This annex has been written explicitly for busy school leaders who would like to get an overview of the Assessment for Teaching approach before tackling the level of detail provided in the book as a whole. It summarises the theoretical basis and the practical application of the program described in the book, spelling out the nature of the support needed and the responsibilities to be exercised if the program is to succeed.
The primary reason for teaching is to facilitate learning. The primary reason for schools to exist is to maximise that learning. The primary role of the school leader is to ensure that this maximisation occurs.
In a study on evidence-based teaching of literacy – the Literacy Assessment Project – conducted by the Assessment Research Centre (ARC) in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne in partnership with the Catholic Education Office Melbourne over a 10-year period, outstanding early results were observed in some schools. The study was designed to test the effectiveness of using evidence to identify the point on a developmental progression at which students were most ready to learn, so that reading comprehension teaching could be targeted to that point. The purpose of the project was to build teachers’ assessment knowledge and skill so they could use assessment data to inform the teaching of literacy. Students were tested at the beginning of the school year to identify their position on a developmental progression and then taught the necessary skills to move along the progression to the next level. This approach represents a reversal of standard teaching practice in which assessment occurs only after instruction is complete. In the standard approach, assessment is for, or of, learning. In this approach, assessment is for teaching.
In the Literacy Assessment Project, a second testing period later in the school year showed that all students could improve. However, the rate of improvement among students at some schools was higher than at others. At schools where the greatest gains were made, teaching strategies were shared and discussed by teams of teachers who challenged each other to support their teaching practices with evidence. The teachers in these teams brought a range of observations and experiences to their discussions, but they also ensured that their colleagues did not persist with comfortable or familiar practices that were proving to be ineffective.