AFL and Learning to Drive

Have you ever watched a teenager prepare for the DMV Learner's Permit test? If you have, then you'll know what I mean when I say that it is an excellent example of Assessment FOR Learning.

(As an aside, I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that my oldest child is now learning to drive a car. Kaitlin is everything I could ask for in a daughter with one exception - she has moved beyond the age of 8!)

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has what amounts to an online textbook. They also have online practice tests. Kaitlin began by studying the materials online and then quickly moved to the online practice tests. As soon as she finished each practice test she was immediately given her score. In the week leading up to her DMV visit, she must have taken 100 practice tests - each one slightly different than the one before. The big day finally arrived and her mother took her to the DMV where she passed her actual Learner's Permit test with a score of 100%. On the one hand I was proud of her, but on the other hand I was wishing she had failed so that I would have had a good excuse to not let her drive!

I hope that all readers of this are familiar enough with AFL to see right away the "AFL-ishness" of this example. I'll go ahead, though and highlight a few key points:

1. After each assessment (the online practice tests) Kaitlin received immediate descriptive feedback. This descriptive feedback from the teacher (the website in this case) was given for the purpose of helping her learn for the next attempt rather than simply describe what her grade was.

2. Kaitlin used the assessment-elicited feedback to alter/guide her learning. Over time (remember she took about 100 tests) she began to realize her strengths and weaknesses. This enabled her to study the online material more purposefully and, therefore, to learn better.

3. The more she was tested, the more she learned. This relates back to a recent post on this site called Test 'em more. That blog post referenced a study that was detailed in the NY Times. That study found that the act of taking a test - of being assessed - actually led to more learning. Therefore, many assessments/tests are better than fewer.

4. Finally, the end result, the grade that comes from the eventual summative assessment (the one taken at the DMV) truly reflected Kaitlin's level of mastery. The practice was not counted against her. The practice was important. In fact, it was essential. But in the end, it was just practice. Learning was what mattered most. Kaitlin passed with a 100%.

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