Welcome to the Canadian Assessment for Learning Newsletter December 2018. 

From Our Blog

Staff members from Waldheim School in Saskatchewan are looking at collective efficacy:

If you were to visit our school in Waldheim, Saskatchewan (a K-12 school of almost 400 students that is part of Prairie Spirit School Division) you would not hear one grade 3 student say to another: “Hey, have you noticed how the collective efficacy of our school staff really accelerated exponentially once they established a collaborative culture?“ Nor would you be likely to hear the second student reply, “Yah, and my parallel perception that every adult at Waldheim School has a deep and thorough understanding of me as a learner cannot be attributed to coincidence... Read more

Save the Dates

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

Registration is now open

Important information regarding accommodations at the Coast Hotel:
A block of rooms has been booked at a government rate of $138 (Comfort Suites) or $153 (Superior Suites).  These rates include continental breakfast and parking. Reservations must be made by calling 1-800-663-1144 and using the booking code Canadian Assessment for Learning Network.

Editor's Greetings

Katie White

Greetings and welcome to our third CAfLN newsletter! Each month, I am excited to share the work of educators and leaders from across Canada, all connected to the critical work of assessment and its potential to power deep learning. The beauty of this newsletter is that we can offer research and action-focused ideas that are important to the work of assessment for learning while highlighting the incredible people who make up the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network.

This month, some of our newest members share ideas on the role of AfL in mathematics and on inspiring staffs to explore complex assessment questions within teams. Members of the CAfLN executive share their reasons for engaging in the network and their personal, contextual insights on assessment for learning. Lastly, the organizational team from Delta, BC shares preliminary details on the upcoming CAfLN Conference and Symposium in May. Things are definitely moving and shaking in Canada!

I would like to welcome new members to our network and encourage everyone to invite friends to subscribe to our newsletter. We are just one click away on the Canadian Assessment for Learning website. Members and non-members are all welcome to subscribe.

Lastly, I would like to extend an invitation for anyone reading this newsletter to become part of the network of sharing. If you or someone you know are interested in contributing practical ideas, research, or personal stories about the importance of assessment for learning to our publication, please contact me at This network is as strong as the people within it. Multiple voices and diverse perspectives are critical as we explore assessment for learning together.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy.

Katie White
Editor, Canadian Assessment for Learning Network newsletter

One Question, Two Responses

What factors are important to consider when planning assessment for learning?
Response #1 Bryan Williams, Senior School Teacher, Balmoral Hall

In planning assessment for learning, it is valuable to consider the 3 Ds: dream, direction, and demonstration; each one offers a glimpse into necessary components of any meaningful assessment for learning experience.
DREAM – It is important for you to have a list of understanding goals (outcomes) that you share with your students, outlining exactly what you are hoping they can do by the end of the learning experience. It is your dream for each of your students to be able to achieve the understanding goals, and that becomes much easier when your students know exactly what they are expected to learn. Showing your students specific samples of work that meets, exceeds, and even fails to meet those understanding goals, will give them a much better chance at successfully demonstrating their learning in the end. For your students, knowing what they will have to learn is one thing but knowing how to get there is another.
DIRECTION – Learning experiences should only include tasks that will help your students move towards the achievement of the understanding goals. Students should have multiple opportunities to practice small steps towards meeting those goals (of course, we are talking about formative assessment here). Feedback is critical. Timely, specific, relevant, and frequent feedback will help move your students in the right direction and push them towards the finish line, but how will they show you that their understanding has changed?
DEMONSTRATION – Offering students some choice in how they are going to demonstrate their understanding can help boost confidence, creativity, and motivation. If the format they choose allows them to meet the outcomes, do all students really have to produce the exact same work? What is important at the end of the process is for each student to reflect on the learning experience and to be able to both present work that achieves the goal and to also clearly explain how their learning evolved along the way.
All teachers hope to take their students on meaningful learning journeys. In order to give our students the best chance at maximizing their learning, it is essential to share the outcomes with them first, to guide them along the path with both words and work, and to let them choose their performance of understanding.

 Response #2 Rosalind Poon, Vice Principal, Richmond

One of my biggest AHA moments/journeys as a teacher has come through my work with Kathleen Gregory on learning maps.  If you haven’t had a chance to read Rethinking Letter Grades, I would highly recommend it!  By focusing on the big ideas of a course, so that students have a clear understanding of learning intentions, and different levels of learning, I have developed different ways for students to show evidence of their learning.  Along the way, I have used various assessment for learning routines to engage learners to feed forward learning.  

Given the framework of the learning maps, then what factors do we need to consider when planning effective assessment for learning?  Here are three considerations as I plan: 

1. Class profile – Before starting, I need to have a good understanding of the strengths and challenges of the individuals and the whole class.   Play to strengths to gain confidence!  

2. Clear learning intentions – The big ideas in learning maps have helped to clarify the learning intentions for students.  These big ideas get placed up on a wall the classroom, and all descriptive feedback is related to the learning intention.  

3. Multiple access points for learning – What are the entry points for students to start their learning? Everyone starts somewhere on the learning continuum, so how do give learners a place to start from, and with meaningful descriptive feedback, how do we push learning forward?  
Try This!

Terry Johanson, Consultant, Saskatchewan
Building math readiness is essential for student success in grade level mathematics. The Assess-Respond-Instruct planning framework involves a series of questions for teachers to think through regarding their grade level concepts, or ‘new instruction’. A student may need to learn and practice math concepts below grade level, but this is the starting point for instruction not the end. In this structure, students do not remain ‘two grade levels behind’. The goal, ultimately, is for students to interact with grade-level mathematics. This allows knowledge gaps to be addressed, and prevents new gaps from forming.

CAfLN Member Profile

Each month we will profile one of our members, asking them four questions about themselves and assessment for learning

Nathalie Fournier - CAfLN Member - Saskatchewan
Who are you?
I am a grade 2/3 French immersion teacher in a small rural community in southern Saskatchewan. I have been a teacher for the past 6 years; 2 years with the Conseil des écoles fransaskoises (CEF) and 4 years with Prairie South School Division. Je suis une fervente défenderesse du bilinguisme dans les écoles. C’est d’ailleurs pour cette raison que ma famille et moi avons quitté le Québec pour s’installer dans l’Ouest canadien. I strongly believe that teachers are tools in their students’ toolbox. A teacher must adapt his or her teaching according to the students' learning strength and weaknesses. You might be a very good hammer, but if one student only uses screws, you must become the best screwdriver for his toolbox. Students are the ones progressing on the learning path, and teachers are there to help students find what they need to succeed in their learning.
How do you spend your days in relation to education?

I spend my days working in a preK to Grade 12 school in a small bilingual community. I teach grade 2 and 3 all subjects in French and grade 2 ELA. I am also a Masters student at University of Regina and enjoy some online courses with a French online university: TELUQ.
Why Assessment for Learning?
I believe students are accountable for their learning, even with the younger grades. My students are the ones in control of their assessments because they understand that they are at school to learn and that we are ALL learners in my classroom. Students must see assessment as a way for them to see if they need to learn more about a subject or if they master it and can go a little beyond the subject. When students explain what they understand and learned--seeing them transfer their knowledge into a different subject of the curriculum-- is for a me a proof that assessment for learning is a tool in their toolbox

Why the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network?
I decided to join CAfLN because I believe in the power of Canadian teachers to change the ways we teach and assess our students. The ways to assess students are always improving and changing, and CAfLN’s network is a great place to learn about assessments, to share with others and to find ideas and new ways to improve our assessment strategies.


Welcome Members

Silke Yardley BC (new)
Kristin Visscher BC (new)
Kim Waugh-Motoska AB (renewal)
Christine Younghusband BC (new)
Terry Johanson SK (new)
Tom Schimmer BC (new)
Marcus Toneatto BC (new)
Janet Thompson BC (new)
Jenn Britton BC (new)
Paul Britton BC (new)
Vivian Collyer BC (renewal)

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

Food for Thought

Here are a couple of interesting articles we found about learning and teaching:

Are you proud to be a Canadian educator? Others around the world see Canada as an education superpower. 
Collaborative inquiry - learning together for the benefit of our students. 
Visit our Website to find out more about CAfLN!
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