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14.4: Assessment in AfL
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- More effort has to be spent in framing questions that are worth asking.
- Wait time has to be increased to several seconds to give students time to think, and everyone should be expected to contribute to the discussion.
- Follow-up activities have to provide opportunities to ensure that meaningful interventions that extend students’ understanding take place.
- The only point of asking questions is to raise issues about which the teacher needs information, or about which the students need to think.
Feedback through marking (grading and comments)
- Written tasks, alongside oral questioning, should encourage students to develop and show understanding of the key features of the subject they have studied.
- Comments should identify what has been done well and what still needs improvement, and give guidance on how to make that improvement.
- Opportunities for students to follow up comments should be planned as part of the overall learning process.
- To be effective, feedback should cause thinking to take place.
Peer and self-assessment
- The criteria for evaluating any learning achievements must be transparent to students to enable them to have a clear overview, both of the aims of their work and of what it means to complete it successfully.
- Students should be taught the habits and skills of collaboration in peer assessment.
- Students should be encouraged to keep in mind the aims of their work and to assess their own progress to meet these aims as they proceed.
- Peer and self-assessment make unique contributions to the development of students’ learning – they secure aims that cannot be achieved in any other way.
The formative use of summative tests
- Students should be engaged in a reflective review of the work they have done to enable them to plan their revision effectively.
- Students should be encouraged to set questions and mark answers to help them, both to understand the assessment process and to focus further efforts for improvement.
- Students should be encouraged through peer and self-assessment to apply criteria to help them understand how their work might be improved.
- Summative tests should be, and should be seen to be, a positive part of the learning process.
The underlying issues are identified:
- learning theory (teachers need to know in advance what sort of feedback will be useful; they need to understand how their students learn);
- subject differences (teachers need to have an understanding of the fundamental principles of the subject, an understanding of the kinds of difficulty that students might have, and the creativity to think up questions which can stimulate productive thinking – such pedagogical content knowledge is essential in interpreting response);
- motivation and self-esteem (learning is not just a cognitive exercise: it involves the whole person – learning for learning rather than for rewards or grades);
- a learning environment – principles and plans (teachers need to have forethought of how to teach in a way which establishes a supportive climate);
- a learning environment – roles and responsibilities (teachers need to help students become active learners who can take increasing responsibility for their progress)