Assessment – What and How?

 ‘We should be prepared to serve the children as a servant, to observe carefully as a scientist and to love and care as a saint.’ – Maria Montessori 

This quote has stuck in my head since I started my IB PYP journey many years ago.  Isn’t it hard to be a servant, a scientist and ….beyond that…. a saint at the same time?  Indeed, but not impossible.

One thing that I would like to highlight at this moment is the part which says ‘Observe the children carefully as a scientist.‘  What do we observe? Why do we observe? How do we observe? When and where do we observe?

When talking about ‘observation’ particularly if I connect to the assessment part in the PYP, it relates closely to the ongoing process of gathering, analysing, reflecting and sharing the evidence of student learning to inform teaching.  This also involves the process of monitoring, documenting, measuring, reporting on learning.

Source: PYP: from Principles into Practice – Learning and Teaching – Assessment – How to Assess pg. 74


In the past (before the PYP enhancement), there were three parts of assessment component – assessing, recording and reporting.  Now, based on the latest PYP: from Principles into Practice document, assessment in the PYP is divided into 4 dimensions – monitoring, documenting, measuring and reporting.

……….Although the four dimensions of assessment are not weighted the same; each dimension has its own importance and value. The PYP chooses to put emphasis on monitoring and documenting learning as these dimensions are critical in providing actionable feedback for the learner…….

Source: PYP: from Principles into Practice – Learning and Teaching – Assessment – How to Assess pg. 74

The reporting aspect is still there. However, moving from assessing to monitoring and from recording to documenting and measuring does help me as an educator to see the process of assessment more clearly.

When talking about ‘assessing’, the question was how we discover what the students know and have learned.  But how? It sounds so broad.   This has been made clear by the term of monitoring which allows teachers to observe and check the learning progress using a variety of assessment strategies and tools in order to gather the evidence of learning.

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Source: PYP: from Principles into Practice – Learning and Teaching – Assessment – How to Assess pg. 74-77


‘Recording’ part has been made more clearly by how learning is documented.  Thanks to technology, documenting learning has been a lot easier nowadays.  When I started my PYP journey, I took lots of photos and collected lots of student’s work as evidence which helps me assess the learning progress.  Now, students have played active roles in documenting their own learning using apps like Seesaw.  Another part that as important as documenting is measuring.

Not all learning can be, or needs to be, measured.

Source: PYP: from Principles into Practice – Learning and Teaching – Assessment – How to Assess pg. 75

Recently, I came across a post in a discussion forum asking about documenting and measuring.  Do we use the learning evidence that is collected to measure the learning progress?  Yes and no.  Measuring learning relates closely to the learning outcomes, success criteria which are determined in the written curriculum. Teachers then analyse and use the data to inform teaching and learning. What can’t be measured?  Student’s well-being.  Student’s action.  The attributes of the learner profile.  Soft skills.  etc.  These are the things that can be monitored and documented in order to develop them by providing the students with constructive feedback and guiding them to develop their own personal learning goals.

….We have to know what our students know now, where we are going with them and did they get there….  

(Douglas Fisher co-author of Visible Learning for Literacy and Visible Learning for Mathematics )

This short video from Douglas Fisher basically briefly summarizes the ‘why’ of assessment.  This refers back to why, how and what we monitor, document, measure and report in the assessment process.  At the end of the day, it is to inform learning and teaching which means assessment should make an impact on what/how we teach and what/how the learners learn.

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Source: PYP: From Principles into Practice – Learning and Teaching – Assessment in the PYP pg.69


Again, as educators, we should observe the learners and their learning journey carefully as scientists.  In this case, we should be assessment-capable teachers who support the learners to become assessment capable by understanding what the students understand, know and can do throughout the different dimensions of assessment and at the same time reflecting and making the adjustment on the teaching practice in order to better support the learners.




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