Each new school year is a time of hope – this year will be the best year ever! Taking the time to create an assessment plan will help you make this hope a reality. This blog post is part five in a series of five designed to take you through the process of building an assessment plan for the beginning of the year.

  1. Step One – Beginning with the end in mind.
  2. Step Two – Preparing to evaluate by considering evidence of learning
  3. Step Three – Planning to collect baseline evidence of learning 
  4. Step Four – Planning to involve students in the collection of evidence 
  5. Step Five – Planning to have students working harder than you are (this post)

Much of a successful school year is dependent on the relationships you build with your students and the ways you engage them in the learning process. Assessment in the service of learning is one of the best vehicles for building relationships and engaging learners. What does this look like in the first days of school? Here are our TOP THREE suggestions:

1. Involve students in shaping the learning community of the classroom. For example, “What is important so this is a class where we can all learn and grow together?” List their ideas. Accept all ideas. It shows that students’ opinions, no matter how different they are from yours, are respected and valued. This is the first step to co-constructing criteria. We suggest you leave this as a list for the first week or two. Periodically ask students what else is important so this is a class where we can all learn and grow together. As Stephen Covey (1989) suggests, this is a powerful way to “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” It is so much more powerful than a teacher posting ‘Class Rules’ that some students translate as ‘It’s my way or you’re out.’ In this way students can be involved as they self-monitor their contributions to the classroom community.

2. Invite students to show you HOW they are smart. Building on Howard Gardner’s work (1983), have students identify their expertise – in or out of school. This is a unique kind of baseline data that helps students help you to better understand how they might show proof of learning in your class. Some teachers have students post mini “Expert Sheets.” Students brainstorm different kinds of expertise like: mathematics, long boarding, video gaming, running, writing, and so on… remember, it can be about in or out of school. Each kind of expertise becomes a title on a letter-sized piece of paper. Once all the “expert sheets” are completed, have students post them around the room. Students can then sign up for all the kinds of expertise they currently have. These sheets can act as a “go to” place when learners need help and as a reminder that we are all teachers and learners in this classroom.

3. Ask students to describe the best class and the best teacher they have ever had (no names please). This can be done individually in a journal or email to you. Or, it can be a brainstormed list that will be posted in the classroom. This helps you understand what students’ value and appreciate. It will also help when you model self-assessment. You can go to the lists and explain to the students what you think two of your strengths are and what evidence you have. Then you can talk about one thing you are working on to become a better teacher. Do this periodically so students understand that you also do what you are asking them to do. Now you have begun to set students up to communicate their ongoing learning strengths and challenges to you. This can save you time while having students more engaged and learning.

As the term proceeds, consider reading more about quality classroom assessment and evaluation practices. You might want to read Chapter 10 in Making Classroom Assessment Work, 3rd Edition (Davies, 2011) or Chapter 3 in Grading, Reporting and Professional Judgment in Elementary Classrooms (Herbst and Davies, 2016). Or, if you are working in secondary schools, you might want to read more in A Fresh Look at Grading and Reporting in High Schools (Herbst and Davies, 2014).

We wish you and your students the best school year you’ve ever had!


Black, P. and Wiliam, D. 1998. Assessment and classroom learning.
Assessment in Education 5, no. 1: 7-75.

Covey, S. 1989. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Free Press.

Davies, A. 2011. Making Classroom Assessment Work, 3rd Edition. Courtenay, BC: Connections Publishing.

Gardner, H. 1983. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Herbst, S. and Davies, A. 2016. Grading, Reporting, and Professional Judgment in Elementary Classrooms. Courtenay, BC: Connections Publishing.

Herbst, S. and Davies, A. 2014. A Fresh Look at Grading and Reporting in High Schools. Courtenay, BC: Connections Publishing.

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta are educators, consultants, authors, and presenters who are highly sought after, both locally and globally. Their energy, passion, and expertise have helped teachers, leaders, schools, and systems to move forward with competence and confidence. Learn more about the team here...


Like most education professionals, we have a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of learners. We started as teachers and leaders, but saw the potential to drive greater transformation by creating and sharing methodologies with other educators.

Learn more...



Toll free: 1-800-603-9888
Phone: 1-250-703-2920



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This