Assessment FOR Learning vs. Assessment OF Learning
by Jana Bennett
Do you and your team of educators distinguish between assessments for learning and assessments of learning? If so, how does each assessment type help you evaluate the impact of teaching and learning?
What is Assessment for Learning vs. Assessment of Learning?
Assessments have become integral to today's teaching, learning, and data-driven decision-making efforts. Within the world of assessments, there are two paramount ideologies at work: assessments for learning and assessments of learning.
Both forms of assessments serve a distinct and powerful purpose, and it's important to understand how they play off one another and ultimately enhance instruction, intervention, and student achievement.
Assessments of Learning
Assessments of learning are typically administered at the end of a unit or grading period and evaluate a student’s understanding by comparing his or her achievement against a class-, district-, or nationwide benchmark or standard,1 as noted by the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University.
Benchmark assessments are examples of assessments of learning, where students are assessed three times per year for universal screening (early identification).
Assessments for Learning
Assessments for learning – also described as assessments as learning – assess a student’s comprehension and understanding of a skill or lesson during the learning and teaching process.
According to the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon, this provides educators with ongoing feedback and allows them to:
- Identify at-risk students early
- Adjust instruction accordingly and immediately
- Monitor student progress1
Can a teaching strategy utilize both assessments for and assessments of learning?
Certainly. Assessments for and of learning both have a place within instructional and intervention plans. When the two are balanced and administered properly, a comprehensive assessment strategy develops that details:
- How a student is progressing with key foundational skills and measures
- Where a student’s achievement level is compared to state standards and end-of-year targets
Catherine Garrison and Michael Ehringhaus, PhD, authors of Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom, point out that the more information we can gather about students as they engage and advance in the learning process, the more equipped educators are with vital insight and data to adjust instruction and intervention plans. This will help every student continue to move forward in their education.2
How Data-Driven Assessments Fuel Student Success
“If assessment is to be a positive force in education, it must be implemented properly. It cannot be used to merely sort students or to criticize education. Its goals must be to improve education. Rather than 'teach to the test,' we must 'test what we teach.'”
-Lockwood and McLean, authors of Why We Assess Students -- And How: The Competing Measures of Student Performance3
When discussing how assessments for learning and assessments of learning help you and your team of educators evaluate the impact of teaching and learning, it’s beneficial to ask yourselves if you’re administering the right assessments and measures via the right technology.
This crucial question can help you understand if you’re truly fueling your instructional decisions and promoting student progress with effective, reliable, easy-to-understand data.
A data-driven assessment process will fuel student success by empowering all educators to:
- Identify students with specific needs early
- Adjust instruction and set appropriate goals to close their learning gaps
- Track the effectiveness of their intervention and instruction
- Monitor student progress
- Report responsiveness to intervention
- Predict performance on key indicators
You can drive improved learning outcomes for your students and help them make significant gains by establishing a seamless assessment for and of process.
Discover an all-in-one web-based benchmarking and progress monitoring assessment system that allows you to screen all of your students with short, accurate assessments that:
- Evaluate a student’s understanding by comparing his or her achievement against a class-, district- or nation-wide benchmark or standard, and
- Assess a student’s comprehension and understanding of a skill or lesson during the learning and teaching process.
1 Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University. “What is the difference between formative and summative assessment?” Accessed May 3, 2017.
2 Ehringhaus, Michael Ph. D., Garrison, Catherine. NYC Department of Education. “Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom.” Accessed May 4, 2017.
3 Lockwood, Robert E., McLean, James E. “Why We Assess Students -- And How: The Competing Measures of Student Performance.” Accessed May 4, 2017.