Last Updated: 21st August 2019

What is Assessment for Learning (AfL)?

Assessment for learning (AFL) is an approach to teaching and learning that creates feedback for the trainee which is then used to improve their performance. 

AFL can be formative or summative: 

Formative assessment is assessment FOR learning. It guides the learning process. It provides feedback and reassurance that promotes reflection and shapes values. Several strategies can be used by the training officer to do this. For example, informal questioning and observation. The focus for work-based training should be formative assessment. Training officers and assessors should create an effective learning environment where trainees recognise their own learning needs. Training officers should identify resources and devise strategies to help trainees achieve their objectives. 

Summative assessment is assessment OF learning about the overall judgement of competence, fitness to practice, accountability, and advancement to higher levels of responsibility through more formal examinations and testing, for example the OSFA 

Key characteristics of Assessment for Learning in a clinical context

As a training officer, it is important to know what your trainee’s experience and skill set is so that you can create opportunities for them to develop, learn and make progress. Using Assessment for Learning (AFL) should ‘close the gap’ between what the trainee knows and what the trainee needs to learn. With feedback, trainees will progress and gain confidence in what they are expected to learn and to the standard expected. Every trainee will be starting at a different point and will have different learning needs, different skills and experiences. It is not necessary for all trainees to work from the same point at the same time. Encourage trainees to keep working upwards but if some reach a point that is causing them problems, let them stop there and work through it. Plan for tasks to get increasingly complex or which require increasingly sophisticated thinking. 

The training officer should: 

  • Provide trainees with opportunities to apply the assessment criteria to examples of work produced to illustrate the standards required.
  • Provide guidance and support to trainees using oral or written feedback with next steps for achieving learning outcomes in a meaningful way.
  • Create opportunities for learners to undertake remedial action or consolidation activities.
  • Thoughtfully design learning experiences in a differentiated way. 
  • Reflect and ask trainees to peer or self-assess meaningfully on what to do next, setting valid and measurable SMART targets and learning goals.