Assessment for learning

“The teacher’s job is not to transmit knowledge, nor to facilitate learning. It is to engineer effective learning environments for the students. The key features of effective learning environments are that they create student engagement and allow teachers, learners, and their peers to ensure that the learning is proceeding in the intended direction. The only way we can do this is through assessment. That is why assessment is, indeed, the bridge between teaching and learning.”

“A bad curriculum well taught is invariably a better experience for students than a good curriculum badly taught: pedagogy trumps curriculum. Or more precisely, pedagogy is curriculum, because what matters is how things are taught, rather than what is taught.”

Dylan Wiliam

“The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn. It is the skill of being able not to give the right answer to questions about what you were taught in school, but to make the right response to situations that are outside the scope of what you were taught in school. We need to produce people who know how to act when they’re faced with situations for which they were not specifically prepared.”

Seymour Papert

Our school is evaluating how assessment works across all faculties. We are doing this to improve pedagogy and help student learning. Of course, there are prescriptions from the state that must be adhered to as part of the rules and regulations that govern student assessment (and reporting). However, there’s plenty of freedom to innovate in schools, especially within faculties, if we have a coherent plan for change and professional development with more than just a passing nod to best practice.

Some of the reflective questions for us to think about include:
1. What information does your faculty give students and parents about formal and informal assessment?
2. What assessment tools are used in your faculty.
3. What is your faculty process for allocating A-E grades in 7-9 and 10-11? How is assessment recorded in your faculty including the recording of professional teacher judgment of informal assessment?
4. What is an exemplar of best practice in your faculty for an assessment task in each year group (including sample responses if possible)?
5. How will BYOD change assessment practice in your faculty? SAMR inspired examples?
6. How does your faculty cater for our diverse student population by formally making accommodations and adjustments for assessment tasks?
7. Where do you want your faculty to be in 12 months time with assessment?

Dylan Wiliam’s book, Embedded Formative Assessment is de rigueur and I’d encourage you to read it if charged with the responsibility of educating children. Quite simply, he shows how quality assessment, with follow-up action, produces substantial increases in student learning. Assessment for learning is a key for any professional pedagogue wishing to unlock student achievement.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Darren Kuropatwa

How does your school approach professional development re: assessment for learning?

You may enjoy reading popular quotes and highlights from Wiliam’s book. You can follow also Dylan Wiliam on twitter.

Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Giulia Forsythe:



The views expressed at this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.


  1. Dylan Wiliam:

    Darcy: I am glad you found my book useful, and thanks for the recommendation for others to read it. In the interested of full disclosure, however, I should point out that the third quote attributed to me above is actually from Seymour Papert:

    Papert, S. A. (1998). Child power: keys to the new learning of the digital century.

    • Darcy Moore:

      Thanks Dylan (and apologies). I clipped and tweeted quotes from my kindle iPad app and need to be more careful when accessing these notes. Issue now corrected.

  2. dean:

    Wow. These are really useful questions …

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