Is this for Marks? If you’re a teacher, you’ve no doubt heard this line a couple’a thousand times already! We want learners to engage with learning, to love learning for its own sake, and yet the dreaded ‘marks’ outcome is almost always part of this process. In this week’s blog we look at different types of assessment, how each type fulfils different functions, and how to balance these.
Assessment is typically classified as formative or summative. The function of summative assessment is to measure the knowledge or skill that a learner acquired at the end of a unit of work, and shows how well they achieved the outcomes for the unit of work. This is why summative assessment is often termed “Assessment of learning”.
Formative assessment functions to support the learning process with constructive feedback on how to improve towards mastery learning. The learner may produce a written piece, receive feedback on how to improve it, and use this feedback to better their work before finalising and submitting. This is why formative assessment is often termed “Assessment for learning”.
There is however a third type of assessment that is often left out of the conversation: “Assessment as learning”. Summative and formative assessment is often teacher-driven. However, if we want to encourage skills for life-long and/or self-directed learning, our learners need to learn how to reflect on their learning journey and monitor their progress towards achieving the goals they set for themselves. This is where Assessment as learning comes in. When learners learn to self-assess their learning, the assessment process becomes part of the learning journey, and not a nice-to-have extra (if time allows).
Teaching learners to self-assess their learning means explicitly teaching them specific skills. This starts with goal setting: they need to set goals for their learning and at the same time decide how they will measure how well they achieved these goals. They also need to learn how to ask the right questions to accurately measure or assess their learning. Lastly, they need to learn how to reflect on their learning journey in a journal or other written format, as this emphasises that the learning journey is as important as the final product.
As much as teachers need to plan summative assessments, the formative assessments and time for feedback, review and revision, needs to be planned and built into the termly schedule. As part of formative and summative assessment, self-assessment is critical to help students use assessment as learning.