Prerequisites for Assessment for Learning

A new systematic review in the Educational Research Review has analysed the evidence on prerequisites for implementing Assessment for Learning (AfL) in classroom practice. The aim was not to provide a “recipe for success,” but to generate a better understanding of what needs to be considered.

A total of 25 studies met the inclusion criteria. Of these, nine were conducted in the context of primary education, ten in secondary, and six covered both. The results included data from eleven different countries, although nine of the studies were conducted in the US.

The authors found that the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of individual teachers influenced the establishment of an AfL-based learning environment. Pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge had an impact on a teacher’s ability to provide pupils with accurate and complete feedback. They also needed to have the ability to foster the participation of pupils in discussions about their answers, and construct questions that drew out evidence about their learning. The authors found that the quality of AfL was influenced by teachers’ commitment to its underlying ideals, the extent to which they felt responsible for pupils’ attainment of goals, and their willingness to change their assessment practices to implement AfL.

To a lesser extent, pupils’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes also had an impact. A positive attitude and taking an active role in their own learning process was found to foster autonomy and responsibility.

The wider school context also determined how successfully the implementation of AfL was facilitated. School leaders played an important role in establishing a school-wide AfL culture with a vision and expectations for AfL use, as well as providing time to prepare for and carry out professional development.

The review considered the nature of the assessment itself. It concluded that feedback should be substantial, constructive, and focused, and provide the pupils with cues for how to proceed. AfL should be aligned with the curriculum and standards, as well as being integrated into classroom teaching (rather than being an add-on activity).

Source: A Systematic Review of Prerequisites for Implementing Assessment for Learning in Classroom Practice (2016), Educational Research Review, 17.