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About the assessment for learning community

The Assessment for Learning Community (AFL) pursues learner centered assessment practices that expand learner agency and competency in ways that value all the aspects of a learner's identity.  We are teachers, school leaders, students, community partners, district and state leaders, technical assistance providers. We come together and communicate with one another to learn, reflect, and share. These principles​ help us come together in humble, curious community with one another as we learn how to change practice, habits, structures and policies in service of providing an equitable and learner centered public education experience to each of America's children.  

Theory of Action

Our theory of Action


Our Principles of practice

Drafted by C!E, Stewardship of Learning Communities

First a note about what principles of practice of any variety aim to do. We chose the construct of principles of practice because they are specific enough to inspire practice, but also not so pointed as to seem inflexible or unadaptable. As Michael Q. Patton (Principles-Focused Evaluation, 2018) has written, good principles:

  • Provide direction but not detailed prescription

  • Require judgment in application

  • Are grounded in values about what matters

  • Inform choices at forks in the road

  • Point to consequences, outcomes, and impacts

  • Are based on evidence about how to be effective

  • Have opposites that point in a contrary direction

  • Can be evaluated for both process (implementation) and results

  • Must be interpreted and applied contextually and situationally

  • Are the rudder for navigating complex dynamic systems

  • Are evaluable. That is, they can be the primary subjects for evaluation.

These principles guide our design and facilitation of the AFL community (formerly called the ALP community of the Assessment for Learning Project, our previous grant-making initiative), and also establish a basis for developmental evaluation. We will share more about the evaluation utility as we test it with the AFL community this year. There are six high level principles of practice, each of which is further elaborated on with bullets outlining specific activities aligned with that principle.


Principle #1: Lead with learning
  • Develop a shared learning agenda to make the charge of the learning community and a learning disposition clear from the start.

  • Develop structures that connect individual learning to shared learning (e.g. request for learning, learning plans, and presentations of learning), and to students’ experiences and outcomes.

  • Use different kinds of learning activities to fully engage members in reflection and dialogue.

  • Identify productive tensions in ways that surface different perspectives in service of learning.

  • Model, invite and encourage vulnerability, risk-taking, curiosity, and course-correction (opposed to performing or judging).

  • Create spaces for people to step into leadership roles.

  • Design for reciprocity among members, lead learners, and community stewards so that each person derives value and feels valued.

Principle #2: Invite with intention
  • Create invitations that offer reciprocal commitment to purpose and process.

  • Invite people in as their whole selves and not just their job title.

  • Invite people in from different parts and levels of the system.

  • Invite people from diverse backgrounds and identities.

  • Empower and encourage members to identify other critical voices to join the community.

  • Return and reflect on the extent to which the invitational commitment is being upheld.

Principle #3: Build trusting relationships to build and sustain community
  • Create time and space for relationships to develop and flourish.

  • Create opportunities for them to share their gifts and for them to see other peoples' gifts.

  • Actively look for ways for people to meet; connect those with similar interests and questions.

  • Create expectations for mutual accountability.

  • Help members develop a sense of identity within the learning community so they are in kinship with one another.

  • Use empathy practices to build understanding and relationships across lines of difference within the learning community.

  • Create spaces and opportunities for members to make and do stuff together.

  • Work with community members to create a variety of spaces in which each member of the community finds comfort and safety - drawing on the unique assets (traditions, rituals, practices) of its members.


Principle #4: See the system, pay attention to power, and interrupt patterns of oppression
  • Use empathy practices to lift up voices of learners and communities, especially those most marginalized.

  • Allow people to be where they are on their equity-seeking path and hold members accountable for their continued learning and growth.

  • Pause to notice and interact when patterns of bias, exclusion, and oppression are reproduced in conversation.

  • Use constructs to support critical analysis of current behaviors, processes, and policies to identify and change oppressive habits and system characteristics.

  • Continue to center and re-center how this work is rooted in equity.

  • Identify and disrupt disproportionate levels of power that come from position and expertise.


Principle #5: Ground learning in place
  • Analyze a wide range of contextual characteristics when trying to understand why something was designed the way it was or why it is working the way it is working.

  • Ensure that student voice and student perspectives are always part of the work.

  • Prioritize, study, center, and invite in local wisdom.

  • Use empathy practices to see, hear, and learn about the experiences of students, families, educators, and those closest to the work.

  • Use frameworks and tools as guides that are in dialogue and uniquely adapted to a place.


Principle #6: Scale through shared learning
  • Use stories to share learning, to change the narrative, to foster adaptation, to humanize quantitative data, to support critical thinking, and to help people locate themselves in the work.

  • Use analysis of others’ work to affirm your own work and learning, and become more critical and creative about the work.

  • Gather and share diverse ideas from others and adapt them for use in other contexts and places.

  • Co-create frameworks and tools to foster adaptation and scale beyond the learning community.

  • Pursue local, state, or federal policy changes to enable innovation and/or scaling.

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