Assessment for learning is a key element of teaching if you want your students to improve. As we said before Assessment for learning is aimed at helping you with your planning after you have identified your students’ strengths, weaknesses, their needs, their motivation and their learning styles. You will find in this article some useful steps to implement AFL.
A. Sharing learning objectives with students
At the beginning of every lesson you should share the teaching-learning objectives with your students so that they know what they are supposed to be able to achieve by the end of the lesson. I like to have general objectives displayed during the whole lesson at the top left corner of my board so that I can refer to them any time during the lesson. However I also have a set of differentiated objectives on what I called a SMART setting slide that is a Self-Target-Setting slide where students choose their targets according to their levels and abilities. These objectives targets will then be reviewed at the end of the lesson during the plenary. You will use these objectives for questioning and feedback. For example: “What were the objectives today? Have you reached your target? Which activity has helped you most?”
B. Developing students’ awareness about their aims and the standards
Not only is it important to define the objectives of the lesson with your students, it is also crucial to explain to them how they will meet these objectives. Students need to be aware of the type of criteria that will allow them to achieve their targets. If you are expecting your students to write a long piece of extended writing you need to model and demonstrate what you are expecting by showing them an example of this writing. Once they have produced their piece of work you may want to use these as examples and why not as displays to show others the expectations.
C. Involve your students in their learning
They need to know that they are responsible for their learning and progress. Consequently they need to be given opportunities to talk about their targets, the activities in the lesson and they should be able to express themselves about any point they have found difficult. For this reason you should always allow five minutes at least at the end of your lesson to review the objectives and ask them which activity was helpful for them and which activity they found difficult. We often rush at the end of our lessons but these five minutes thinking time where students reflect on their work is important so that they can decide of the next step for their learning.
D. Constructive feedback
Every type of feedback is valuable to motivate our learners to improve. Whether written or oral feedback, these comments will help students acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and will help them to identify which steps they need to take to improve. These feedbacks however need to tell what was done well by the students but it should also explain to them how it could have been even better. Feedback have to point out on the positive side of learning to develop students’ self confidence and self-esteem as consent negative feedback can be damaging for learning and they can even have a bigger impact on the long-term on students’ personality.
E. Reflection for improvement
At the end of unit or term when we give our students some assessment tasks, students need to be clear on what skills are going to be assessed and they need to know the criteria against which they are going to get assessed. After the exam, reflection again is vital to decide on the future steps both for students and teachers. Both need to understand what went well in the teaching-learning process and what could be improved and how.