TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release
TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release

A Powerful Tool for Developing Assessment as Learning


Teresa Belisle

I really like this type of assessment because we are given a lot of freedom and choice with what we choose to do and I feel like I learn a lot more during these types of assessments because I have a long time to work on it and I am learning throughout the whole process.
—Student in middle school Spanish at the International School of Prague

Now that’s the kind of engagement and enthusiasm we want for our learners!


Identifying a problem

At the International School of Prague (ISP), we have Mission Aspirations to inspire, engage, and empower our students. As director of learning research and development, I am always looking for approaches that will help us meet those aspirations.

One strategy we use to help our students is to have clear, intended learning outcomes for every discipline, unit, and task. The problem, however, was that simply sharing those intentions with students using wordy rubrics wasn’t working. How could we empower our learners to pay close attention to and use these criteria to take the next best steps in their learning?


Making change

An answer began to emerge with the help of Garfield Gini-Newman, a facilitator from The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC²). Garfield has worked with our school for a couple of years now. He began by helping us to deepen our understanding of critical and creative thinking, a central tenet of our ISP mission. The next step was more challenging: making it come alive in the classroom. Garfield encouraged us to hook learners with relevant and rich challenges, giving them an authentic reason to engage in and persist with the intended learning. The TC² Cascading Challenges approach aligns well with our ISP Learning Principles, which drive the what, why, and how of learning at our school.

When Garfield came to work with us, he didn’t allow us to simply absorb. Instead, he provoked our thinking, getting us to question our pedagogy generally and to adjust our teaching practices specifically. The tool with the most impact on our teaching practice thus far has been the TC² Guide to Success Template, a simple, user-friendly chart for sharing criteria and then guiding students’ learning as they work to respond to a challenge.

Starting with an existing unit, teachers clarified their intended learning by separating qualitative and quantitative criteria. The completed guides to success we created, accompanied by authentic challenge launches, have proven to be powerful tools that help learners to know “where they are as learners and how to go further” (ISP Learning Principle #3).

Gabi Jiminez

The Transformation

When a few teachers began tailoring and using the Guide to Success, we noticed a transformation. Learners were more engaged; they began to focus on their learning rather than simply completing a task and wondering what mark they would receive. Garfield’s recommended approach gave learners greater choice coupled with crystal clear intentions from the teacher. Students knew exactly which expectations were “tight” (or necessary) and which ones were “loose” (or flexible). Consequently, students could more easily give each other feedback on their work. Besides the drastic improvement of the students’ ability to self-assess, we saw an equal improvement in teachers’ ability to assess student work, which could be easily measured against known criteria.


Energized Teachers; Empowered Students

The first teachers to work with the Guide to Success are expanding their use of this powerful tool because they see the impact it has had on learners and their learning. As one ISP high school teacher put it, “Students are no longer just focused on a number on the rubric, but are really paying attention to the key criteria.” Word of the success of these early adopters is starting to spread, inspiring other teachers to try the approach. It is highly rewarding to witness the growing quality in students’ demonstrations of their learning.

Even better is to see students’ excitement about their learning. Imagine middle school students feeling motivated to communicate in Spanish because they really, really want their identified (Spanish-speaking) audience to better understand climate change. Yes, that’s exactly the kind of engagement and enthusiasm we want for our learners!

Teresa Belisle
Director of Learning Research & Development
International School of Prague, Czech Republic