Assessment for learning

Effective teachers use a range of assessment practices to make students’ thinking visible and to support students’ learning.

Assessment for learning is best described as a process by which assessment information is used by teachers to adjust their teaching strategies, and by students to adjust their learning strategies. Assessment, teaching, and learning are inextricably linked as each informs the others. (from Assessment Online)

Guidance for effective practice:

1. Provide ākonga with regular ‘dollops’ of feedback and feed forward.
Shelley’s Year 5 class are learning to create and use equivalent fractions.
Two students, Aroha and Lelea, create other names for one half by folding paper strips in a trial-and-error fashion. They write correct equations, such as 1/2 = 2/4  and 1/2 = 4/8.

Shelley notices what is happening and has this conversation:
Shelley: You did a good job of finding equivalent fractions for one half and writing them down. Please explain what you did.
Lelea: We made halves first then folded in half and half again.
Shelley: I wonder what would happen if you folded one half into three equal parts.
[Aroha and Lelea start to fold a strip of paper]
Shelley: Hold on a second. Can you think ahead without doing it?
Aroha: That’s hard. There would be three pieces inside one half…
Shelley: What will you call those three pieces in one half? Why?

Shelley gives feedback to students on what they have done (folding and recording equations). She signals clearly through her request for imaging that the girls next steps include anticipating the result of the folding. Later she draws the girl’s attention to patterns in the equations.
1/2 = 4/8                   3/4 = 9/12                  2/5 = 4/10

Shelley: These equations are all correct, but I want you to look at why they are correct. What patterns can you see in the equations?
Lelea: 1 x 4 = 4 and 2 x 4 = 8
Shelley: Does that happen in the other two equations?
Aroha: Not really, the second pattern is multiplying by three, 3 x 3 = 9 and 4 x 3 = 12
Shelley: Remember folding the strips. Why are the numerator and denominator multiplying by three?

2. Make a lot of small assessment decisions everyday by questioning your ākonga about what they are thinking.
During a lesson on area and perimeter, Mikala is roving the room while her students work in small teams on a collaborative task. Her students have access to squared paper, square tiles, and rulers. Jo allows access to calculators for a couple of teams. Here is the problem that her students solve:
Farmer Jo wants to create a new rectangular run for her loyal sheepdog, Rusk.
She reads that the run should have an area of 36m2, since Rusk is a medium sized Border Collie.
To order the netting Jo needs to know the perimeter of the run.
How long might the perimeter be? Find all the possibilities using whole numbers of metres.

Mikala takes time at each group to find out what students are thinking. Here is one conversation:
Hoani (student): We tried using five and that didn’t work.
Mikala: What do you mean by ‘didn’t work’? You need to explain.
Simone (student): If you make the run five squares across, like this, you get a square left over. 5, 10, 15 (Counting rows of an array made with tiles) …20…
Mikala: Could you have known that 36 won’t divide evenly by five before you started building the array?
Hoani: I don’t think so. You just need to try it out.
Mikala: What is always true about multiples of five, answers to your five times tables? (writes a vertical list)
Angela (student): Oh, I see, they all end in zero or five.
Simone: Ohhh…no wonder five didn’t work with 36.

From her questioning Mikala notes that these students need to connect multiplication with area and develop better knowledge of factors and multiples.

3. Use the same assessment task for multiple purposes; to establish and report what ākonga have learned up to a point in time, to diagnose the areas where they need support, and to inform them about their own learning so they can self- and peer-assess their progress.
Kea syndicate use a variety of assessment methods to inform teaching and learning, including tests, rich assessment tasks, short interviews, and work samples. The team use Progress and Achievement Tests (PAT) early in the school year, about the beginning of March. All students attempt the same test at their class level. Marking is done automatically on the NZCER site to save on teacher time.

The teachers in Kea use the PAT reports both summatively, and formatively. Using the List Report teachers convert the PATM scale scores to levels of the Mathematics and Statistics Curriculum. The level measurement for each student, such as 2A or 3P, provides teachers with important information to support ‘best fit’ judgments needed for reporting to the Board of Trustees and to the Kāhui Ako.

To identify areas of strength and weakness, syndicate members look at the Item Report across all classes, and for individual classes. First teachers look for items that their students performed poorly on. Those items are looked at to get a sense of what was asked. Second teachers look for items that indicate collective strength for most students. The team compile a list of ‘hit zones’, areas in which their students need targeted teaching. Teachers check the Item Report for their class to see which ‘hit zones’ apply.

Kea teachers develop their long-term plan, informed by the needs identified through PAT, and through their own observations of students.