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Classroom Strategies for Assessment for Learning

The important question is not how assessment is defined but whether assessment information is used. Palomba and Banta

Assessment in Action

In the following video, several Quebec teachers demonstrate, explain and discuss assessment for learning in their diverse contexts. They share how they integrate assessment throughout the learning process and include examples of the tools and techniques they use for assessment such as checklists, rubrics and the use of recordings.

Gathering Evidence of Student Learning

When teachers build assessment for learning into their daily classroom practice, they plan discussions, tasks and activities that will provide evidence to guide learning. There are many simple, quick and effective ways to make assessment for learning an integral part of your day.


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More Ways to Use Assessment for Learning

The following examples highlight more ways that elementary teachers, and students, use assessment for learning in the course of their day in order to adjust teaching and learning.

Observations and Conversations :


Cycle One teacher, Catherine Goodwin observes her students during writing workshop. As she walks around the classroom, she takes note of what is happening. She stops beside a little boy who has his pencil in his hand but is not writing and asks him what he is going to write about. He tells her he wants to write about his mom but doesn’t know how to start.

She asks him to tell her about his mom and he shares several things he loves about her. Catherine says, "This is what I heard you say about your mom. You said your mom is pretty. You said your mom is kind, and that she always helps you when you need her." She asks him if he is ready to write.

By observing her students and asking questions to elicit more information, Catherine is able to adjust to her students needs. By feeding back what she has heard, she unblocks her student and helps him move forward.


Asking Questions:

When doing assessments that support learning we want to find out as much as we can about what and how students are thinking. Asking open-ended and higher-order questions can be useful in exploring students’ understandings and will reveal important information about their learning.


In Maureen Bowers Cycle 2 classroom, students work together in pairs and small groups. She listens in on discussions and asks questions that help her find out more about the degree and depth of their understanding. These kinds of daily interactions can provide opportunities for immediate feedback that extends understanding.

  • Can you tell me more...?
  • Why do you think that...?
  • What would happen if...?

Providing Effective Feedback


EMSB teacher, Sabrina Carbone, has a conversation with her Cycle 3 student about a piece of writing he is working on. Her feedback is timely and descriptive. She gives him a clear understanding of what he is doing well, and what he needs to work on next.

For example: Your second paragraph is clear and makes sense to me. You have added details that really help me see what is going on. Do you remember when we looked at the way authors draw their readers in right from the opening paragraph? I wonder if you could find a better way to hook your reader in your first paragraph?


Record Keeping

  Record keeping of assessement for learning is essential. How can we keep track of learning as it is happening? Many teachers keep [anecdotal records->article 182] and checklists of student learning. These tools allow teachers to record student thinking and track progress over time. The information that is gathered is used to provide effective feedback to students and to adjust teaching strategies to meet the needs of the students.


Graphic Organizers and Mind Maps


Many elementary teachers like to have students use graphic organizers such as RAN or create KWL charts and Mind Maps at different times during the learning process. 

Graphic Organizers can be used as an assessment for learning because teachers can easily tell what students know or do not know about a concept or topic. They provide a wealth of information that teachers can use to scaffold learning.


Building Criteria


An important part of assessment for learning is the involvement of students in the process. Susan Brisson makes sure that her Cycle 3 students know what they are expected to learn by having them explore and articulate criteria during the immersion phase of any learning activity or project. As students explore examples of the kinds of texts they will be producing, they are developing an understanding of quality. The criteria become part of the assessment rubric. 

As students work toward a final product, they have a clear understanding of where they are going.

Susan also encourages her students to take responsibility for their learning through reflection and by monitoring their own progress as they move toward specific goals. Learning logs, maintaining a portfolio, and Student-Teacher Conferences are examples of ways to help students become more reflective learners.


Additional Resources

Day to Day Assessment Strategies outlines steps for embedding assessment in daily practice.

Learning for All is a publication by the Ontario Ministry of Education with comprehension explanations and examples.