Welcome to the Canadian Assessment for Learning Newsletter January 2019. 

From Our Blog

Teachers who spend time crafting thoughtful comments on student work are wasting their time if they also give a score (Dylan Wiliam, 2015). But taking away the mark won’t do any good either unless you replace it with something worthwhile. The worthwhile strategies are clear and the news is not new: beyond almost any other strategy or improvement action, effective teaching and learning uses the following strategies as outlined in his 2015 book Embedding Formative Assessment.
  • Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success
  • Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning
  • Providing feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activating learners as instructional resources for one another
  • Activating learners as owners of their own learning

At this point we can conclude that there is no mystery about the “what”. However, many of us struggle with the “how”.

  • How do you get kids to give one another good feedback?
  • What does good feedback even look like?
  • How can I manage to give kids feedback when I don’t have extra time in a day.

Read more

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

Greetings from CAfLN

Grant Page
Happy 2019! I hope that everyone had a safe and relaxing holiday season. Our January newsletter is dedicated to CAfLN's major event of the year - the 6th Annual Conference and Symposium. I would like to thank Brooke Moore and Neil Stephenson for volunteering to co-chair the event which will be held in Delta School District, BC from May 2nd - 4th. Full information can be found on our website and registration is just one click away (see above).

In this month's newsletter....

From our blog ... Brooke and Neil have given us more detailed information with regards to the Conference and Symposium. 

One Question Two Responses...We explore assessment for learning within a classroom context. Thanks to Dr. Kristen Clarke and Dr. Michelle Prytula for sharing a response.

Our Food for Thought section links you to two articles. The first is a look at what new teachers may need to help with their assessment skills while the second is a piece written by Brooke Moore that delves into some of the issues behind marking. 

Finally a new addition to the newsletter. Each month, a question will be posed to our subscribers. We are hoping that you will share your answers in our Facebook group. Not a member of the group? Don't worry - just go to Facebook, search for the CAfLN group and ask to be a member.   

The Keynote Speakers in Delta

Neil Stephenson
For the 2019 CAfLN Conference, we are so fortunate to have Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser as our main keynotes. Through their more than 4 decades of work in BC education, Linda and Judy have become deeply woven into the fabric of BC Education. They have had significant influence on the province at all levels, from inspiring individual classroom practices to helping shape widespread policy decisions. Their work of creating the Network of Performance Standard Schools (now the Network of Innovation and Inquiry and the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network) had lead to a grassroots, province-wide family of educators and leaders focused on achieving equity and success for all learners - the central point of Linda's and Judy’s work.  
The growth and impact of this network has led to Linda and Judy garnering increased international attention, perhaps best demonstrated by their work as Canadian representatives to the OECD international research program on Innovative Learning Environments. The network has since grown to Australia, New Zealand, Wales, and England. However, despite the global stage they now work on, they are BC educators at heart. They are deeply connected to the people, and the land and stories of the west coast. Their ability to connect and inspire has given them the unique perspective of storytellers of diverse voices in British Columbia.

Linda and Judy have authored numerous publications including: Spirals of Inquiry (2013), The Spiral Playbook (2017), System Transformation for Equity and Quality (2016), Leadership MindsetsInnovation and Learning in the Transformation of Schools (2009) and with Helen Timperley, A Framework for Transforming Learning in Schools: Innovation and the Spiral of Inquiry (2014).  Linda and Judy are perhaps best known for Spirals of Inquiry, a model for teacher collaboration. “Spirals” is a widely known and utilized framework for change across BC and beyond, used by all levels to transform schools and districts around “strong, wise and new” ways of thinking. Included in this is a passion for Assessment for Learning, and during their CAfLN keynote, Linda and Judy will be sharing stories of how the Spiral of Inquiry has led to a transformation of assessment around BC.

One Question, Two Responses

What would assessment for learning look like in the classroom?
Response #1 Dr. Kristen Clarke, Instructional Coordinator-Assessment, Peel District School Board

Students are at the center of classrooms where assessment for learning is thriving. In Ontario, our provincial policy document states that the primary purpose of assessment is to support student learning (Growing Success, 2010) and where we see effective assessment in place, we see empowered students and educators with a clear focus on equity.

Students are being invited to learn through a universally designed learning goal, which is then differentiated for students who have specific needs based on prior experiences, identities, and learning preferences or interests (Ontario Ministry of Education. 2013b).

Students are engaged in conversation about their learning and their goals at the beginning and at the end of learning, when they are asked to reflect on where they are now, what they need to do next, and how they are going to get there.

Not only are students a part of goal setting, they are also involved in deconstructing or co-constructing criteria that align with curriculum and possibly competency or learning skills and work habits. When students understand where they are going (through the goal) and how to get there (through the criteria), they are taking an active role in the assessment process.

As educators develop a sense of urgency around assessment as a tool for equity, they are using universal design for learning guidelines (CAST, 2018) and culturally responsive practices (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013a) to create space in learning for all students and to ensure assessment is fair, equitable and transparent (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010, p. 2).

To foster growth in learning, effective and descriptive feedback is part of classroom routines to ensure students have focused guidance on where to take their learning next. When assessment for learning is thriving, students and educators are engaged with assessment as a tool for equity.
CAST (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010). Growing success: Assessment, evaluation, and reporting in Ontario schools. First edition, covering grades 1 to 12. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved from
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013a). Culturally responsive pedagogy. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved from
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013b). Learning for all: A guide to effective assessment and instruction for all students, kindergarten to grade 12. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved from
Response #2 Dr. Michelle Prytula, Dean, College of Education, University of Saskatchewan

Assessment for learning is a necessary component in higher education classrooms, especially in schools and colleges of education.  Not only does assessment for learning facilitate learning at all levels, but when deliberately incorporated into post-secondary education curricula, it serves as a model for best practice in teaching and learning.

Usually used in conjunction with assessment of learning, and optimally also used with assessment as learning, assessment for learning can easily be incorporated into higher education classrooms by faculty and instructors in similar ways as it is used by educators in k-12 classrooms nation-wide. 

What does assessment for learning look like in the classroom?  It looks like both a fundamental shift in beliefs about assessment, and second, an intentional use of a variety of teaching and learning strategies.

For decades, faculty and instructors have been successful at planning for the collection of evidence of student learning, but deliberately engaging in assessment for learning requires a shift in fundamental beliefs about assessment, and as such the incorporation of a new intention in the way assessment is used.  That is, rather than solely using the evidence of student learning as a summative measure of learning, it is used by both the teacher and student to improve the teaching and learning experience in situ, throughout the instructional term.

Through deliberately planning for, seeking, and using evidence for student learning, faculty and instructors are able to recognize and respond to gaps in student learning in interventive ways, prior to engaging in summative assessment. Visible strategies include: sharing clear learning outcomes at the outset of the course, lessons, and assignments; communicating and using assessment criteria early and often; using a variety of assessment strategies throughout the course; responding to learning gaps by adjusting teaching strategies; and providing early, frequent, and timely assessment (through self, peer and instructor feedback) throughout the term.  Among others, these assessment for learning approaches also allow students the opportunity to calibrate their learning strategies and efforts and contribute to their own metacognitive development and monitoring of their learning.

Welcome Members

Jon Orr - ON (new)
Kyle Pearce - ON (new)
Janice Kamide - BC (new)
Bruce Mellesmoen - SK (new)
Colleen Wall - BC (new)
Karen Fadum BC (renewal)
Morgan Whitehouse - BC (new)

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

Food for Thought

Evidence suggests that new teachers are not confident taking on formative and differentiated approaches to assessment. What supports could help them refine their assessment skills?

Mastering Marking Madness written by CAfLN Conference Co-Chair Brooke Moore is a timeless reflection of one teacher's learning about assessment. Read more...

Let's Continue the Conversation

Strong networks develop through great conversation and the CAfLN team would love to support these conversations in any way we can. With this in mind, each month, we will introduce a question or topic and we would like to invite members to visit the CAfLN Facebook page to offer contextual thoughts and ideas. We are hoping to look at complex issues from many perspectives and build a shared understanding of assessment for learning and what it means within a Canadian context. This month's question is:

How do policies in your region address quality in the assessment process?

Jump on over to our Facebook group and tell us what you think!
Visit our Website to find out more about CAfLN!
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