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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Introducing Assessment for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds Assessment for learning helps teachers probe understanding, and provides the evidence for teachers to decide what the learner needs to take their learning forward. What we find with most teachers is that to make it work effectively in the classroom, they need to encourage their learners to talk more, and also to compare their ideas with others. Which means that they need to listen to their peers, but also you as a teacher need to listen more effectively to what the learners actually say. Avoid closing down those discussions, because sometimes it takes a while for a range of ideas to come to the surface for you to examine.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds So the focus for you is not on chasing correct answers, but rather you need your learners to express their true understanding so we can see how they’re developing scientific ideas, actually formulating a range of contexts. The teacher can then use this feedback to decide on what action to take, or what guidance to give to help learners improve.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds At the same time, learners can voice their ideas and begin to see how others respond to these. And this allows them to build understanding at the same time as developing a more critical approach to science.

Educator viewpoint: encouraging more talk

Chris explains the primary functions of assessment for learning are to:

  • promote domain-specific dialogue;
  • help teachers understand what learners think;
  • give learners formative feedback.

One approach you could use to support this includes challenging questions that are based on either misconceptions or areas of ambiguity in science. It is through these questions that you prompt thinking, and this leads to active discussion that provides a way of drawing out the evidence of learning from your students.


Chris points out that the focus is ‘not chasing the correct answer’ and should involve all students in the learning.

Think now of an approach, that you could use in your teaching, to ensure you allow students to share and discuss their thinking. Share this in the comments below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introducing Assessment for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre