President’s Summer Message

President’s Message, Summer 2015

I savour this time of year. As I look forward to time at The Snug, our cottage on Georgian Bay, I find myself reflecting on another year of doing what I love to do – working with teachers, administrators and students to improve learning for all. This year, I also look back on CAfLN’s growth from birth to infancy. It is a mere two years since Lorna, Ken and I launched The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network, but as we gathered in Nanaimo this past April, we saw the network’s identity and personality emerging. During the April 10 Symposium, as members introduced themselves during the traditional First Nations greeting circle, there were educators from across the country almost equally representing Kindergarten to grade 12 and post-secondary institutions; there were researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers. And we all shared a common commitment: greater understanding and use of assessment that promotes learning for students, rather than simply measures it.

As a result of the creative and insightful input that we received from CAfLN members that day, our various committees, directed by a new, dynamic group of leaders, have been setting course to improve the effectiveness of our network. I would like to make special mention of the committee chairs who stepped up to the plate at the Annual General Meeting: Tandy Gunn, from SD 69 in British Columbia, is opening our eyes to a whole new range of opportunities in the area of Communications; Grant Page, from Seven Oaks SD in Manitoba, is working extremely hard on expanding our Membership; Veronica Sartesky, from the Midnight Sun SD in Alberta, is leading the way as we explore new avenues to Fundraising and Sponsorship; Paige Fisher of The University of Vancouver Island now chairs the vitally important Resources/Research committee; Denine LaBerge, from Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine, is learning the ropes as Secretary/Treasurer Elect; and Chris DeLuca is already busy working on our 2016 Annual Conference. The leadership already shown by these remarkable educators is what Lorna, Ken, and I envisioned only two years ago.

The growing excitement and influence of CAfLN was reflected in our Second Annual Conference the next day at The Coast Bastion Hotel, Nanaimo. If you haven’t already done so, check out the rich examples of assessment for learning on the Conference Highlights page of the website (add link). Learn about writing conferences in kindergarten, innovative eLearning portfolios, and capturing digital evidence of mathematical understanding in the primary grades.

As CAfLN approaches its third year, we look forward to expanding our sphere of influence by highlighting Canadian research into assessment for learning; we will continue to improve our communication networks by increasing our presence on social media; and when we all meet at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario on May 13-14, 2016 for our Third Annual Conference and Symposium, we shall further establish CAfLN as an effective voice and influence in furthering the mission of assessment that improves learning for all children and students.

In the meantime, I’ve got a date with my kayak! I wish all of you a brief period of happy, safe and healthy relaxation during our all-too-brief summer.

Damian Cooper, President, The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network.

Click Here for the PDF – President’s Summer Message to Members – June2015

Ten Things That Matter From Assessment to Grading


Ten Things That Matter From Assessment to Grading

By: Tom Schimmer

Submitted by: Veronica Saretsky

“This quick read has some great summaries of ten things we need to keep working on. Each chapter goes over one big idea. Some wonderful illustrated examples of how these ideas can play out in the classroom.”

CAfLN & NOII Pop-Up Meeting – June 1 in Nanoose Bay

Assessment for Leaning Drive-In

The annual CAfLN conference and symposium was held in Nanaimo in the spring of 2015. At that event a desire to continue to meet face-to-face regionally was expressed. On June 1st, 2015, an incredible group of approximately 45 mid Vancouver Island educators gathered in School District 69 to continue the AfL conversations that started at the CAfLN conference. The group was comprised of: student teachers, primary, intermediate, middle and high school teachers, counselors, learning services teachers, school and district based administration, Vancouver Island University staff and represented 4 school districts and VIU. Each person or team brought a resource, question and/or artifact; the group was welcomed and the networking began. Our gathering ended with participants being asked to provide feedback for future gatherings and the overwhelming response was the desire to have opportunities for ongoing conversation – both digitally and face-to-face.
School District 68 will be hosting the next face-to-face opportunity on Monday, Oct. 28, 2015. Please also follow the #CAfLNework and #noiiaesn Twitter hashtags. A Facebook page for the regional group is also being established.

Who: SD 68, 69, 71, 79 and Vancouver Island University

What: Bring an Idea, Resource, Story or Question

Where:  Nanoose Bay Elementary, 2875 Northwest Bay Road, Nanoose Bay, BC

Drive in Flyer June 1 2015 w noii and cafln


Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment

Lorna Earl - Portrait

Submitted By Lorna Earl

This document is readily available on line through the link below.

Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment

It is part of a growing grey literature being produced by organisations and publishers that addresses serious educational issues and write about them in accessible ways. This document is written by Sir Michael Barber, from the UK and Professor Peter Hill, from Australia – both respected educators. It is a think piece that raises questions about the meaning of assessment in the 21st C. where expectations for student success go beyond knowledge and technical skills and traditional educational responses are not working as well as they could. This far-ranging consideration of assessment warrants attention and discussion by anyone who is interested in what assessment might look like in the future. To this end, I have started a thread in the CAfLN Members’ Forum under the AfL In Policy and Leadership Contexts so we can get involved in questioning and contributing to what assessment might look like in the future. Have a look!!!

Saskatoon, SK – September 18, 2014


Doug Drover, Living Sky SD
Robin Dubiel, Christ the Teacher RCSSD
Matthew Grupp, Northwest SD
Lori Jeschke, Prairie Spirit SD
Ken O’Connor, Toronto, CAfLN Board
Therri Papp, U of S Ph. D student

The meeting was held at the end of day 1 of the SELU/Solution Tree Assessment Conference. It started with everyone introducing themselves and identifying the main assessment issues in their divisions and was followed by general discussion of the issues raised.

DD, Living Sky – last year first for outcomes-based and rubrics, good new leadership; fun journey, not much push back. Concern – time factor, extra work; also preparedness of new teachers, those from Nipissing, Lethbridge best prepared.
RD, Christ the Teacher – outcomes-based report card K-9, lots of good material on division website; have a two year project on developing criteria.
MG, Northwest – have outcomes-based report card and improving outcomes-based assessment; hard change for many, parents like % grades, grade inflation issues and Michael Zwaagstra quotes.
LJ, Prairie Spirit – started move to AfL/outcomes in 2007, slow (at first) to fast; have a team of four supporting school implementation; required that principal p[resent for meetings. Strong support from Director – signed public letter. Lobbying for compulsory assessment class in teacher training.

Embedded Formative Assessment

Embedded formative assessmentSubmitted by Robin Tierney

Embedded Formative Assessment was recommended to me by a CAfLN member in British Columbia. Dylan Wiliam’s work is well-known by educational researchers who are interested in the quality of classroom assessment. This particular book differs from many that are written by academics for practitioners in two important ways. First, the tone is engaging without sounding patronizing. Second, Wiliam offers abundant advice without aiming to script teachers’ practices. The first two chapters of the book provide background information on the importance of educational achievement and the impact of formative assessment. In the remaining chapters, five key formative assessment strategies are described along with 50 techniques for classroom use. What I really appreciate about this book, as a researcher and a teacher, is that Wiliam provides useful information for practicing formative assessment that is clearly based on both experience and research. This is a combination that other members of CAfLN with undoubtedly enjoy as well.

Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Indian Reality

Dancing with a ghostSubmitted by Damian Cooper

My second recommendation is not an “assessment” book but one which has proven most helpful in my work with First Nations educators in BC. The book is “Dancing with a Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality” by Rupert Ross. Ross has worked as an Assistant Crown Attorney in Kenora since 1985. This book has helped me understand almost all of the challenges I have faced in working with aboriginal groups: lack of immediate response, lack of eye contact, reluctance to offer input, reluctance to “try new things” …. Ross explores aboriginal values, beliefs, history, tradition, and culture as a way to help non-aboriginals understand these challenges. As the back cover notes indicate, “ … traditional perspectives have a great deal to offer modern-day Canada ….”

Grading Smarter, Not Harder

Grading Smarter not harderSubmitted by Damian Cooper

I have just read “Grading Smarter, Not Harder” by Myron Dueck. I find myself recommending it everywhere I visit, particularly in schools and districts where there is a reluctance to change assessment and grading traditions – i.e. everywhere! The power of Dueck’s book is in his firsthand experience of the change process, as both classroom teacher and administrator. The themes that emerge for me are firstly, that change is difficult and secondly, that change takes time. But Dueck raises every objection that we have all heard and responds with his own solutions.

Submitted by Ken O’Connor

I am reading Myron Dueck’s “Grading Smarter, Not Harder” again. I read it when he asked me to write the Foreword and I am enjoying it again. Still feel the same as I wrote then”

This book made me laugh and cry because the stories Myron tells about teachers and students, especially those about students, speak so powerfully to the positive impacts of assessment and grading when they are done well, and the negative impacts when they are done badly, with the latter sadly being true for most traditional assessment and grading.”

2015 Annual CAfLN Conference and AGM Announcement

Communicating About Learning Through Assessment

2nd Annual CAfLN Conference and AGM

April 10 and 11th , 2015

Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC

The Conference, entitled “Communicating About Learning Through Assessment” will feature CAfLN Members from across the Country.

The CAfLN Conference is held annually in a different location in Canada, in conjunction with the CAfLN Members’ Symposium and AGM.  The conference is an open event for educators, researchers and policy makers to connect with CAfLN members and engage in focussed discussion about Assessment for Learning in a Canadian context. CAfLN works with local members to design a program that will give the local educational community access to CAfLN members in workshops and discussions designed to move Assessment for Learning forward.