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We at Robert Bateman Secondary have been on a journey for the past three years changing our assessment practices to help improve our students’ achievement. Extensive research around the world has shown AFL (Assessment for Learning) is one of the most effective strategies that can impact student learning.

So what really is AFL? How has it changed what teachers do? How is it different for my child in the classroom? Those are questions which need to be clarified for students and parents.
Assessment for Learning begins when teachers share clear achievement targets with students. Those targets or outcomes communicated in student friendly language set the direction for learning. Teachers use a variety of strategies to instruct students on those targets while always keeping in mind that getting them engaged is of vital importance. Students receive descriptive feedback as they progress through their learning so they can learn and improve. Teachers often will share exemplary work so clarity of what is expected in relation to the outcomes becomes clearer for all students.
Learning targets are being provided at the start of each lesson or unit. “Students may or may not hit the target today. What is crucial is that they remain willing to return and try again tomorrow.” Rick Stiggens. We want students to address these three questions in our quest…

1)  Where am I going?
2) Where am I now?
3) How can I close the gap?

One significant change has been the implementation of ‘Formative’ and ‘Summative’ assessments. Research has demonstrated that when students simply get a grade on their work they don’t reflect on what they did, they simply file it. When descriptive feedback is given students learn to assess, reflect on and refine their work to produce a better product. We want to ensure both students and parents can use that feedback to improve student’s confidence and performance. Formative assessments which are not graded for marks are opportunities for students to practice their skills based on the learning outcomes. Formative work allows students to practice mastering the concepts/outcomes with ongoing feedback from the teacher and their peers. The purpose is to help students understand how to improve.

The only items graded for marks are the summative assessments. When students complete a summative assessment and do poorly on one or more outcome teachers provide opportunities for reassessment on only those outcomes. Students appreciate being able to reassess on only those outcomes rather than having to do the entire test over again. Prior to this teachers’ have students complete a self-reflection piece and indicate what they have done to prepare for the reassessment. This motivates students to be more successful and to take ownership of their learning.

Some teaches are using a four point scale in varying ways to assess student work in relation to the learning targets or outcomes. This scale is categorized into the following segments:
- Not Meeting Expectations
- Minimally Meeting Expectations
- Fully Meeting Expectations
- Exceeding Expectations

Since the Ministry of Education still requires percentages for courses and universities are still using percentages for entrance requirements teachers convert this four point scale back to percentages when reporting on grades. Most teachers are moving towards marks being reported by the learning targets/outcomes rather than the traditional tests, quizzes, assignments and homework.