Doris McWhorter - ON (renewal)
Chris Deluca - ON (renewal)


 Please visit the Members' Directory to see all current members of CAfLN

Assessment for Learning:Engagement and Efficacy
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