Assessment AS learning – The Learning Power Approach to assessment and feedback.

The mindset of a Learning Powered Teacher.

Introduction to Assessment as Learning.

As leaders of learning, Learning Powered teachers think critically, reflecting on what they are doing and asking themselves:

“Is this the best way for the learners in my class?”

“Is there another way of doing this that will spark inspiration? Make my learners think? Stretch collaborative skills? Make my learners question? Make learning more relevant and meaningful?”

In this way, we are always learning, growing, and adapting to our learners’ needs. Learning Power teachers act consciously, reflectively and purposefully and are always seeking to improve and learn from others.

Learning from the inspiration of others.

With this in mind, I would like to explore some of the ideas and learning that took place in a stunning conference I recently attended – the ELLSA 2019 in Bangkok (#ELLSA2019) – which focused on developing co-teaching models with EAL teachers.

Andrea Honigsfeld (@andreahonigsfel) led many of the workshops. Her knowledge, approach and ideas had deep synergy with the Learning Powered Approach. In particular, how she explained and talked about assessment. Based on Gottilieb’s research, she split assessment into three categories:

  • Assessment AS learning.
  • Assessment FOR learning.
  • Assessment OF learning.
Slide from Andrea Honigsfeld's presentation at the ELLSA conferencein Bangkok, explaining the different between assessment as learning, assessment for learning and assessment of learning.

As a group, we discussed how each strand of assessment was important and had its place. Assessment AS learning is the type of assessment we particularly aim to develop in the Learning Power Approach – Assessment that is :

  • Student -centred
  • Intrisically motivated
  • Facilitated by teachers and self- motivated by learners.

How could you develop intrinsically-motivated assessment and feedback?

Developing intrinsically-motivated learners who seek out feedback for the benefit of their own learning can be tricky to develop. It involves “coming at” assessment and feedback from a variety of perspectives and finding ways to open children’s eyes to value of feedback and learning from mistakes. If children can see the value and have understanding behind this value (for themselves and their learning journey), they will seek out feedback because they will understand this is the route to self-improvement and progress.

Below are some ideas as to how to develop assessment AS learning with your class:

Develop a culture of seeking out and valuing feedback.

Spend time talking about the benefits of feedback with your class:

  • Why would we seek out feedback?
  • How can this help up?
  • In which contexts can you seek out feedback?
  • How can you ask for feedback

Begin to build up a picture of what good feedback looks like. I started this with my Year Ones at the beginning of the academic year. They now say things like:

“I made a model and wasn’t sure what to do next, so I asked for some feedback from my friends.”

“Could we please do several drafts of our writing? Because then we can give each other feedback and make it our best.”

When we discussed ‘what makes a good friend’ in PSHE, one child added, “Well, a good friend gives you feedback.” We talked about this in relation to learning, but also in relation to boundaries in friendship – if you don’t like a way a friend is behaving, you can give them feedback. Good friends will respond to that feedback and change their behaviour. Good friends also forgive and give their friends a second chance. This is the kind of emotional intelligence I want to develop in my learners.

Unpick what good feedback looks like

Get into the nitty gritty of feedback.

  • How can you positively suggest changes to your friends’ learning?
  • How can you show you have listened and take their ideas on?
  • How can you politely thank your friend for their ideas and assess whether or not to take them on board?

Teaching peer marking is a great place to start with this. Don’t expect it to go swimmingly the first time you do it (especially with Year Ones or if it is new to the children). Becoming skilled at giving and receiving feedback takes time, reflection and the drip-feeding of skills and language.

We have found watching Austin’s Butterfly , created by Expeditionary Learning, useful to developing our understanding of feedback. We have watched it twice – the first time to introduce the idea of feedback and the second to dive deeper into how and when to seek out and give feedback.

Use reflective learning tools like Learning Ladders.

Learning Ladders are described in more detail in this book and this page.

The Balance Wheel is also a powerful reflective tool and can be explored further on this page.

Learning Ladder - a visual tool that enables children to self-assess their own levels of challenge.
The Learning Ladder: Children move photos of themselves onto the ladder to reflect challenge in their learning.
Reflection wheel - a visual tool that enables children to self-assess how deeply they have grasped learning.
Our reflection wheel – originally developed by Balance.

The key with these tools is to refer to them and use them consistently.

This year, I have set aside 10 minutes of one morning a week to combine using the learning ladder with deliberate practice. This was partly inspired by reading Shirley Clarke and John Hatties’ book ‘Visible Learning Feedback (which can be found here).

Each Tuesday morning, the children bring whiteboards to the carpet and can practise “any skill they think they need to develop in maths.” We use the learning ladder to find that ‘sweet spot’ where they aren’t practising something they find easy, but are stretching themselves each week. If I see that the children aren’t challenging themselves enough, I ‘nudge’ children to the next level. For example;

Ch 1 – practising ordering numbers from 0.
Teacher: “That’s a great idea because ordering numbers is a really useful skill. Why don’t you try starting from a trickier number or write your number line backwards.”
Ch 1- starts from 99 and writes a number line into the hundred.

Ch 2: Practising counting in 5’s.
Teacher: “You seem to know that pretty well now. How about you apply that skill?” Models writing number sentences adding in 5’s (e.g 15 + 5 = 20).
Ch 2: Starts writing out their own number sentences.

The power of this is several fold:

  • The children are learning how to self-regulate their own challenge.
  • The children are experiencing a sense of achievement when they are pushing themselves.
  • The children can see fast progress within a few lessons.
  • The children can learn from one another, using each others’ ideas and thinking about the most useful skills to deliberately practise.
  • The children are understanding which skills they need to practise to gain fluency in the subject (in this case, maths)
  • The children are in control of and are co-planning their own next steps.

The result of the combination of approaches above, with some other well-thought-out strategies to develop intrinsically motivated improvement and feedback, is a classroom of learners who keen to improve and independently seek to do so.

Those are just a few ideas to get started. Find more easy to implement Learning Powered ideas in the following book:

Get your copy of ‘Powering Up Children here:

I would also highly recommend Ron Berger’s ‘Learning That Lasts‘ as a source of ideas on how to develop a culture of feedback in your classroom and Shirley Clarke and John Hatties’ ‘‘Visible Learning Feedback‘.

Have you developed any similar approaches in your classroom? We would love to here your feedback and ideas in the comments box below.


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