Assessment · Education · Teaching

Get in the zone: but know which one you are in.

This TED talk, although not specifically about classroom teaching gives a great insight into the difference between formative and summative assessment.

We need to get these two zones into our collective vocabulary. Both staff and students need to be clear on the distinction between the Learning Zone and the Performance Zone.

The key idea here is to be sure you know which zone you in.

Staff need to make sure students know when they are in the learning zone and when they are in the performance zone.

learning zone

Learning Zone Performance Zone
Musician Playing songs for fun. Practising Scales,

Listening to music

Playing for an audience
Sportsperson Training drills, Minor games, Weight training, Kick to kick. Playing a competitive game.
Actor Learning lines, rehearsing, trying on costumes, performing for friends. The actual performance
Artist Doodling, Sketching, Rough paintings and sculptures. Finished Painting
Maths Student Learning times tables, maths mates, textbook questions, practice problems, mathelitics Maths test or Maths Project CAT

The learning zone should be 100% formative assessment. It should be low stakes where mistakes are OK. What students do in the learning zone is not going to be counted in their final grades or their final report. Of course, the knowledge and skills obtained by students in the learning zone will be vital to how they perform in the performance zone.

The Performance Zone is what students do on Common Assessment Tasks. It is from the performance tasks that we determine grades and progression points.

We need to make sure we don’t confuse the two. Make sure students are clear which zone they are working in. Students should be spending the vast majority of time in a unit in the learning zone.

What does the learning zone look like in your subject?

What does the performance zone look like?


Where do progress reports fit in?

Progress reports assess how students are operating in the learning zone. Progress reports assess student’s learning behaviors, not their learning outcomes. Progress reports give systematic feedback on learning behaviors.

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