Misconceptions of AFL

It's only natural for one's understanding of a concept or idea to grow with time. It's very typical to begin with misconceptions and to then outgrow those as you begin to better understand the concept. This is very common when it comes to Assessment FOR Learning. When teachers first hear that AFL will be a professional development goal for a school or system, they often have a very different view of it than they do after exploring the topic for a school year or two. Sometimes it's helpful to analyze your previous misconceptions and realize how your understanding has grown. It's helpful as a self-reflection exercise, and it's helpful for individuals new to the topic to hear about the experiences of others. Let's try doing that in this forum discussion. Share an early misconception you may have had regarding AFL, how/why that misconception changed, and what your new understanding is.

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  • About half way through last year I gave my classes a warm-up to do at the beginning of class. I took it up and check it while they were checking homework in groups. I instantly found out that many weren't thinking through everything we were doing! That is when AFL really started to hit home. I passed the papers back out, we had a great discussion and I cleared up a lot of misunderstandings. I started doing those kinds of warm-ups much more often. The hardest thing was getting the student past "are you going to grade this?" because I ask them to turn in the work. Teachers are not the only ones who have to learn the process of AFL.
  • Early on I was thinking that AFL could mean having students "re-do" something they didn't quite understand, or even just assess learning in a different way besides a test.

    Now it's really clear to me that it's only AFL if the teacher is using it guide future instruction and if students are really involved in the learning process through the teacher's descriptive feedback.

    For our inservice week, the school improvement team came up with some vignettes that teachers will analyze and determine whether or not AFL is actually taking place. Email me if you'd like me to share them!
    • The first document contains our scenarios/vignettes for AFL. In groups, our teachers looked at them and decided whether or not it was an example of AFL and explained why or why not. (Basically, if the scenario involves teachers using the information to plan for instruction, then it's AFL!) The second document is our "AFL of AFL" (basically an exit card that we used after our AFL discussion to determine where our teachers were in their understanding of AFL--this was very helpful in determining where we might to go next with staff development.)

      AFL Scenarios.doc

      AFL Exit Card.docx

    • Please e-mail the vignettes to me......thanks a bunch
      • See my reply below!
    • If you guys want to share the vignettes, I could add them to the main page.
  • I listened as one of our high school teachers talked about a student who was having difficulty with some assignments, about the conference he had with the student and his mother, and about the way they worked out a stepwise process with feedback that would allow the student to complete the assignments with feedback, with a schedule, etc. This was a great example of using formative assessment where the teacher and the student were involved in gathering feedback throughout the assignment. And then I realized that one of the most important components in this problem resolution and formative assessment was the relationship that was built between the student and the teacher. They became partners in assessing the student's progress on completing the assignment. The teacher was constantly aware of the student's progress and the student was getting feedback from the established "benchmark" assignments so he also could monitor his own progress. I guess I should not be surprised that the relationship between the student and teacher was KEY in the success of this solution to helping the student be successful in this class. So, when I hear that someone is looking for the recipe or secret to formative assessment, I know that they will find their answer when they realize that formative assessment is an ongoing process that will often vary from one student to another and that the critical component underlying effective formative assessment is the relationship that exists between the student and the teacher. Now, if anyone wants to pursue this more, let me know....
  • When I first began reading about AFL, I figured it mainly meant that if students didn't do well on an assessment then the teacher should assess the students again before moving on with more instruction. In thinking this way I was also defining the word "assessment" as a test.

    While a teacher who uses AFL practices might decide to re-test a student, this is far from being what AFL is all about.

    A change for me, if I were still in the classroom, would be that AFL would encourage me to assess on a daily basis and do so in a way that allows the students to become very aware of what they know or don't know. These assessments might not - in fact probably would not - be graded. Students would analyze the results of their assessments and keep track of how they were doing.

    Typically I learned more from the results of student assessments than they did. Now I would probably use something like a rubric to get my students to analyze their own learning. Hopefully by doing so students would do better on the big test and there would be less of a need to consider re-testing.

    That's what AFL is all about - Assessment FOR Learning - assessment that gets students to learn.
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