Teachers at Seoul American Elementary School discuss “assessment for learning” during a training session Thursday.

Teachers at Seoul American Elementary School discuss “assessment for learning” during a training session Thursday. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A group of elementary curriculum specialists from Okinawa is visiting South Korea to train elementary school teachers how to use “assessment for learning” in the classroom.

The concept encourages teachers to add “assessment” to their daily box of tools instead of just when grading, according to literature provided to the staff of Seoul American Elementary School during Thursday’s training session.

The instructors, from the Department of Defense Dependents Schools Pacific and DOD Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools Guam, said the goal was to improve student achievement.

Instructor Jane Schneider said this is the second portion of teacher training that was first introduced at the schools last fall. The first session included teachers from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, she said, but this round focuses on the elementary schools.

“It’s going a little bit deeper into strategies essential for learning,” she said.

She stressed that the assessment concept isn’t new.

But a model in which the teacher teaches, tests and leaves unsuccessful students who “might not learn at the established pace and within a fixed time frame to finish low in the rank order” is outdated, according to class literature.

Instead, the student must be part of the assessment process. Teachers using the method might:

Pretest information and adjust instruction for the group or individuals.Analyze the students who require more practice.Reflect on their own teaching practices.Seek feedback on what the students believe to be their own strengths and weaknesses.Offer peer tutoring.Future sessions again will incorporate teachers from all grade levels, Schneider said, and will focus on math. But after Thursday’s training, the elementary teachers were able to take the model back to their classrooms and use it for any subject.

She said the training would allow students to be involved in assessing their own work so they can “become independent thinkers and learners.”

Schneider said she has always required her students to keep journals. But in using assessment for learning, she might have them work more on reflecting upon what they have written in the journals.

And giving feedback to the students is critical, she said.

During an exercise Thursday morning, the issue of how much of a time investment was needed for the model to work was raised by more than one teacher.

“This is the way to teach,” one teacher said, “but this is a daunting task.”

Schneider agreed that the concept can be a bit time-consuming, but she stressed that the work pays off in the end.

“In the long run, it makes the job easier because you don’t always have to go back to the basics,” she said. “More time in the beginning gets better results.”

Schneider said the goal of the training was “to help teachers refine their classroom assessments to improve student achievement.”

“In DODDS, the kids are pretty high achievers,” she said, “but we know we can always do better.”

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