Assessment FOR Learning vs. Assessment OF Learning

Assessment FOR Learning vs. Assessment OF Learning

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.34.54 AMRecently read an article from EDge titled ‘Assessment For Learning.’ The biggest push of the article was that assessment is most often used as a measure of what has been learned at the end of a unit (assessment OF learning) and then you move onto the next topic.  It can be a pretty defeating experience for those who fail and don’t have much chance to really learn what they were supposed to learn. They cite research on the positive effects on assessment used FOR learning; something like a pre-assessment or assessment in the middle of a concept.  It’s effectiveness is due to students getting feedback that helps them know what they need to work on. It helps create motivation to put more effort into learning because there’s more of an awareness of what needs to be learned (similar to what was talked about in the blog I wrote ‘So Failing Exams Can Be A Good Thing?’)

There were a few questions (as well as ideas) I had about how to make this happen.

Blogging To Self-Assess

This year I’m having all my students have their own blog (probably going with Blogger). The main purpose for it in our class will be for their math reflection journals. I thought of possibly adapting the traditional KWL; when we start a new concept, they could write down what they know as well as the questions they have about the concept. We’d revisit it when we’ve learned the concept and they would answer their own questions and share their new knowledge. It gives them a time to reflect on what they will be learning (or need to learn) as well as a document of the learning process. It becomes a pre & post self-assessment.


The idea of a pre-test used to not be very appealing because I thought ‘ugh, I’m just going to have to grade a bunch of tests that I won’t be putting in the gradebook and most of it will be wrong anyways.’ I have an idea though!

Students do the pre-test independently. The objectives of the unit will be on the top of the test so they can see what they’re about to be assessed on. Students will be encouraged to try every problem even if they have NO idea what to do (growth mindset and learning through the struggle). Afterwards, answers will be revealed to students without explanations. Students will mark the ones they got wrong on their own. THEN, they fill out a Google Form where they share which problems they missed so that I can get a gauge of what the class needs as a whole. After they fill out the Google Form, they spend time collaborating with their peers to discuss the problems they missed and sharing background knowledge. Now I don’t know whether or not to go over the actual answers as a class then or delve into the unit and revisit the pre-test as a summative test review at the end of the unit.

It gives them an opportunity to see ‘ok what do I need to work on’ BEFORE we even get into a unit, not at the end of the unit when it’s too late.

They could even write a reflection on it in their blogs where they talk about the background knowledge they had, the stuff they had NO idea how to do, and the things they learned from collaborating with their peers afterwards.


Examples were provided on how to model what success would look like BEFORE an assignment. In my class, students will be doing their math reflection journals on their blog. In the past, I had shown them the rubric but didn’t read the entire thing out loud because after 2 min, a good handful will probably just check out. The thought was ‘ok, these 6th graders will go home, read the rubric thoroughly, do the assignment, and check back in with the rubric to see if they hit all the points before they turn it in.’ Not a terrible plan (at least they knew what was expected of them) but the article provided what I think would be a more effect method.

Before they begin their own, I would show them an EXCELLENT example of a reflection blog. We would brainstorm and discuss what made it great, keeping a written record of those features. Then I would show them a pretty terrible example of a blog.  Again, we’d analyze it and write down what made it a poor reflection. We would them collaboratively create a rubric of what excellence should look like on this assignment. So much more buy-in, so much more attention to what is expected, and clear visions of what’s great and what’s poor.

Also, before turning in their math reflection, students can work together and give each other feedback.

  • “Hey I LOVE the pictures you picked for this, but I’m not sure what you meant when you explained this concept.”
  • “Hey you seemed to hit all the major points but the reflection is very vague. You seem to give a very brief summary of the learning goal without delving into what you struggled with or the aha moments you had.”

The quality of the feedback will also be much better after the modeling activity.

Granted, none of these are groundbreaking new practices, but reading through them and thinking of how to implement them was great for me.  The article wasn’t advocating getting rid of standardized testing or big unit tests, just saying that it shouldn’t be our only assessments.

Don’t just have assessments OF what’s been learned, assess FOR what will be learned.

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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