Effective use of Assessment for Learning (AfL) for Improved Learning and Progress: Challenges for Educational Institutions
My concern is the use of assessment for learning in educational settings for improved learning, progress and developing learning sustainability.
Over recent years, much has been written about the role of Assessment for Learning (AfL) in improving progress and how schools should use it to maximise achievement and learning sustainability. At the national level, following the findings of the Assessment Reform Group (ARG) on the positive impact of formative assessment on improving learning, the idea of AfL was embraced by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) who defined it as “the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there” (ARG, 2002).
Since then, schools have been trying to implement AfL into their everyday practice with different degrees of success regarding the various stages of implementation, while higher education institutions have their own challenges regarding effective use of AfL strategies for improved students’ outcomes. Indeed, recently Dylan Wiliam (TES, 2012) articulated his disappointment with in-depth understanding of principles involved and regretted using the term ‘assessment’ because of its association with measuring:
There are very few schools where all the principles of AfL, as I understand them, are being implemented effectively," Professor Wiliam told TES. "The problem is that government told schools that it was all about monitoring pupils' progress; it wasn't about pupils becoming owners of their own learning.
"The big mistake that Paul Black and I made was calling this stuff 'assessment'," he said. "Because when you use the word assessment, people think about tests and exams. For me, AfL is all about better teaching."