Measuring What Matters: Phase 3 Progress Report

Submitted by David Cameron from People for Education

This report provides an update on People for Education’s Measuring What Matters (MWM) initiative, including some of the early findings coming out of the school field trials.

… it isn’t about what [students] understand about seasonal changes in my science curriculum, it’s how they’re thinking critically and asking questions around those ideas within Science.’ I see [MWM] as a framework that gives greater purpose to what we are doing. And values the things we know are intrinsically important.

Measuring What Matters envisions a public education system that supports all students to develop the competencies and skills they need to live happy, healthy, economically secure, civically engaged lives; and that strengthens Canada—our society, our economy, our environment—by graduating young people with the skills to meet the challenges our country faces.

This vision can be achieved by:

  • setting broad and balanced goals for student success that include numeracy, literacy, creativity, social-emotional learning, health, and citizenship; and
  • ensuring that these goals drive policy, practice, funding, and accountability.

The goal of MWM is to explore a broader view of student success that includes a concrete set of competencies and learning conditions in the areas of creativity, citizenship, mental and physical health, social-emotional learning, and quality learning environments.

This year, eighty educators in 26 publicly funded schools and seven school boards tested the competencies in their classrooms and schools. Each field trial team designed and implemented a set of activities that were integrated within their ongoing work.

Watch teacher Kim Stolys talk about her participation in the field trials.

Several themes emerged:

  • The work aligned with participants’ professional values as educators. It resonated with what they felt were central in learning experiences, but that often did not get the same attention as academic achievement.
  • Educators took a range of approaches in their use of the MWM competencies. Some took a more narrow focus, addressing one or two competencies in a single domain; others explored combinations of competencies from several domain areas. The individuality in what educators focused on, and how they investigated it, demonstrates how personalized this work is, and how important it is to protect non-standardized learning contexts.
  • There appears to be an inextricable and dynamic link between learning conditions and specific competencies that students express: learning conditions frame and support the expression of specific competencies and, conversely, the focus on specific competencies in relation to teaching, learning, and assessment supports teachers in exploring a greater range of possible conditions and/or learning opportunities.
  • Strong interrelationships between the domains were evident across the study.
  • The specific lexicon or “language of learning” of the competencies helped define sometimes broad but ambiguous areas of learning. The language gave educators clear pathways into actions and planning in classrooms, created opportunities to communicate with each other, and to generate new conditions.
  • The framework supported broadening perspectives on where learning occurs in schools. A number of schools explored student experiences outside of the classroom, broadening the learning space beyond specific, situated moments in scheduled classroom times to include the whole school environment.

Vocal – Online Course on Capturing Evidence of Learning


VOCAL 101 is Damian Cooper’s new online professional learning course that takes K-12 educators inside classrooms to see why and how using mobile technologies to capture digital evidence through observations and conversations can be a powerful tool for assessing learning.

A concise five section course design … provides K-12 educators with an effective and manageable professional learning experience. Key concept lectures … explore the foundational ideas and research that underpin VOCAL and best-practise assessment.

Authentic in-class videos … model how teachers and their students use everyday mobile technologies to capture and use evidence of learning through observations of performance and conversations.

How-to tips, tools and strategies … provide practical support to encourage and enable educators, regardless of their experience with instructional technology, to use more observation and conversation when assessing learning.

Professional learning activities … are differentiated to reflect educator readiness with respect to VOCAL – just committed, building capacity, or confirming results.

A flexible online format … means VOCAL can be used anywhere, anytime and on any device, individually, in professional learning communities, or as the basis for collaborative inquiry.

Assessment for Learning: Meeting the Challenges of Implementation


Springer Publications is pleased to announce the launch of a new book co-edited by CAfLN member Dany Laveault (University of Ottawa) and Linda Allal (University of Geneva) on AfL and the challenges associated with its implementation in our education systems.

“Assessment for Learning: Meeting the Challenge of Implementation” provides new perspectives on Assessment for Learning (AfL), on the challenges encountered in its implementation, and on the diverse ways of meeting these challenges. It brings together contributions from 33 researchers and authors working in a wide range of educational contexts representing Australia, Canada, England, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Israel, Philippines, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Several Canadian authors have contributed to this book including Chris DeLuca, Don Klinger, Anne Davies, Louise Bourgeois, Ann Sherman, Sandra Herbst, Adelina Valiquette and Dany Laveault It reflects the issues, innovations, and critical reflections that are emerging in an expanding international network of researchers, professional development providers, and policy makers, all of whom work closely with classroom teachers and school leaders to improve the assessment of student learning.

The concept of Assessment for Learning, initially formulated in 1999 by the Assessment Reform Group in the United Kingdom, has inspired new ways of conceiving and practicing classroom assessment in education systems around the world. This book examines assessment for learning in a broad perspective which includes diverse approaches to formative assessment (some emphasizing teacher intervention, others student involvement in assessment), as well as some forms of summative assessment designed to support student learning. The focus is on assessment in K-12 classrooms and on the continuing professional learning of teachers and school leaders working with these classrooms.

Readers of this volume will encounter well documented accounts of AfL implementation across a large spectrum of conditions in different countries and thereby acquire better understanding of the challenges that emerge in the transition from theory and policy to classroom practice. They will also discover a wealth of ideas for implementing assessment for learning in an effective and sustainable manner. The chapters are grouped in three Parts: (1) Assessment Policy Enactment in Education Systems; (2) Professional Development and Collaborative Learning about Assessment; (3) Assessment Culture and the Co-Regulation of Learning. An introduction to each Part provides an overview and presents the suggestions and recommendations formulated in the chapters.

What Can Christmas Movies Teach Us About Assessment for Learning?

Submitted by Lori Jeschke, Superintendent, Prairie Spirit School Division, Saskatchewan

Our assessment team meets once a week to touch base, celebrate success, provide feedback, and to determine next steps. One of the highlights of our time together includes creating playlists. These lists usually reference the music we are listening to or perhaps the books on our nightstands. However, given the season at hand, our last meeting took our playlists to the movies scene. We identified favourite Christmas movies: Christmas vacation, Love Actually, Home Alone and Despicable Me…

When someone tweeted the article The Twelve Days of Christmas Break by Mary Peters, I immediately connected to our conversation around Christmas movies. I wondered…could anything be linked to assessment for learning?


Apparently so…

Self-Assessment and the Core Competencies in British Columbia

2016-11-25 Submitted by Paige Fisher, PhD Faculty of Education, Vancouver Island University

The province of BC is abuzz with a new provincial requirement for students to be involved in self assessing against the Core Competencies, which the province has articulated as Thinking (Critical and Creative) , Communication, and Personal and Social (Social Responsibility, Positive Personal and Social Identity, Personal Awareness and Responsibility). An element of student voice, as students self-assess in these areas, is required on the year-end summative report for all learners.

What I am noticing is that the self-assessment / assessment as learning conversation is happening everywhere as teachers grapple with how to meet this requirement. As I facilitate professional learning sessions in relation to the Competencies, I find myself going back to some of my past favourites – like Lorna Earl’s Assessment as Learning and a current favourite, Dylan Wiliam’s Embedding Formative Assessment, while combing through the fine print on the new reporting order and the descriptions of the competencies themselves.

Another wonderful side effect of this new requirement and the whole curriculum shift in BC is the amount of sharing that is happening. As districts develop unique solutions to the policy, they are sharing the work they are doing for the benefit of all. Fantastic examples of support for formative assessment practice can be found at School District 71 (Courtenay/Comox), School District 68 (Nanaimo/Ladysmith) and School District 48  (Sea to Sky).

Assessment Takes Its Rightful Place – ISTE 2016

Submitted by Kent Brewer, River East School Division, Manitoba

2016 ISTE Conference in Denver.

Head-spinning, mesmerizing, mentally draining, sometimes downright confusing and one of the most engaging and enlightening experiences an educator could have. That statement alone would lead some to inquire of the mental state of the person combining these words in the same sentence? However, if you’ve ever attended a conference with some 20,000 other like-minded people, you know what I’m trying to say. The experience of an ISTE conference is definitely worth the effort of attending as most Canadian educators are in their last week of school when the conference opens. Over 1200 sessions with close to 2500 presenters and an expo that included over 600 exhibitors had an interesting something for every level of our profession and from all aspects of education, including assessment.

At ISTE 2016 in Denver, a simple program search for assessment sessions revealed 267 results including some 22 presenters and 38 exhibitors. From that perspective it may seem a bit overwhelming and in reality there was so much more! There virtually seemed to be an underlying buzz of assessment. For the first time in the 3 years that I have attended this conference, there seemed not only be a willingness, but a genuine must for developers and companies alike to “take-it-up-a-notch” explaining the need for quality assessment in the search for the enhancement of education as we see it today. Don’t get me wrong, assessment chatter in the ISTE past was there, but it was never a genuine focus of technology conversations.

In the past, it was concerning when attending technology integration conferences that merely focused on the shiny new digital tool that afforded classrooms the way of the future and all of the “cool” things that could be accomplished with it. However, I would often think to myself, what about using the technology throughout the entire learning process? Where are the sessions on assessment of/for learning with the newest software and gadgets? In my mind, in the not so distant past, these types of conversations didn’t really exist within the grandeur of the digital world that has made its way into classrooms all over the world. Not so long ago, if you wanted to disengage a crowd of onlookers during a demo of some shiny new digital tool of education, all you had to do was ask, “How does this tool integrate into classroom assessment?”. Silence…

But alas, ISTE 2016 had taken a new path for me! It became apparent that “techie companies” are listening to the masses of educators that are transforming the way that education is delivered and hence not only the way that teachers are assessing the development of their students but the ways in which learners are reflecting on progress and redirecting focus to obtain goals. Most products and platforms alike are now “front and center” with a holistic approach to the entire process. This is raising the eyebrows of some educators that have long said powerful integration is based not only on creation, but feedback, reflection and assessment.

ISTE 2016 was not only a great snapshot of where #EdTech is today, but benchmarked just how far education has come over a relative short period of time. Most importantly, it was a reassurance of what an exciting time it is to be an educator! And not just any educator, but one that has a clear focus on the importance of effective assessment practice.  Moving forward, the possibilities when teaching and learning alongside our students and colleagues are endless!

Added Bonus! – Time to meet up and have some great conversation with fellow CAfLN’er Ken O’Connor!

Hacking Assessment : 10 Ways To Go Gradeless In a Traditional School

Hacking AssessmentA Book Review by Denine Laberge

Many parents and educators will argue that “This is the way we’ve always done it and it isn’t broken!” To this, Starr Sackstein offers some sound advice, “… the world has changed in the last hundred years and … a 19th century system doesn’t prepare kids for the creativity and critical thinking required of the 21st century.”

Starr Sackstein gives her readers something to think about in this quick 131 page read by putting the focus on what matters in assessment. Going gradeless is a big step for many teachers but, as she clearly demonstrates in this book, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Organized into 10 “Hacks”, this book starts at the beginner level, for those thinking about making the switch, and progresses right through to the details of a successful transition to a gradeless school environment. Sackstein addresses concerns that may arise from teachers, administrators, parents and even students, giving sound reasoning to keep the initiative alive.

For me, this book affirmed that I am on the right track in my growth as an educator and learner. For others, it may inspire an awakening of what our real mission as educators is; to lead our students to become independent, responsible thinkers and lifelong learners. The best way to do this is to involve the student in his or her own assessment of learning. After all, who would understand their learning better than themselves?

Residency: Powerful Assessment and Professional Practice

Residency Cover

Submitted by Veronica Saretsky

Written by Lori Jeschke, Dave Carter, Cheryl Shields and Deborah Bidulka the book outlines a large rural school division’s journey to affect sustainable, system-wide change in professional practice around assessment. The school system was moving to a new grade 1-9 report card and used this move to deepen the understandings of teachers in their assessment practices.

The division was looking for a model that supported sustainable change in professional practice. Their experience with “one-shot sessions or even multi-day workshops” had not created any long term changes in teacher practice.  When they attended a week long institute on assessment for learning, they heard of the residency model of professional development.  This book goes into detail about their implementation of that model and the learnings they gathered along the way.  It also offers suggestions on how others may use the model to affect systemic change in their systems.

Copies available from

Assessment Reform Group

Submitted by: Paige Fisher

The work of the Assessment Reform group is now hosted on the AAIA, Association for Achievement and Improvement through Assessment, website. Many of the seminal publications often credited for kicking off the AfL movement around the world are located here. You will find the Wiliam and Black “Inside the Black Box” article as well as several other key resources on formative assessment. Just follow the links to the Assessment Reform Group.