Assessment Defined

Although there is general consensus amongst the education community on the meaning of assessment, there still exists multiple definitions of each aspect. This page is dedicated to developing a definition of assessment from a CAfLN perspective. We will continue to update and enhance these definitions through conversations and consensus. Please consider the following as a starting point only.

Source: New South Wales (Australia) Education Standards Authority

Assessment is an essential component of the teaching and learning cycle. Assessment for, assessment as, and assessment of learning are approaches that enable teachers to gather evidence and make judgements about student achievement. These are not necessarily discrete approaches and may be used individually or together and formally or informally.

Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning involves teachers using evidence about students' knowledge, understanding and skills to inform their teaching. Sometimes referred to as ‘formative assessment', it usually occurs throughout the teaching and learning process to clarify student learning and understanding.

Assessment for learning:

  • reflects a view of learning in which assessment helps students learn better, rather than just achieve a better mark
  • involves formal and informal assessment activities as part of learning and to inform the planning of future learning
  • includes clear goals for the learning activity
  • provides effective feedback that motivates the learner and can lead to improvement
  • reflects a belief that all students can improve
  • encourages self-assessment and peer assessment as part of the regular classroom routines
  • involves teachers, students and parents reflecting on evidence
  • is inclusive of all learners.

Assessment as Learning

Assessment as learning occurs when students are their own assessors. Students monitor their own learning, ask questions and use a range of strategies to decide what they know and can do, and how to use assessment information for new learning.

Assessment as learning:

  • encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning
  • requires students to ask questions about their learning
  • involves teachers and students creating learning goals to encourage growth and development
  • provides ways for students to use formal and informal feedback and self-assessment to help them understand the next steps in learning
  • encourages peer assessment, self-assessment and reflection.

Assessment of Learning

Assessment of learning assists teachers in using evidence of student learning to assess achievement against outcomes and standards. Sometimes referred to as ‘summative assessment', it usually occurs at defined key points during a teaching work or at the end of a unit, term or semester, and may be used to rank or grade students. The effectiveness of assessment of learning for grading or ranking purposes depends on the validity, reliability and weighting placed on any one task. Its effectiveness as an opportunity for learning depends on the nature and quality of the feedback.

Assessment of learning:

  • is used to plan future learning goals and pathways for students
  • provides evidence of achievement to the wider community, including parents, educators, the students themselves and outside groups
  • provides a transparent interpretation across all audiences.

The approach or approaches used will be informed by:

  • the evidence of student learning to be gathered
  • the processes for gathering the evidence
  • the feedback to be provided to students.

For example, formal assessment provides an opportunity to collect evidence of student learning and may be used for grading and ranking purposes (assessment of learning) as well as informing feedback for students to improve their learning (assessment for learning).