What is Assessment for Learning?

The framework for this site is based on Sambell, McDowell and Montgomery’s (2013) model of Assessment for Learning in Higher Education.  Assessment is generally classified into summative and formative. Summative assessment is weighted and counts, however minimally, towards a degree. It ‘measures’ what learning has taken place set against that standards of the university and the discipline. Formative assessment is assessment which is not weighted (although it can be graded) and its primary purpose is to provide information to students and teachers about what learning has taken place, is currently taking place, and to inform future learning. Assessment for learning is usually associated with the latter. However, as Gardner et al (2010:30) state, “assessment of any kind should ultimately improve learning” and Sambell et al’s model emphasises both.

Assessment impacts on the way our students learn more than any other factor (Snyder 1971Black and Wiliam, 1998;  Rust, 2002;  Ecclestone and Pryor, 2003; Gibbs, 2006; Brown and Knight, 2012).  We can work hard on creating supportive teaching environments, only to see students resort to strategic or surface learning in order to pass exams. Factors acting on education outside the institution and our classrooms often drive this, but the solution might be closer to home. Educational research across a range of courses and disciplines has shown the benefit of designing curricula that focus on authentic and significant learning experiences, and aligning this with assessment which fosters lifelong-learning. This is important in a research-intensive institution such as King’s, where many of our students will become world leaders in research, industry, professional practice, government and global development.

How can I use this site?

Sambell and colleagues’ holistic model serves as the organising principle of this site. It sets out six main elements of assessment — each one reflected in the navigation links of this site:

Authentic Tasks Formative/Summative Assessment
Metacognition/Reflection Low Stakes Practice
Formal Feedback Informal Feedback

Each area of this site contains:

  • a range of assessment and feedback practices,
  • examples of how these have been implemented (from King’s, the UK or international HE sector),
  • key design questions to consider when redesigning assessment practices.

These practices can be used in formative or summative situations; this resource has a strong research-informed focus on the benefits of shifting the balance towards formative assessment. Whilst this site cannot tackle all of our assessment challenges, it does aim to stimulate thought and foster a community of sharing practices across the College.

About this site

King’s Academy developed this resource in consultation with key stakeholders across the College, including CTEL, Disability Support, Library Services Development team, KCLSU and Careers & Employability.  All the assessment and feedback practice suggestions incorporate disciplinary conventions, digital technology, blended learning, inclusive practices, accessibility and employability considerations, and crucially, are underpinned by principles of educational community building between teachers and students.