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Assessment As Learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize student learning (2nd edition)

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A review of Assessment As Learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize student learning (2nd edition), By Lorna M. Earl, Corwin-Sage, 2013 ISBN: 978-1452242972

In Assessment As Learning, Lorna Earl argues that by improving classroom assessment, educators will improve learning for every learner in every school.

She contends that assessment can and should be an integral part of learning processes, versus just measuring learning at the end. Earl differentiates between three approaches to assessment: assessment of learning (grades and marks), assessment for learning (formative, continuous feedback), and assessment as learning (self-assessment, self-monitoring and self-regulation). Earl argues that far too little of teachers’ time and effort is spent on assessment for and assessment as learning.

Earl analyzes the complexity of classroom assessment and offers insight into the powerful influence it can have on learning in a variety of contexts. Earl’s bold claim that “ignoring the power of assessment is professionally irresponsible” is backed by a review of current and extensive research that clearly demonstrates the strong link between well-designed and properly implemented formative assessment and large gains in students’ achievement. Earl outlines a preferred future in which assessment and teaching/learning are reciprocal, each contributing to the other in ways that enhance both.

Earl demonstrates how learning is improved when the teacher and student know where they are headed and understand how to get there. A clear understanding of the purpose of learning activities and assessment tasks enables students to take responsibility for their own learning: “The ultimate goal in assessment as learning is for students to acquire the skills and habits of mind to be metacognitively aware with increasing independence.”

While the tone is conversational, Earl’s call to action for teachers and school leaders is uncompromising: identify and remove barriers to assessment for learning in our schools, and work together to develop actions and strategies for assessment as learning. Assessment As Learning requires us to challenge beliefs about teaching, rethink instruction and learn new ways to assess for different purposes. Acknowledging the new skills required of educators, Earl’s book offers good starting points for professional learning conversations focused on improvements in learning and assessment processes.

First published in Education Canada, June 2013