A Winter Message

Contributions from Lorna Earl, Kent Brewer and Grant Page


Winter is still with us, so we need to be thinking about all of the things that give us pleasure, now and in the future – skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing, book reading, wine sipping, images of sun and hiking and picnics and cottages, and of course, planning a spring trip to Halifax/Dartmouth in May for the 5th Annual CAfLN Conference and Symposium. Information can be found on the opening session as well as breakout sessions with presenters from across the country. There is also a direct link to the Double Tree by Hilton, site of this year’s event.

So once you have searched the web for “things to do” in Halifax, register for the conference and symposium and join CAfLN members from across the country as we share our wisdom and experiences using AfL as an mechanism for teaching and learning.


Like our CAfLN Facebook Page and Join our Group!

The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network has gone social! We have added another aspect of Social Media with hopes of enhancing our networks web presence with our newly created Facebook Page. Additionally, educators that have a keen interest on deepening their understanding of AfL will have the opportunity to join the CAfLN Facebook Group. The newly created group is a great place for educators to collaborate and discuss the many facets of AfL and the related issues impacting learning in our Canadian schools. As we know, Assessment for Learning is very much a journey, and by utilizing the power of this digital space, we are very excited to be able to connect educators from coast to coast.

Like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CAfLN/ and join our group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/CAfLN/

Conference and Symposium News

CAfLN allocates a portion of membership fees to travel bursaries (flights and accommodations) which assist members with limited access to professional learning funds in attending our annual events. A member may apply for up to $750 to attend our Annual Conference and Symposium. To apply for a travel bursary, please send a brief e-mail to info@cafln.ca  by Friday February 16, 2018. Successful applicants will be informed by email shortly thereafter.

Our Network’s Purpose

As you know, one of CAfLN’s main purposes is to establish relationships that act as the ‘‘connective tissue’’ of Assessment for Learning across Canada. Through these relationships, CAfLN members work together, share knowledge and challenges, create a common language and a sense of shared responsibility, and provide channels for communicating and disseminating information to one another and beyond.  Most of our work happens in cyberspace but once a year we host a conference somewhere in the country to intentionally share our learning and our struggles with AfL with local educators.  We have been to Winnipeg, Nanaimo, Kingston and Saskatoon.  This year our fifth conference is in Halifax/Dartmouth.  The occasion of the conference allows CAfLN members to spend some additional time together in a more intimate members’ symposium.   In the symposium we go deeper into key AfL issues with examples from members and forge and strengthen relationships and projects that continue throughout the year.

Why AfL?

Why have we decided to focus on a particular innovation to support and promote across Canada?  Very simply, because teachers’ assessment practices profoundly influence student learning outcomes (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Hattie, 2009; Shepard, 2000).  Over and over again, research studies have demonstrated that, if learning is the goal, AfL is very powerful.


Recent reviews of more than 4000 research investigations show clearly that when [formative assessment] is well implemented in the classroom, it can essentially double the speed of student learning … it is clear that the process works, it can produce whopping gains in students’ achievement, and it is sufficiently robust so that different teachers can use it in diverse ways, yet still get great results with their students.                                          Popham, 2011: 35


Current educational policies in Canada have widely endorsed AfL as a core instructional strategy (See Assessment for Learning in Canada). But establishing AfL in classrooms is hard work.  As Tierney (2006) pointed out, AfL represents a complex competency involving teachers’ knowledge and skills in assessment as shaped by contextual factors including teacher professional learning, teaching context, and students’ learning needs. It requires dynamic classroom practice that involves linking assessment approaches (self-, peer-, and teacher assessments) with instruction and student learning goals to enhance education for all students. It involves using feedback-rich learning opportunities, setting and monitoring learning goals, and engaging in ongoing self-assessment tasks.

In our experience, there are teachers who are making and have made AfL central to their teaching practices, and there are researchers across Canada learning about how AfL works (See Assessment for Learning Research in Canada).  CAfLN is about linking these people together and creating new knowledge by sharing with and challenging one another.  Our hope is to continue to link these “early adopters” together and provide them with forums and support for their own practice as a model for others to follow.

Come to Halifax/Dartmouth and join the conversation.


Black, P., & Wiliam, D, (1998b) Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment. PHI Delta Kappan, 80(2)

Hattie, J. Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London ; New York : Routledge, 2009

Shepard, L. (2000) The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher.Volume: 29 issue: 7,:  https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X029007004

Tierney, R. (2006) Changing practices: Influences on classroom assessment. Assessment in Education. Vol. 13, No. 3, November 2006, pp. 239–264

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