Assessment Capable Learners

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Feb. 10, 2020, 1:40 p.m.

By Ashley Taplin

In the fall, I had the opportunity to attend a Visible Learning Institute in which John Hattie and Peter DeWitt dove into the topic of assessment capable learners. They explained that students need to be able to answer three questions: where am I going, how am I doing, and where to next? (download this classroom poster I created here). Furthermore, there are 6 key characteristics of assessment capable


1. Knows their current level of understanding

2. Understands where they are going and have confidence to take on a challenge

3. Selects tools to guide their learning

4. Seeks feedback and recognizes errors are opportunities to learn

5. Monitors progress and adjusts their learning

6. Recognizes their learning and teaches others

Learning Target & Success Criteria Check Box

A few weeks ago, I co-taught a Desmos lesson in which we wanted to ensure students had clarity and confidence in knowing their current level of understanding. We added two slides into the Desmos activity where students read the learning target and checked off their knowledge of the success criteria before and after a lesson. Most students were able to check off 1 or 2 success criteria as they were prerequisite targets from previous lessons, but did not know the remaining three. When students started to check off their level of understanding after completing the lesson, every student was able to check off the majority, if not all, of the success criteria. As they were doing so, I heard one student shout out, “I now know everything!” as she and her friend jumped up and high-fived. What an incredible moment of clarity for the teacher and the student! Consider how you can provide an intentional target with success criteria and help students return to it after the learning.

Favorite No

I love doing “Favorite No” as a warm up to help students recognize errors and build understanding that mistakes are all a part of growth. I often did this on Fridays and called it “Favorite No Fridays.” See below for 3 ways to incorporate it in your classroom:

  • Pose a problem on the board and ask students to write a wrong answer. Then have students turn and talk about their answer and why it is wrong. Ask a few pairs to share out in a class discussion.

  • Ask students to anonymously submit an answer to a problem you pose on a notecard. Then, pick one answer from the stack with an error in it, write it on the board, and discuss together why it is incorrect.

  • Use a test or homework problem you notice has consistently been answered wrong. Put the question and most common wrong answer on the board and have students explain why it is wrong.

    Test Corrections & Extensions

    Another way to develop assessment capable learners is to regularly ask students to reflect on their learning. I created these task cards to do in class after an assessment is graded and handed back. The yellow task card helps students think through their mistake, correct it, and make plans for how to avoid it next time. The green task card is meant for extension if students were proficient on a problem. Students can either create a new, but similar, problem or record a video on Flipgrid explaining their problem solving process with the test question. As these are completed, students working on the yellow task cards can then use these to see correct examples and understand the problem better from their peers.

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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