Question Declan Education

Assessment of Learning (AoL) and Assessment for Learning (AfL)

What is the difference between Assessment of Learning (AoL) and Assessment for Learning (AfL)?

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Answer Internal Staff

Assessment of Learning (AoL) is summative; it occurs at the end of a portion of learning to assess learners’ achievement levels against a particular standard or criteria. Assessment for Learning (AfL) is embedded throughout the teaching and learning process. It is formative in nature, so learners have the opportunity to try something and re-try based on feedback. While AoL tends to occur at particular, fixed points in the learning journey, AfL is continuous and enables learners to constantly improve as their understanding of both their strengths and development areas grow. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but current practice favours AfL because it builds a more holistic picture of a learner’s abilities rather than basing all judgement on one particular summative assessment. There is a third option, Assessment as Learning (AaL), which is highly regarded by many academics. As Earl (2003, p. 25) summarises, AaL aims to ‘reinforce and extend the role of formative assessment for learning by emphasizing the role of the student, not only as a contributor to the assessment and learning process, but also as the critical connector between them.’ A focus on the student’s role in the assessment process is beneficial because it increases their level of engagement and understanding with that process, thereby rendering them more receptive to feedback and thus more likely to improve their skills.


Earl, L. (2003). ‘Assessment of Learning, for Learning and as Learning’ in Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximise Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.