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Strategy 1: Provide a Clear and Understandable Vision of the Expectation

Share with your students the learning target(s), expectation(s), or goal(s) in advance of
teaching the lesson, giving the assignment, or doing the activity. Use language students
understand, and check to make sure they understand. Ask, “Why are we doing this
activity? What are we learning?” Convert expectations into student-friendly language by
defining key words in terms students understand. Ask students what they think
constitutes quality in a product or performance expectation, then show how their
thoughts match with the scoring guide or rubric you will use to define quality. Provide
students with scoring guides written so they can understand them. Develop scoring
criteria with them.

Strategy 2: Use Examples and Models of Strong and Weak Work

Use models of strong and weak work—anonymous student work, work from life beyond
school, and your own work. Begin with work that demonstrates strengths and
weaknesses related to problems students commonly experience, especially the
problems that most concern you personally. Ask students to analyze these samples for
quality and then to justify their judgments. Use only anonymous work. If you have been
engaging students in analyzing examples or models, they will be developing a vision of
what the product or performance looks like when it’s done well.

Model the creation of a product or performance yourself. Show students the true
beginnings, the problems you run into, and how you think through decisions along the
way. Don’t hide the development and revision part, or students will think they are doing
it wrong when it is messy for them at the beginning, and they won’t know how to work
through the rough patches.

Strategy 3: Offer Regular Descriptive Feedback

Offer descriptive feedback instead of grades on work that is for practice. Descriptive
feedback should reflect student strengths and weaknesses with respect to the specific
expectation(s) they are trying to hit in a given assignment. Feedback is most effective
when it identifies what students are doing right, as well as what they need to work on
next. One way to think of this is “stars and stairs”—What did the learner accomplish?
What are the next steps? All learners, especially struggling ones, need to know that
they did something right, and our job as teachers is to find it and label it for them, before
launching into what they need to improve.

Remember that learners don’t need to know everything that needs correcting, all at
once. Narrow your comments to the specific knowledge and skills emphasized in the
current assignment and pay attention to how much feedback learners can act on at one
time. Don’t worry that students will be harmed if you don’t point out all of their problems.
Identify as many issues as students can successfully act on at one time, independently,
and then figure out what to teach next based on the other problems in their work.

Providing students with descriptive feedback is a crucial part of increasing achievement.

Feedback helps students answer the question, “Where am I now?” with respect to
“Where do I need to be?” You are also modeling the kind of thinking you want students
to engage in when they self-assess.

Strategy 4: Teach Students to Self-Assess and Set Goals

Teaching students to self-assess and set goals for learning is the second half of helping
students answer the question, “Where am I now?”. Self-assessment is a necessary part
of learning, not an add-on that we do if we have the time or the “right” students.
Struggling students are the right students, as much as any others. The research
described previously tells us it is they who gain the most. Self-assessment includes
having students do the following:

! Identify personal strengths and areas for improvement. You can ask them to do this
before they show their work to you for feedback, giving them prior thoughts of their own
to “hang” it on—your feedback will be more meaningful and will make more sense.
! Write in a response log at the end of class, recording key points they have learned and
questions they still have.
! Using established criteria, select a work sample for their portfolio that proves a certain
level of proficiency, explaining why the piece qualifies.
! Offer descriptive feedback to classmates.
! Use your feedback, feedback from other students, or their own self-assessment to
identify what they need to work on and set goals for future learning.

Strategy 5: Design Lessons to Focus on One Aspect of Quality at a Time

If you are working on an expectation having more than one aspect of quality, we
recommend that you build competence one block at a time. For example, mathematics
problem solving requires choosing the right strategy as one component. A science
experiment lab report requires a statement of the hypothesis as one component. Writing
requires an introduction as one component. Look at the components of quality and then
teach them one part at a time, making sure that students understand that all of the parts
ultimately must come together. You can then offer feedback focused on the component
you just taught, which narrows the volume of feedback students need to act on at a
given time and raises their chances of success in doing so, again, especially for
struggling learners. This is a time saver for you, and more instructionally powerful for

Strategy 6: Teach Students Focused Revision

Show students how you would revise an answer, product, or performance, and then let
them revise a similar example. Begin by choosing work that needs revision on a single
aspect of quality. Ask students to brainstorm advice for the (anonymous) author on how
to improve the work. Then ask students, in pairs, to revise the work using their own
advice. Or ask students to write a letter to the creator of the sample, suggesting how to
make it stronger for the aspect of quality discussed. Ask students to analyze your own
work for quality and make suggestions for improvement. Revise your work using their
advice. Ask them to again review it for quality. These exercises will prepare students to
work on a current product or performance of their own, revising for the aspect of quality
being studied. You can then give feedback on just that aspect.

Strategy 7: Engage Students in Self-Reflection, and Let Them Keep Track of and
Share Their Learning

Engage students in tracking, reflecting on, and communicating about their own
progress. Any activity that requires students to reflect on what they are learning and to
share their progress both reinforces the learning and helps them develop insights into
themselves as learners. These kinds of activities give students the opportunity to notice
their own strengths, to see how far they have come, and to feel in control of the
conditions of their success. By reflecting on their learning, they deepen their
understanding, and will remember it longer. In addition, it is the learner, not the teacher,
who is doing the work.

Here are some things you can have students do:

! Write a process paper, detailing how they solved a problem or created a product or
performance. This analysis encourages them to think like professionals in your
! Write a letter to their parents about a piece of work, explaining where they are now with
it and what they are trying to do next.
! Reflect on their growth. “I have become a better reader this year. I used to . . . , but now
! Help plan and participate in conferences with parents and/or teachers to share their

These Strategies as a Progression

The strategies reflect a progression that unfolds in the classroom over time. Students
have trouble engaging in later steps (such as self-assessment) if they have not had
experience with earlier steps (understanding expectations and reliably assessing work).
Likewise, it is much harder for students to communicate their progress if the
expectations are not clear, if they are not adept at assessing their work, and if they don’t
know what they need to do to improve.

All assessment for learning ideas in the rest of this book will address one or more of the
three questions: Where am I going? Where am I now? and How can I close the gap?
“Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning” is taken directly from CASL pages 42 – 46.

Assessment Questions for Educational Leaders
Below is a sampling of questions which educational leaders might ask/listen for/look for, to
determine that assessment and evaluation practices are current and reflect ministry and district
school board direction and expected practice.

a) Describe how assessment for learning, (diagnostic, formative) assessment as ( students thinking
about their own thinking ) and assessment of learning (summative) are used in your classroom.
Give a recent example of each type that you have used and what assessment information each
tool has given you to inform your instruction and the student to improve on his/her learning.

b) Formative assessment data can be provided to the teacher by various sources. Besides yourself,
who else provides you with assessment information and how is that information gathered?

c) A wide variety of assessment tools should be used. Show or describe three very different
assessment tools that you’ve used in your classroom within the last term. Why did you choose to
use them?

d) How do you and your students collect, organize and store the evidence of student learning?

e) How are you managing situations where students are choosing to be summatively evaluated on
different finished pieces of work at different times?

f) Please share with me today’s lesson plan so I can see which expectations were targeted in the

g) What are some of the ways you’ve been helping the students understand clearly how an
assignment will be assessed?

h) Describe how you use feedback during formative assessments. How do students know what to do
to move to the next level? What types of tools do you use to help students to organize their
feedback in order to embark on next steps.

i) How have you been working with your colleagues to ensure assessment and evaluation
consistency across your division?

j) What are three or four characteristics of a quality assessment tool? Show a quality assessment
tool that you use in your classroom.

k) What process have you established for evaluating the assessment tools you use? How do you go
about analysing their effectiveness and what do you do with that information?

l) How do you deal with the challenges of late or missed assignments?

m) How do you use your professional judgement to determine what mark a student should have?

n) Describe how you involve your students in the assessment process?

o) How would you describe the assessment balance in your classes in terms of formative versus

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Ideas for Studying Assessment and Reporting
Within Your Department, Grade or Division
John Verbakel - Program Services

Below is a sampling of ideas to get you started in the dialogue around assessment and

$ Conduct an analysis of the reasons why assessments are conducted in your

department, grade or division.
$ Look at the turn around time on feedback for quizzes, labs and assignments.
What will be the effect of improving on that?
$ Conduct an analysis of the types, number and quality of comments put on
returned projects, quizzes, labs, assignments etc.
$ Take a close look at to what degree your department, grade or division is actually
designing down when units are planned.
$ Study the number of assessments, projects, quizzes, labs, and assignments
given and how that fits with curriculum expectations.
$ Improve/update the quality of the bank of report card comments for your
department, grade or division. Get some baseline input first.
$ Study ways of using the Mark Book reporting program to report to parents in
terms of frequency and types of reports.
$ Look at the types of tasks you ask students to do. Do a gap analysis of how they
meet curriculum expectations.
$ Study the usefulness of diagnostic instruments you use to help you to
differentiate program for your students.
$ Take a look at what you do in your department, grade or division to help students
to do well on EQAO tests.
$ Perform an analysis of the types of comments which you provide students both
orally and in written form.
$ Use the document, Assessment Questions for Educational Leaders, which
contains many probing assessment questions as a guide in directing your
department, grade or division goals.
$ Look at your department, grade or division policy on homework assignment,
completion and the documenting of information connected to it.
$ Develop a department, grade or division policy and follow up around making
home contacts with parents, either by phone, email or class or department, grade
or division newsletter. Look at the frequency of the contacts, the nature of the
contacts (positive vs negative).
$ Develop some common assessments for your department, grade or division.
$ Collect assessment instruments and as a department, grade or division analyze
them for adherence to Knowledge, Thinking, Communication, Application, and
opportunities for students to work to their strengths.
Indicators of Sound Classroom Assessment Practice

1. Clear Purposes ! Teachers understand who the users and uses of classroom assessment
information are and know their information needs.
Assessment processes and ! Teachers understand the relationship between assessment and student
results serve clear and motivation and craft assessment experiences to maximize motivation.
appropriate purposes. ! Teachers use classroom assessment processes and results formatively
(assessment for learning).
! Teachers use classroom assessment results summatively (assessment of
learning) to inform someone beyond the classroom about students’
achievement as of a particular point in time.
! Teachers have a comprehensive plan over time for integrating
assessment for and of learning in the classroom.

2. Clear Targets ! Teachers have clear expectations for students; they know how to turn
broad statements of content standards into classroom-level targets.
Assessments reflect clear and ! Teachers understand the various types of expectations they hold for
valued student learning students.
targets. ! Teachers select learning targets focused on the most important things
students need to know and be able to do.
! Teachers have a comprehensive plan over time for assessing

3. Sound Design ! Teachers understand what the various assessment methods are.
! Teachers choose assessment methods that match intended expectations.
Expectations are translated ! Teachers design assessments that serve intended purposes.
into assessments that yield ! Teachers sample learning appropriately in their assessments.
accurate results. ! Teachers write assessment questions of all types well.
! Teachers avoid sources of mismeasurement that bias results.

4. Effective Communication ! Teachers record assessment information accurately, keep it confidential,

and appropriately combine and summarize it for reporting (including
Assessment results are grades). Such summary accurately reflects current level of student
managed well and learning.
communicated effectively. ! Teachers select the best reporting option (grades, narratives, portfolios,
conferences) for each context (learning targets and users).
! Teachers interpret and use standardized test results correctly.
! Teachers effectively communicate assessment results to students.
! Teachers effectively communicate assessment results to a variety of
audiences outside the classroom, including parents, colleagues, and other

5. Student Involvement ! Teachers make expectations clear to students.

! Teachers involve students in assessing, tracking, and setting goals for
Students are involved in their their own learning.
own assessment. ! Teachers involve students in communicating about their own learning.

Source: R. Stiggins, J. Arter., J. Chappuis, & S. Chappuis. (2004). Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It
Right--Using It Well. Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service, page 27.