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Assessment traditionally has been used in ranking students' achievement in learning (Connell, Ashenden, Kessler, & Dowsett, 1982, p.185) and produces the winners and losers in the academic field. However, as a teacher, it is essential to have more than this narrow view of assessment strategies for accessing the information about students and to feed into effective teaching and learning. Assessment for learning (AfL), for me, is very similar to facilitate learning. Teachers collect students' learning evidence to improve teaching and students benefit from teachers' comments on their own strengths and weaknesses. More than that, assessment is crucial for everyone. According to Reinke (1998) discovered that students' assessment experiences remain with them for a lifetime and substantially affect their capacity for future learning â€¦ emotional charge is of the character of assessment information. Therefore, we can see the rationale of AfL is to enhance the teaching and learning and the integral role of teachers to play for facilitating students to be independent learners (Pang & Leung 2010, 4).
As we know that assessment can be classified into two categories: summative and formative. There are diversifications on assessment modes under formative assessment such as on-line assessment, presentation, project assessment and portfolios. And summative is a kind of assessment which sums up students' learning performance. It often happens at the end of a module or unit (Black & William, 2003).By using the diversification of assessments, teachers can collect their learning evidence on students' knowledge, ability and the learning attitude. Moreover, using various assessments strategies can assess the quality of learning. Professional teachers can adopt some challenging but achievable tasks for students with different learning abilities. Classroom assessment is a kind of formative assessment practice, integrated with classroom teaching. As educators believe that each student is unique, and they possess various potentials and ability of enhancing their learning. If teachers provide different opportunities to explore the learning progress and achievement by using the formative assessment during class, students' motivation in learning will be enhanced gradually. Here are the AfL teaching strategies used by teachers in classroom.
The Learning Teaching Assessment Cycle
In order to successfully adopt the AfL in the classroom, schools are encouraged to put more emphasis on the learning, teaching and assessment cycle (see Figure 1). It is a cycle to indicate the inseparable relationship between teaching, learning assessment, learning and teaching targets. For learning and teaching targets is meant to establish the key points to assess according to the curriculum. Also, assessment serves as a mean to collect evidence of student learning. More than that, those collected information can be used for improving teaching and learning as well as informed students about their strengths and weaknesses. In the meanwhile, with teachers' recognition of their achievements and provision of necessary steps for improvement, students' motivation an interest of learning will be reinforced (Black & William, 1998a; Curriculum Development Council, 2001: Curriculum Development Institute, 2002).Apart from this, we can see "feedback" in the middle, if assessment is to be integral to learning, feedback must be at the heart of the process (Brown, 2005). It plays a significant role in AfL since specific and concrete suggestions is good for improve and consolidate students' learning.
Figure 1. The Learning, Teaching, and Assessment Cycle
From: Curriculum Development Institute (2002)
We know that teaching and learning is one thing as the excellent teaching is complemented by good learning. Several elements are included: students need to comprehend the learning objectives. For teachers, Students play the leading role in learning. Also, teacher's systematic observation on students' body language and facial expressions is important since it can understand students more as well as improve or change individuals' behaviour or teaching environment. For students, learning among peers can help the AfL effective. For instance, students need to pay attention to and reflect others' answers. Therefore, AfL students need to be the active learners. At last, students will have a positive self-image under the efficient and effective AfL.
Use AfL Teaching Strategies in the classroom
A. Observing students
What information can teachers get by observation the class? Teachers can observe students' facial expressions, reactions when he/she is asking a question. It is a good mean of collecting students' learning information in groups of students across a series of issues. Through different class activities like group discussion, think-pair-share, at the individual level, teachers can walk around the groups to observe and provide individual guidance; and at the group level, teachers can observe if they can apply the principle of cooperative learning-PIGSF: positive interdependence, Individual accountability, group processing, social skills, face-to-face interaction for helping students learn and develop the social skills necessary to be successful in the "real world" (David & Roger Johnson ,1991,1998). Moreover, teachers can listen to students' discussions as well as encouraging and facilitating the information exchange, feedback. For enhancing the learning, teachers can find only one group for observation to see their response, feedback and record some ideas(See Table 1) . Teachers can reflect on the plan and re-design for enhancing learning afterwards.
Table 1. Observation Form (not in scale, for showing format and items only)
Source: Achieving QTS Assessment for Learning and Teaching in Primary Schools(2008),p.20
B. Providing effective questioning
There are some effective questioning skills such as asking high-order thinking questions, open-ended and close-ended questions. For the high-order thinking questioning, teachers provides the opportunity for students to express themselves more openly and honestly. Teacher can know the process of students' thinking as well as encouraging students to provide information including their ideas, concerns & feelings. It can also diagnose students' strengths and weaknesses in lessons. More than that, it assists in creating a positive learning and sharing experience for students. In order to help students become producers of knowledge, teacher's main instructional task is to create activities or environments that allow them opportunities to engage in higher-order thinking. For open-ended questions such as using 'Why, How, Whatâ€¦", it allows teachers to include more information, such as feelings, attitudes and understanding of the knowledge. But it is important to giving sufficient time for students to think and answer the questions. However, teachers remember not to ask questions only of the elites but for everyone in the class. Teachers can invite those quiet students to answer the questions for assessing their learning process at that moment.
C. Providing quality feedback
For the feedback, it is a part of effective teaching and the element for teachers to plan the next step. Besides, through giving feedback just-in-time especially the formative one to students, they will know what they learnt, what they can do and what they do next. They also understand on how to improve concretely. Teachers have to give detailed, concrete, meaningful to the individual, fair, challenging and supportive feedback to students. It would be great if teachers can suggest some thinking strategies such as concept map for assisting students' thinking skills. It was a setback if teachers provide the answers or the ways of solving problems when adopting the AsL. What's more, when adopting the AfL, teachers try to avoid those feedback which are not related to the learning objectives. For instance, try harder next time! Please keep your book neat and tidy!
D. Self/ Peer-assessment & Self-evaluation
Peer assessment can involve formative reviews to provide constructive feedback, as well as summative grading: it can also include student involvement in the setting of marking criteria and decisions about evidence of achievement. These train students to make effective use of the process of assessing others' work and receiving feedback from peers. Students can start with manageable tasks that are well suited to self or peer assessment. But the major premise is students need to feel comfortable with self-assessment before they can work on peer assessment (Briggs, Woodfield, Martin & Swatton, 2008). It is because the self-assessment and peer assessment are based on the belief that encouraging students to self-reflect on their own work can enhance learning. Once students get the skills of self-assessment, they will have a clearer idea of helping themselves to improve the learning. They will become more critical and pro-active as learners. Furthermore, teachers can encourage students to make comments on the work of their classmates. It is important in learning as students can understand both the learning objectives and the assessment criteria when they having the peer assessment. Besides, as there are various answers among peers, it is good for students to look into different perspective or have the alternative methods on the same thing. Through the self and peer-assessment, we can see the role of teachers is the facilitators of students learning and students are the active constructors. In the meantime, teachers also need to remind students that they not only focus on the achievement of learning but also the process of learning.
For the self-evaluation, it is also essential on students' learning. As it is an excellent chance for students to think about what and how they learnt. Students are required to fill in the self-evaluation form to indicate the difficulties that they encountered after a class or after a series of lessons. In order to understand how to achieve the learning objectives, students will comprehend their learning condition and how to achieve the objectives and become the responsible and efficient learners. Teachers can improve or adjust their teaching once they get the feedback from students. Teachers can also share the positive feedback and tell their own decisions to students. Teachers can tell students that he/she will adjust the teaching plan after reading their opinions. A mutual respect and understanding can be developed between teachers and students since students understand that teachers will facilitate their learning according to their needs. Here are some suggested questions of self-evaluationFigure .
Figure 2. Self-Evaluation suggested questions
Source: Achieving QTS Assessment for Learning and Teaching in Primary Schools (2008)
E. Informing the teaching objectives & success criteria of task(s)
Teachers need to tell students about the teaching and learning plan for each lesson. Hence, it is import to share the learning objectives with them in language that is age-appropriate language. Therefore, that they can have a clear picture of what are they going to do to achieve the goals when the lesson gets started. Teachers should share the success criteria of the assessment tasks. And need to explain what and how to do for achieving the criteria. After the assessment tasks, teachers provide effective feedback to children for the sake of helping students to understand their own performance better and get suggestions from teachers.
F. Having an assessment conference with an individual student
Having a short time maybe around 10 minute with individuals can help teachers to understand students more in-depth. Students can talk about his/her strengths or weaknesses or any difficulties that they encounter. For understand students more, it would be easier for teachers to change or adjust the learning objectives in order to cater for different students during the planning stage. Teacher can record students' strengths and weaknesses as well as the guidelines or assistance which helps students to achieve the goals or make improvement. Or students can get involved in writing their own record if teachers think students can take part in assessing and target-setting (see Table 2).
I need help withâ€¦
There are many targets for the next half term â€¦
Table 2: A record of targets set (not in scale, for showing format and items only)
Source: Achieving QTS Assessment for Learning and Teaching in Primary Schools (2008), p.22
According to the aforementioned, in the teaching and learning process, assessment plays an integral part. Students need to be responsible to their learning as an effective assessment must include students self and peer-assessment and evaluation. By using various assessment tools during teaching, teachers can determine how well students are learning and how they could adjust our teaching in order to be more effective and efficient. It cannot be denied that formative assessment can facilitate students' self-evaluation so that they can become independent learners. I hope students can develop the ability to be a lifelong learner in the early childhood as teachers can enhance the use of AfL strategies in a more efficient way.