images-38Assessment for Learning (AfL) is a term that has become increasingly used in schools over the last seven years. It is not concerned with testing and measuring but is rather an approach to help improve learning. The old adage you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it is often used in relation to assessment for learning.

The broad categories of assessment are:

•  Traditional assessment is summative: it measures where a pupil is at
but does not tackle the issue of how to move learning forward
•  Diagnostic assessment identifies good and poorer points about work or
•  Formative assessment identifies ways in which progress can be made

Assessment for Learning is a development of the last two bullet points:


The term Assessment for Learning came to the fore when Paul Black and Dylan William (1998) published their research as Inside the Black Box’. This suggested that by changing what we do in the classroom (the black box) that we can improve student achievement and to develop autonomous learners.

The key elements of Assessment for Learning are:

•  Questioning

•  Feedback (both oral and written)

•  Self and peer assessment

•  And using summative assessments formatively

Assessment for Learning is not a quick fix nor an add-on; rather it gets to the root of learning and challenges many approaches to teaching and learning.

The Course

On our Assessment for Learning course, delegates will have the opportunity to reflect upon their own classroom practice and to consider the key elements of AfL.  Ideas for developing AfL will be presented from a wide range of schools and age ranges. Delegates will consider an action plan on how to develop AfL in their practice and in the practice of their schools.

The course is 10 to 12 hours in length and can be done over two days or in shorter sessions or a combination of the two. Materials and approaches will be tailored to your or your institution’s needs.

The benefits of Assessment for Learning are:

•  Improved understanding and raised achievement

•  Increased understanding of children and young people of their thinking
and learning

•  Engagement of children and young people in their own learning

•  Autonomous learners

•  Promotes a learning environment and ethos where the views of children
and young people are valued

Every Child Matters

Assessment for Learning can contribute to the Every Child Matters agenda in the following ways:

•  It can help children and young people achieve in all the aims of the
Enjoy and Achieve outcome

•  It can help children and young people develop self-confidence about
their learning in many situations both in and out of school

•  It can increase engagement of children and young people in further education,
employment and training

•  And it can help parents, schools, voluntary and community organizations to
develop the above in children and young people

Further Reading

Assessment for Learning Books
Assessment for Learning
P. Black; C. Harrison; C. Lee; B. Marshall; D. Wiliam
This is the best read on the subject that we have come across

Inside the Black Box
P. Black and Dylan Wiliam

Working Inside the Black Box
P. Black; C. Harrison; C. Lee; B. Marshall; D. Wiliam

Assessment as Learning
Lorna M. Earl

Formative Assessment in the Secondary Classroom
Shirley Clarke

Unlocking Formative Assessment
Shirley Clarke

Enriching Feedback in the Primary Classroom
Shirley Clarke