Activity 9

Learning Theory

There is a constantly reiterated point in AfL materials, that new ways of giving and getting feedback imply new forms of pedagogy and that the adoption of AfL approaches is not just a matter of technique. It has much broader theoretical implications. In order to understand AfL, you need effective theories of learning.

In ‘Assessment for Learning', Dylan Wiliam explains at one point how a group of teachers working with him on the project asked him to set up a lecture on learning theory to help them to understand the team's recommendations more easily. The point he is making is that AfL does require teachers to think more theoretically about the relationship between teaching and learning.

"Teachers who are emphasising formative assessment change their underlying beliefs about what counts as ‘good teaching'. Their focus is less on teaching and more on learning in their classroom". (page 80)

The transition from a focus on Assessment of Learning to a focus on Assessment for Learning creates a need for clearer learning theory.

READ: Please read the section on learning theory from the article, Working inside the black box.

REFLECT: Think back to the previous Module on ‘Understanding Learning'. Think again, for example, about Piaget's model of cognitive development as an active process in which the learner takes the initiative. Consider also Vygotsky's social model of learning and his concept of the ZPD which he defines as the dynamic area of learning possibility between what a student is able to achieve independently, on the one hand, and with the support of an adult or more capable peer, on the other. Review the concept of scaffolding and Wood's theory of contingent teaching which could also be related to approaches recommended in AfL.

WRITE: Write about some of the ways in which constructivist theory could be used to support the recommendations made in ‘Assessment for Learning'.

(Allow 60 minutes)