Assessment for learning

Learners who truly understand and are involved in their learning have accelerated rates of achievement. This concept is at the heart of assessment for learning. The assessment-capable learner has the tools to assess his/her own progress adequately, to determine the next steps in learning and to set goals. In a class that is based on assessment for learning, learners should experience:

  • a genuine focus on learning, in which learners have a high sense of agency
  • differentiated and challenging learning intentions, both global and specific
  • access to all assessment results, for both informal and formal assessment
  • opportunity for specific goal setting, which is frequently reviewed
  • tools to enable self and peer assessment, including matrices of learning progressions
  • feedback that is at the right level and provides a way forward
  • an environment that encourages discussion, challenge and questioning.

This environment will enable all learners to thrive, but is particularly important for those learners working at the upper end of the learning spectrum. Differentiated instruction means that these learners are able to work at their own level of achievement. Progress needs to be tracked alongside achievement.

The characteristics of gifted learners should be considered in assessment. Some gifted learners have a tendency to make the simple complex and a question that requires a simple answer from the teacher can be perceived as difficult by a gifted learner. For example, a child who is asked to identify a picture of a sheep is perplexed because s/he may be trying to work out which breed of sheep is required. Because of their ability to see many possible answers to questions, some gifted learners may find multi-choice questions difficult. Some learner's perfectionism may prevent them from taking risks and answering questions about which they are uncertain. Having abstract thinking and fluid abilities may conflict with the factual information required in some tests.

Valerie Margrain (2011) says that teachers should be aware of these potential problems and be open to other opportunities for assessment: Teachers need assessment information that is more holistic, interpretive and reflective than numeric data, grades and marks. Assessment that is personalised, contextualised and related to the learner’s dispositions and key competencies is more likely to connect to teaching and learning than an isolated score, ranking, stanine or percentile (p.2) Assessment for learning with young gifted children