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2010 ELTS. Building a Culture of Assessment for Learning In the English Language Classroom. Karen Yager Knox Grammar & University of NSW. “We have to know where we want to end up before we start out – and plan how to get there …” (1999, Tomlinson). Desired Outcomes.

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Building a Culture of Assessment for Learning In the English Language Classroom

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2010 ELTS

Building a Culture of Assessment for Learning In the English Language Classroom

Karen Yager

Knox Grammar & University of NSW

“We have to know where we want to end up before we start out – and plan how to get there …”

(1999, Tomlinson).

Desired Outcomes

  • Confident person: adaptable and resilient, knows himself, is discerning in judgment, thinks independently and critically, and communicates effectively

  • Self-directed learner: takes responsibility for own learning, questions, reflects and perseveres in the pursuit of learning

  • Active contributor: works effectively in teams, exercises initiative, takes calculated risks, is innovative and strives for excellence

  • Concerned citizen: strong civic consciousness, is informed, and takes an active role in bettering the lives of others around him

Global Skills

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem solving

  • Innovation

  • Collaboration

  • Creativity

  • Connectivism through technology

“Learners are at the center of the teaching-learning process.”

The Evidence

  • Create an environment for higher-order thinking, problem –solving and risk-taking

  • Integrate summative and formative assessment

  • Provide quality feedback

  • Coyle and Colvin (1999): The brain is phenomenally plastic, and that we construct ourselves through behaviour – “It’s not who you are, it’s what you do and where you do it.”

  • Hattie (2003) & Dinham (2008): The significance of quality assessment married with timely and meaningful feedback for teaching and learning.

  • Wiggins (2006): Correlation between authentic assessment and improved learning outcomes.

‘There is a natural tendency for both teachers and students to tailor their classroom activities to the demands of the test, especially when the test is very important to the future of the students, and pass rates are used as a measure of teacher success’ (Buck 1988).


‘Every act of assessment gives a message to students about what they should be learning and how they should go about it’ (Boud, 1998).

Teaching to the Test

  • Teachers have done excellently in delivering knowledge and skills that are essential for high-stakes norm-referenced standardized testing.

  • Assessment has been used as a measure of achievement rather than as a tool to inform and engage students in their own learning (Shepard, 2000).

  • Teaching to the tests becomes a driver in the classroom leading to backwash.

  • Positive: transparency and explicit understanding of expectations.

  • Negative: Narrow focus, lack of inclusivity, risk-taking and creativity.

Kwek, Albright and Kramer-Dahl (2007) observed that when the English language syllabus is implemented in Singapore’s classrooms it applies “a narrow range of textual forms and organizational ‘rules’ that students are asked to reproduce.”

Assessment for Learning

  • ‘Teachers who assess for learning use day-to-day classroom assessment activities to involve students directly and deeply in their own learning, increasing their confidence and motivation to learn by emphasizing progress and achievement rather than failure and defeat’ (Stiggins, 1999; 2001).

  • A classroom culture of transparency, strategic questioning by teachers and students, and an understanding of what is quality.

Quality Assessment

  • Embedded in the syllabus having clear, direct links with outcomes

  • Planned deliberately and integral to teaching

  • Balanced, comprehensive and varied: receptive and productive

  • Fair, inclusive, valid and reliable

  • Ongoing and sequential

  • Engaging and student-centered

  • Time efficient and manageable

  • Supported by models, scaffolds or annotated exemplars that demonstrate what is expected and what can be achieved

  • Reflects any adjustments made to teaching and learning

Assessment for Learning

Wiggins (2006)

Assessment for Learning

  • Is an essential and integrated part of teaching and learning

  • Reflects a belief that all students can improve

  • Involves setting learning goals with students

  • Helps students know and recognise the standards they are aiming for

  • Involves students in self-assessment and peer assessment

  • Provides feedback that helps students understand the next steps in learning and plan how to achieve them

  • Involves teachers, students and parents reflecting on assessment data.

The Classroom

How would a language classroom operate with a culture of assessment for learning?

  • Contextualisation

  • Learner-centeredness

  • Learner-focused interaction

  • Integration

  • Process orientation

  • Spiral progression

Culture of Learning

  • “Building a strong foundation in language, and enriching language learning for all.”

  • “Learners are at the centre of the teaching-learning process.” (English Language Syllabus 2010)

Culture of Learning

  • Processes assessed as well as the products of language learning.

  • Variety of rich tasks that assess receptive and productive skills, and knowledge about language.

  • Student direction, self-assessment and creativity privileged.

Deep understanding

When pupils truly understand, they can:

  • Explain, make connections, offer good theories: Make sense of what they experience; show their work and defend it; provide thorough, supported, and justifiable accounts of phenomena, facts, and data.

  • Interpret: Tell meaningful stories; offer translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make it personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, models.

Deep understanding

  • Apply and Produce: Effectively use and adapt what they know in diverse contexts, and design effective products.

  • Appreciate Other Perspectives: See multiple points of view, with critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.

Deep understanding

  • Empathize: Get inside, find value in what others might find odd, different, or implausible; perceive sensitively, enter the mind and heart of others.

  • Self-knowledge: Perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that shape and impede their own understanding; are aware of what they do not understand, and why it is so hard to understand (Shepard, 2001).


Fluency: generating many ideas

Flexibility: shifting perspective easily

Originality: conceiving something new

Purpose: vision

Audience: context

Elaboration: building on other ideas

Evaluation: critical reflection

Culture of learning

  • What do I want my pupils to learn?

  • Why does it matter?

  • What do they already know?

  • How will they demonstrate learning?

  • How will they get there?

The Model



Concept + Key Question or Essential Learning Statement

Overarching idea of the unit grounded in the syllabus

(Deep knowledge)

Key Ideas + Question

What students will learn by the end of the unit

(Deep knowledge)

Key Ideas + Question

Reflect intent of the outcomes and concept

(Deep knowledge)

Key Ideas + Question

Grounded in the syllabus

(Deep knowledge)

Assessment for, of, as and through learning

(Deep understanding, Problematic knowledge, Higher-order thinking, Explicit quality criteria)

Demonstration of key learning ideas

Pre-testing/Pre-assessment (Background knowledge - connections to prior learning)

Brainstorming, Graphic organisers – KWL, mind mapping, Y chart, Lotus diagram. Quiz

Teaching Strategies

Learning Activities

Explicit Literacy & Numeracy Strategies

Teaching Strategies

Learning Activities

Integrated ICT

Teaching Strategies

Learning Activities

Explicit / Systematic

Building the Field

Teaching Strategies

Learning Activities

Connected & Scaffolded

Teaching Strategies

Learning Activities

Scaffolds / Models – annotated


Culture of A4L: Speaking & Representing

  • Concept: Persuasion

  • Outcomes: LO1; LO2; LO3

  • Key Learning Ideas:

  • Features of the spoken language of persuasion

  • How language features persuade others

  • The pace, volume, tone and stress patterns of speech of persuasive speaking

Culture of A4L

Building the field

Explicit, systematic & balanced


Imperative voice


Intonation and pace

Emotive language

Second person

Forceful verbs


Cyber Grammar:


Pre-testing for learning:

  • Quizzes and Wordle

  • Listening task on persuasive speech

  • 30 second persuasive speech

    Formative assessment:

  • Students plan a speech using Persuasion 101:

  • Creative producers

  • Class blog created as a platform or Voicethread -

Culture of A4L

Formative & Summative Assessment


Severn Suzuki’s speech delivered at UN Earth Summit 1992 focusing on the ideas and the purpose of the speech:

EDF Energy Advertisements: ;

Al Gore’s speech to Smith School World Forum on Climate Change:

  • Receptive listening task based on one of the speeches: Focus on how language is persuasive and the meaning conveyed

  • Productive Task: Persuasive campaign individually or in groups of three that allows for student choice and is presented to an audience


  • Persuasive speech podcast

  • Critical self evaluation of campaign or podcast focusing on the use of persuasive language

“Assessment should be first and foremost for the learner’s sake, designed and implemented to provide useful feedback to the learner on worthy tasks to make improved performance and ultimate mastery more likely” (Wiggins, 2006).

Importance of Feedback

  • “An expert teacher, mentor or coach can readily explain, demonstrate and detect flaws in performance. He or she can also identify talent and potential, and build on these.”

  • “In contrast, trial and error learning or poor teaching are less effective and take longer. If performance flaws are not detected and corrected, these can become ingrained and will be much harder to eradicate later. Learners who don’t receive instruction, encouragement and correction can become disillusioned and quit due to lack of progress.”

    (Dinham, Feedback on Feedback, 2008)

Feeding Forward

  • Constructive

  • Precise

  • Connected to what is being assessed

  • Timely

  • Frequent (Holmes & Papageourgiou, 2009)

  • Invites self-assessment and self-reflection

  • Informs future teaching and learning

Feedback directed to the ‘self’ (e.g.: “You are a great student”). ‘Rarely does it enhance achievement or learning’.

The Power of Feedback in School Settings John Hattie (2003)

Pedestal of


Increases the ability to accommodate feedback and create internal feedback...

‘Feedback at this process level appears to be more effective than at the task level for enhancing deeper learning’

‘Having correct information is a pedestal on which processing and self-regulation can be effectively built.’

Most feedback remains task focused

Quality Feedback

Effective feedback answers three questions:

  • Where am I going? (the goals) Feed up

  • How am I going? Feed back

  • Where to next? Feed Forward

    (Hattie & Timperely, 2009)

Journey to self & peer assessment

  • Encourage peer discussion about what constitutes effective use of language.

  • Invite diagnostic peer and self assessment by using a rubric and marking scheme that has been clearly explained to the pupils.

  • Require pupils to design the assessment task and marking criteria.

  • Require pupils to develop an individualised personal learning plan.

“It is about learning to learn, about becoming independent thinkers and learners. It is about problem solving, team-work, knowledge of the world, adaptability, and comfort in a global system of technologies, conflict and complexity. It is about the joy of learning and the pleasure of productivity of using one’s learning in all facets of work and life pursuits” (2006, Fullan, Hill and Crevola, Breakthrough).

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