Assessment for Learning

Matthew A. Ludwig, Doctoral Fellow, The George G. Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI

My primary research interest is the affective impact of assessing and evaluating students. Within this context my efforts have been focused on developing observation tools to quantify student engagement. I've collected three semesters of control group data using this instrument in conjunction with a self‐report survey, an achievement test and semi‐structured student interviews. The course being studied is a foundation level geoscience course. We are currently in the process of creating assessment for learning (AfL) styled strategies to begin treatment group studies in the upcoming semester.

We describe AfL as non‐evaluative feedback to help students define their existing conceptions then develop and implement a plan for achieving specific learning objectives (Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, & Wiliam, 2003). AfL has been shown to produce dramatic improvements in student achievement. Carefully constructed formative assessments encourage students to behave as intentional learners. Sources of feedback can be the instructor, peers, or self‐assessment. Our intention is to develop a full suite of formative assessments for a given teaching unit in meteorology.

Instructor based formative assessments will be implemented in two forms. First, we'll focus on questioning strategies during whole classroom discussions. Daily outcome questions will also be a venue for formal written feedback.

Peer feedback will be provided both formally and informally. Classroom activities are completed in collaborative groups. Peers provide real‐time feedback as activities progress. Peer review will also be the first line of feedback on daily outcome questions and journal entries. Students will be required to provide and receive peer feedback prior to the instructor making comments.

Self‐reflection (metacognition) will play a critical role in the implementation and effectiveness of our suite of assessments. We're looking for specific strategies to both teach and assess students' metacognitive skills.

In the past, I've used open‐ended questions in the form of reflective journaling with minimal success. Students saw little value in this exercise and were convinced that there was some predetermined right answer I was looking for. When they discovered that these entries were not graded the level of effort dropped substantially. My primary goal in attending this cutting edge workshop is to come away with knowledge and skills to apply to my research project as well as my science methods for elementary educators course.


Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2003). Assessment for Learning: Putting it into Practice. New York, NY: Open University Press.