“Inside the Black Box” – The Importance of Assessment

On the heels of report writing and planning ahead for 2014, I have been reflecting on what assessment looks like in my classroom.  I have always been interested in improving my assessment strategies. Not only does assessment inform and drive teaching, but how assessment is collected and analysed is pivotal as this directly impacts what evidence you will have available when writing reports and meeting with parents during Parent-Teacher Interviews.

As I begin to review my assessment practices, I recently reviewed one particular article that spoke to me during research for my Master’s degree.

Below, you will find extracts from a paper I wrote about the importance of assessment, most particularly, Backwards Mapping.


There is substantial evidence that assessment is a powerful process for promoting learning.  Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam, writers of the 1998 article – ‘Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment’, synthesised over 250 studies linking assessment and learning.

Their findings revealed that the intentional use of classroom assessment to promote learning, ultimately improved student outcomes and achievement.  This is NOT to condone that we should spend all our time assessing our students, rather, to use classroom assessment to become aware of the knowledge, skills and beliefs that students bring to a unit of work.

Teachers should use this knowledge as a starting point for new instruction and monitor students’ changing perceptions as instruction proceeds.  Classroom assessment promotes learning as it is intertwined within the teaching and learning process.


Like all we do in the classroom, careful planning is required to ensure that assessment aligns with the curriculum and instruction, so that ultimately, learning will be effective and meaningful.  Therefore, assessment needs to be embedded into the unit when planning.  This can be done effectively using the Backwards Mapping approach to planning.  The notion of Backwards Mapping entails that we begin with the end in mind, i.e. considering what assessments will assess what students have learned.

Click HERE to read the full article by Black and Wiliam.

J Palermo

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