Assessment for Learning: the answer to our assessment woes?

Alice Lau

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    Assessment for learning as Taras (2007, p.58) rightly asserts “brooks no denial” and “captures the desires of all educationalists”. Assessment for Learning seems to be accepted as conventional wisdom and little questions have been asked about its potential as the solution for those long standing and emerging assessment issues. The argument for a shift from assessment of learning to assessment for learning has been advocated by many such as Taylor (1994); Hager and Butler (1996); Gipps (1999) and Shepard (2000) for nearly two decades, however it is questionable whether we have truly achieved the “paradigm shift” that Gipps (1999) advocates. Long standing issues associated with the focus on assessment of learning and the reliance on traditional assessment methods (Elton and Johnston, 2002) still continue to shadow attempts toward innovations in assessment for learning. To realise the potential assessment for learning could have as a solution to our assessment issues, we need to first understand what the core characteristics of assessment for learning are. Assessment for Learning as Murphy (2006, p.42) describes “is a neat catchphrase that needs defining”. Exactly what the term means is unclear, many see it as similar or even synonymous to formative assessment (Black and Wiliam, 1998), other argues that it is classroom activities in the school sector, but it is self assessment in Higher Education (Taras, 2008). These different definitions and understandings on assessment for learning are precarious to the future of assessment for learning. This paper aims to unearth the core characteristics of assessment for learning via a critical review on five sets of principles established in the assessment literature. By critically analysing these principles and identifying the core characteristics that underpin assessment for learning, this paper hopes to open some much needed discussions surrounding the little challenged idea - assessment for learning, and whether it could really be the answer for some of the pressing and emerging issues in learning, teaching and assessment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationN/A
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jun 2010
    Event InCuLT conference 2010 - University of Hertfordshire
    Duration: 28 Jun 201028 Jun 2010


    Presentation InCuLT conference 2010


    • assessment for learning
    • higher education


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