Reflections on the CAfLN 4th Annual Conference

As Far As the Eye Can See

What’s on the Horizon with Assessment for Learning

 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


What a time we had in Saskatoon.  It was cold in BC and pouring rain in Ontario and the Maritimes.  But in Saskatoon it was 25 degrees and sunny for the CAfLN 4th Annual Conference.  And, what a conference!!! From the wonderful music provided as we registered by the Prairie Spirit School Division players and a thoughtful, informed welcome from Michelle Prytula, Dean of the College of Education, and Chris Scribe, the Director of Indian Teacher Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan, through to the final inspirational closing by Damian Cooper.

We shared our practices, learned from one another, and were challenged to think beyond today and our personal circumstance and contexts, to imagine ways to make AfL a driving force in teaching and learning.

Damian Cooper, Ken O’Connor and Lorna Earl, opened the program by sharing their wisdom and world-wide perspectives in a fireside chat (no fire necessary) that ranged from reflections on the evolution of AfL and its roots in high quality education for all students to hints of things to come in a fast-moving digitalised world.

It was difficult to select breakout sessions to attend because they were all interesting. See for your self from this lineup of presenters and descriptions:

Using Digital Evidence to Improve Learning - Damian Cooper (ON)

In most classrooms I visit, teachers and students have in their hands the most powerful assessment tools for improving student learning that I have seen in 40 years as an educator - tablets and smartphones. Used wisely and appropriately, these digital devices enable teachers and students to collect dynamic evidence of developing skills and competencies, as well as evidence of students growing conceptual understanding. In this session, Damian will share some of his recent work with teachers as they embrace these innovative, powerful approaches to ongoing assessment.

The Wild West – BC's Assessment and Reporting Transformation – Justin Green (BC)

With the arrival of BC's Redesigned Curriculum comes a need for educators to change how they assess student learning. This session will briefly look at the Redesigned Curriculum, then delve into the fundamental change in pedagogy required from our educators: the need to embrace quality formative assessment practices; the need to refine our descriptive feedback to not only look at what learning has occurred but to also feed the learning forward; and, the need to change what we assess from a content driven lens (the "what" of learning) to a process driven lens (the "do and understand" of learning).

Building AfL Capacity: Challenges of Professional Development and Collaborative Learning - Dany Levault (QC)

AfL necessitates the integration and mobilization of a series of skills in several domains of teaching practice. The use of artifacts to   scaffold teacher professional development has been reported to be a valuable starting point but may be limiting in the long term. Acquiring a true AfL competence requires middle to long-term planning, appropriate forms of support, and collaborative work. PD stands greater chances of success if it targets skills within the teachers’ zone of proximal development. This presentation will introduce a short list of recommendations based on Canadian and international experience on best PD practices to move forward in developing teachers’ capacity to use AfL.

Communicating Student Learning with Digital Portfolios - Karen Fadum (BC)

There are currently more than 2000 classrooms in the Surrey School District where digital portfolios are being used in lieu of traditional paper report cards to communicate student learning. Summative term end reports are being replaced with a continuous window into the learning and meaningful conversations between teachers, students and parents. Assessment for learning is the foundation of this incredibly important shift from reporting as an event, to the ongoing communication of student learning, where the focus is on growth and reflection over products and marks. How are teachers using digital portfolios to document learning, support metacognition and engage parents in the process? What structures and tools are being offered to support professional learning and build capacity towards a   common understanding of assessment and communication of learning? Karen Fadum invites you to learn more about this shift and how a tool like FreshGrade can be used to create personalized portfolios of learning that activate student voice, inform teacher practice and engage parents in their child’s learning.

Assessment for Learning When Percentage Grades Are Mandated - Ken O'Connor (ON)

Unfortunately provincial assessment policies in all(?) provinces require percentage grades at least for high school. In this breakout how that requirement can be complied with while developing a culture of learning will be described and discussed.

#EdTechAndAfL – Leveraging Technology to Support Assessment for Learning - Kent Brewer (MB)

As schools, divisions and districts try to keep pace with EdTech, we will explore some of the seemingly endless possibilities as educators integrate today's technology tools in support of assessment for learning. Additionally, we will look into the exciting future of educational technology, "as far as the eye can see"!

Softening the Edges of our Assessment Practices – Katie White (SK)

This session explores assessment in a new way, using the analogies of hard and soft edges. Together, we will explore ways the “edges” of our assessment practices make or break relationships within a classroom setting, and the learning these relationships are intended to support. This session explores these learning relationships and the ways strong assessment design can “soften the edges” for educators and learners by attending to the needs of everyone involved in the assessment conversation.

From Theory to Practice… Now, the How – Denine Laberge (MB), Brooke Moore (BC)

If you believe in building success criteria with students, using peers as coaches for one another, students tracking their progress towards their goals, and feedback that moves learning forward (aka Assessment for Learning) but aren't quite sure about how to make it happen in your classroom, this is the session for you. You will leave with examples and ideas as well as something you create that you can use in your classroom.


All sessions were well-attended and it was particularly exciting to hear from CAfLN members from across the country talking about what AfL looks like in their districts, schools and classrooms.


Beyond the breakout sessions, the conversations were rich and engaging among the over 100 participants at the event.  This conference truly felt like a network of colleagues connecting with one another to enhance their own practice and contributing to each other’s way of thinking and working.

We invite everyone to stay connected with each other through CAfLN twitter chats, CAfLN research (more to come on this), sharing stories on the website, and thinking about what you can learn from each other across Canada.

Finally, next year in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia!!!!!  Keep May 4-5, 2018 open on your calendars.