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AFL


technical ring to it. Assessment FOR Learning offers more description and allows educators to better understand the philosophy behind the practices.


W. James Popham (2008) defines formative assessment as follows: “…a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students’ status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics” (p. 6). The four key points in Popham’s definition are that formative assessment, or AFL:


• Is a planned process: To properly practice AFL, the educator intentionally plans with the principles of AFL in mind.


• Involves assessment-elicited evidence: For educators and students to be able to use assessment for the purpose of learning, the educator must assess students regularly, even daily.


• Is used by teachers to adjust their teaching: Teachers must constantly assess students to ensure that they are teaching in a way that meets their students’ needs.


• Is used by students to adjust their learning: Students must be trained to use the data they receive from their assessments to analyze their level of mastery and to make plans to improve their learning.


What’s In a Name? Perhaps the best way to understand AFL is to analyze the name itself. AFL refers to any classroom activity that assesses students FOR the purpose of learning. At first glance, one might think that this is the norm in most classrooms and with most assessments. Too often, however, educators view assessment and grading as synonymous.


I remember as a new teacher being told by more experienced educators that I should record many grades so that no one assignment would overly impact a student’s final grade. That is exactly what I did. I assessed regularly and gave daily quizzes, daily classwork, daily homework, and almost weekly tests. By the end of a six weeks grading period I would normally have well over 50 grades in my grade book, each worth a different number of points, and all averaged together to determine the final grade.


Essentially I was assessing my students for the purpose of grading them. I gave them practice assignments such as classwork and homework, but because all these assessments were included in a list of grades that I averaged together to determine a final grade, my assessments primarily served as a vehicle for grading, not necessarily for learning. This brings us to perhaps the most important statement for understanding what AFL is all about:


54 Virginia Educational Leadership Vol. 8 No. 1 Spring 2011


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