Tag Archives: #assessment tool

Understanding the what, why and how of assessments in the PYP

Assessment – I think this word evokes as much fear and trepidation in teachers as it does in students today!!

The enhanced PYP has sought to make assessment a more authentic, student-centered process that encourages and involves student voice.

It stresses on including a variety of assessment strategies and tools to make the process meaningful and engaging.

As teachers, we are also transitioning to this new understanding – we must give ourselves the time and the space to do this.

I am attempting to lay out my understanding of the assessment process and how I have started integrating a variety in my classroom practices – in follow-up posts I will explore other aspects of assessments in more depth.

What is the purpose of assessment?

The purpose of assessment is to inform learning and teaching. It involves the gathering and analysis of information about student learning to inform teaching practice. It identifies what students know, understand, and can do at different stages in the learning process. A unique feature of assessments in the PYP is the focus on student knowledge, conceptual understanding, skills, and dispositions – the process and the product of student learning.

Characteristics of effective assessment (From ibo.org)

Highly effective assessment shares some key characteristics (Adapted from Clarke 2012).

  • Authentic: It supports making connections to the real world to promote student engagement.
  • Clear and specific: This includes desired learning goals; success criteria and the process students use to learn.
  • Varied: It uses a wider range of tools and strategies that are fit for purpose to build a well-rounded picture of student learning.
  • Developmental: It focuses on an individual student’s progress rather than their performance in relation to others.
  • Collaborative: It engages both teachers and students in the assessment development and evaluation process.
  • Interactive: Assessment encompasses ongoing and iterative dialogues about learning.
  • Feedback to feedforward: It provides feedback on current learning to inform what is needed to support future learning (Hattie, Timperley 2007) and raises students’ motivation.

What to assess?

In the PYP we assess students for the following –

  • Prior knowledge informs our teaching – gives us a start point for our teaching and helps in grouping students as per their understanding and thus differentiating instruction appropriately.
  • Formative assessmentsassessments for learning. These are conducted throughout the learning and teaching process. It is primarily for the teacher to assess if students are understanding as per the learning intentions which would mean she/he is on the right track. If there is a gap in understanding, there is time to modify teaching and learning strategies to ensure that learning objectives are met.

“Formative assessment is not a task. Formative assessment is an ongoing, embedded practice that allows teachers to constantly adjust their teaching based on what they’re observing. Feedback is a mindset.” Ron Ritchhart

  • Summative assessments are assessments of learning. In a very significant move, there is a shift away from the summative assessment in the enhanced PYP. The summative task was always the first thing planned by teachers (the traditional assessors) before the unit started – as we followed a backwards by design process. Now, assessment is built in throughout the planner. It involves evidencing the learning by the students themselves, as well as peers and teachers, and it is ongoing.  There is no longer any requirement to have a summative assessment at the end of every unit, as the process of gathering, analysing, reflecting and acting on evidence of learning is what is used to inform next steps in teaching.

Backwards by design v/s forward by design

  • The traditional backwards by design philosophy encourages teachers to design assessment by first identifying –
    • the desired knowledge,
    • conceptual understandings,
    • and skills,

followed by the design of the assessment, and finally planning learning activities to ensure acquisition of the desired outcomes listed above.

  • “Forward by design” takes into consideration what other learning may have occurred beyond what has been planned – the development of “soft” skills, that are not immediately measurable, and that can emerge through the learning process. 
  • This paradigm shift in thinking means that both students and teachers need to develop their assessment capability, to consider the learning goals and success criteria and to focus on assessing both the learning process as well as the learning outcomes.

How to assess?

The lingo explained – assessment tasks, assessment strategies and assessment tools

Assessment task – what do we want the students to express an understanding about. This would be based on the learning intentions e.g. –

  • To assess enduring understanding of the central idea
  • To assess language skills
  • To assess conceptual understanding in math

Assessment strategies – How students can express their understanding using a variety of strategies

Some examples –

  • Assess enduring understanding of a central idea
    • through a visible thinking routine like ‘I used to think …. Now I think’ eg. Sustainable practices improve quality of life. Students can express what they used to think about sustainable practices and how their thinking changed during the unit. Student agency through a choice of writing a paragraph or recording a Flipgrid video fir the same task.
    • through language integration
      • writing a story to express how ‘Resolving conflicts can lead to better quality of life’
      • writing a poem to express how ‘Exploration leads to newer understandings, discoveries and challenges’.  (Central idea for Where we are in place and time)
  • Assess language or math skills  
    • Integrated with the Unit of inquiry – eg. Write a formal letter to the Municipal officer to request safety crossings near schools (Government unit)
    • Create a presentation on divisibility rules using Powerpoint / Canva etc.
    • ICT enabled quizzes – Nearpod, Quizizz etc. There is quite a good selection of Math and English concepts available and reports are generated for individual students.

Assessment tools –

How will the students be assessed on their completed tasks? How will teachers give feedback? Will students be given opportunities to co-construct success criteria, rubrics, self-assess, or peer assess?

Examples of commonly used tools :



Anecdotal notes/records


I have attached below some samples of assessments I have used in my class

Summative assessment for a unit on conflict resolution

Summative assessment for a unit on exploration

Math formative and summative assessment samples

Links for additional reading –

Assessment Strategies for the IB PYP – PYP Teaching Tools

Tech Transformation: What’s New and Different: Assessment in the PYP (maggiehosmcgrane.com)t

PYP resources – Home – IB programme resources (ibo.org)


How Going SOLO can be effective in your classroom!

SOLO – Structured observation of learning outcomes
Taxonomy – the science of naming, describing and classifying
The 2 words put together mean describing and classifying student learning and the outcomes

What exactly is SOLO?

The structure of observed learning outcomes taxonomy (SOLO taxonomy) is a simple yet robust tool for measuring how well a student understands a topic. It describes 5 levels of understanding, moving from surface level understanding to conceptual understanding. It is widely used for designing curriculum outcomes and assessment tasks that get progressively more difficult as students move through their education.

Source – https://helpfulprofessor.com/solo-taxonomy/

To be honest, for a long time, I did not use this wonderful tool as I was not sure how to use it effectively, let alone explain it to my young students!

I am sharing my experiences of using this tool to hopefully encourage and inspire other teachers also to deploy this effective tool in their classrooms. On my part, I am looking forward to developing a deeper understanding thus applying this tool more effectively in various areas of my teaching and learning.

I had recently attended a JobsAlike session on SOLO Taxonomy and that really boosted my enthusiasm to use it. The session really helped, as not only did I get to witness how other teachers actually used it, the discussions also helped each participant enhance their confidence in using this tool. The participants shared some very useful online tools for using SOLO. That’s the power of collaboration, if anyone needed further proof!

As they say, the first step in any journey is the most difficult. The good news is, once you have taken that first step and built up your confidence, the second and third steps become so much easier. Yes, you might occasionally stumble or find yourself walking in the wrong direction — but at least you’ll be moving – quote from https://john-w-hayes.medium.com/

I decided that I would apply this strategy within the coming week itself. We had just completed the concept of fractions, decimals and percentages in math. I used SOLO Taxonomy as a reflection tool for the first time.

As students already had a fair understanding of command terms, I shared a list of command terms that related to each phase of the SOLO. I observed that students were able to reflect meaningfully, rather than the usual ‘I am confident’, ‘I did not understand’.

Using SOLO Taxonomy, students were able to justify the phase they felt they were currently at –

For eg. ‘I am able to describe how a fraction and decimal are related, i am able to compute sums based on percentages – that is why I am at a multi structural level’.

It also gave them a goal to work towards and the direction to progress in their understanding.

For eg. ‘I am at the multi-structural level and I want to progress to relational level – so I need to be able to analyse, explain and predict the relationship between fractions and percentages’ etc.

Student reflection samples below –

The ease with which students took to this new tool gave me the confidence to use it again. I subsequently used the SOLO Taxonomy as a learning continuum for the ongoing unit of inquiry on simple machines – to track how student’s understanding of simple machines was progressing. As you can see from the samples below – both teachers and students can track how understanding is evolving – from listing and describing simple machines to understanding the concepts of energy, work and force, and the impact that machines have on our lives .

1 interesting idea – use the SOLO continuum as an exit ticket on completion of a class/concept

Do share in the comments if you use this strategy in class!

5 reasons SOLO Taxonomy is a must have tool in every teachers kit –

– SOLO has a visual progression which helps students place their understanding in well defined phases.

SOLO helps in framing effective success criteria which motivates students to be more engaged with the tasks

– It is an effective tool for assessment, feedback and feed forward

– It helps teachers and students track how learning is moving from simple to more complex levels

– It helps students reflect meaningfully on their learning

3 useful and simple resources to get you started on this exciting SOLO journey –


HOT SOLO Presentations – HookED Wiki (pamhook.com)


Sample of a rubric created using SOLO
This is a sample rubric I created using Functioning Knowledge Rubric Generator — HookED (pamhook.com)

What are your first thoughts about using this tool? With which subject or concept would you like to try SOLO with first? Do share your thoughts and experiences using SOLO in your classroom..