Learning-oriented assessment

Learning-oriented assessment is defined as assessment where a primary focus is on developing student learning (Carless, 2007). Learning-oriented assessment aims to bridge formative and summative assessment so both can lead to productive student learning processes. Formative assessment is explicitly aimed at enhancing student learning and summative assessment can be learning-oriented when, for example, it encourages deep approaches to learning and when it promotes student cognitive engagement consistently over the duration of a course.

I propose in figure 1, three interlocking principles of an approach to assessment predicated on the development of student learning processes (Carless, 2015). The aim of the model is to capture the core elements of a learning-oriented assessment approach and indicate their inter-relationships.

Figure 1. A model of learning-oriented assessment

The apex of the model is represented by the assessment tasks which teachers design: key drivers of students’ efforts and learning approaches. Assessment task design is an important facilitator or hindrance to the development of learning-oriented assessment. Learning-oriented assessment task design is supported by the interconnected elements of evaluative expertise and engagement with feedback. Evaluative expertise represents the evolving ability of students to engage with criteria, develop their self-evaluative capacities and make informed judgments about their own work, and that of others.

For students to engage effectively with feedback, they need to develop a conception of quality which begins to approach that of the teacher (Sadler, 2010). It is what the students can do with feedback, rather than how the teacher provides it, which is crucial (Boud & Molloy, 2013). Feedback processes need to be engineered to encourage dialogues of different forms: peer feedback; internal feedback to the self; as well as external feedback from the teacher.

The unified nature of the model suggests that task design should set up possibilities for the other two strands; and that there is interplay between students’ development of evaluative expertise and their engagement with feedback. In sum, the model suggests three important elements of productive learning processes in relation to assessment.

Key reading:
Carless, D. (2015). Exploring learning-oriented assessment processes. Higher Education, 69(6), 963-976.

Other references
Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013). Rethinking models of feedback for learning: The challenge of design. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(6), 698-712.

Carless, D. (2007). Learning-oriented assessment: Conceptual basis and practical implications. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44(1), 57-66.

Sadler, D. R. (2010). Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 535-550.