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Demystifying John Hattie's Assessment-Capable Learners

By: Ken Tam 04/11/2023
Learn how to develop assessment-capable learners in your classroom. 
A young student smiles while taking an assessment on a laptop.

From a young age, students quickly learn to develop a sense of self-assessment. Teachers of young students know that if you ask them how they think they did on an exam, the answers tend to be accurate.

According to Professor John Hattie, for any test to be a productive use of classroom time, students should be able to answer two questions after taking the assessment: “What can I interpret from the score I received?” and “What do I do next?” 

Students who can answer these questions may already find themselves on the path to becoming assessment-capable learners—they are more likely to see the big picture of assessment and how it fits into the grand equation of learning. They look past their score and are interested in how they learn and what they need to learn. 

Empowering Students to Take Ownership of Their Learning

Hattie describes an “assessment-capable learner” as a student who understands assessment results and can use that information to determine what they need to do next. They can take ownership of their learning because they have the time and knowledge to develop their assessment capabilities. 

Developing assessment-capable learners in your classroom is essential for preparing your students for their lifelong learning journey.

What characteristics do assessment-capable learners have, and how can you help your students develop them?  

1. Students know their current level of understanding.

Assessment-capable students know what they know and what they don’t. To help your learners develop this capacity, guide them through assessing their background knowledge in advance of instruction. Statements starting with, “I can . . .” help students affirm their current knowledge. Statements that start with “I will be able to . . .” help them identify areas they’re working on.

2. Students understand their learning path and are confident enough to take on the challenge.

Assessment-capable students understand what’s to come and where they are headed in their learning. You can help your students achieve this by clarifying success criteria and learning intentions. When they can clearly visualize their learning journey and the criteria defining success, they can confidently meet their challenges.

3. Students can select the tools and approach to guide their own learning.

Students who can drive their own learning may select from various strategies, techniques, or resources. You can bolster your students’ decision-making skills by creating opportunities for them to reflect on how they learn best. Assessment-capable learners understand what strategies work specifically for them, which tools are right for a job, and which tools aren't.

4. Students seek feedback and see failure as a friend.

Students who seek feedback recognize its value as a learning tool. Assessment-capable learners seek input, not only from you, but also from their peers—and even themselves. They know that feedback from others is critical to their development, and even though failure can be difficult, they understand it’s one of the most valuable learning tools there is.

5. Students monitor and adjust their own learning.

Assessment-capable learners ultimately take part in assessing their own progress and making any necessary adjustments. These students can engage with assessment in a meaningful way and translate feedback into potential courses of action. They can utilize assessment to better understand how to exceed their own potential.

By developing assessment-capable characteristics in our learners, you can turn those students who settle for simply being assessed into engaged drivers of their own learning who derive value and pride from their own progress. Helping your learners understand and unlock their potential does not just impact school achievement goals—it reminds us all what it really means to learn.

John Hattie is a technical advisor for i-Ready. Sign up to learn more about upcoming events and free webinars featuring him.