Assessment for Learning (AfL)
Assessment has been an important area of research and teaching in the Department of Education & Professional Studies for over twenty years. Individually and collectively, members of the Assessment Group have made a substantial contribution to the development of theory, policy and practice, both nationally and internationally. Assessment for Learning (AfL) has had a major impact on pupils, teachers and educational policy-makers across the globe.
AfL, which stems from research initiated by King’s Paul Black and Dylan William in 1998, has become an indispensable approach to monitoring learning to find the best ways to help pupils progress. Rather than relying solely on tests and exams, it advocates a more regular, day-to-day form of assessment, which, it claims and has demonstrated, can ultimately help pupils to achieve better results.
“AfL can have a significant impact on promoting effective learning behaviour in pupils,” says Dr Chris Harrison, co-director of the AfL project. “When classroom assessment is frequent and varied, teachers learn a great deal about their pupils and pupils come to learn a lot about themselves and their developing ideas.”
Initially communicated more widely to teachers through a series of short pamphlets and a book, which has also been translated into Welsh and Polish, King’s experts have subsequently given numerous talks and workshops to teachers and policy-makers on the subject, as well as longer professional development sessions. These have led to changes in the way that many pupils in the UK are assessed, with teachers adopting new approaches to learning and schools in Wales and Jersey dropping national testing for certain age groups.
“AfL is considered important by the Government and by Ofsted and has really evolved in classrooms up and down the country over the last decade,” explains Dr Harrison. “A national strategy for AfL has been formed and is in all recent new frameworks and revisions to the curriculum. This has improved pupil attainment and behaviour, and has also had a positive impact on teachers, who have increased confidence in the work that they do and therefore enjoy teaching more.”
Considered to be the single most influential piece of educational research in England and Scotland over the past decade, AfL has been widely cited in literature throughout the world, with elements now also being adopted in many overseas countries.