A practical approach to assessment for learning and differentiated instruction

Hanna Westbroek, Lisette van Rens, Ed van den Berg, Fred Janssen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Assessment for learning (AfL) and differentiated instruction (DI) both imply a focus on learning processes and affect student learning positively. However, both AfL and DI prove to be difficult to implement for teachers. Two chemistry and two physics teachers were studied when designing and implementing the formative assessment of conceptual understanding (AfL), as well as whole task-first differentiating instruction (WTDI). The teachers were offered design and enactment heuristics that showed them how they could redesign and enact their lessons to implement AfL and WTDI. The heuristic support was based on theories on decision-making in complex practices. Our assumption was that this support would be considered practical by the teachers and contribute to the implementation of the new practices. Teachers redesigned, enacted and evaluated the lessons using the heuristics. They were interviewed pre- and post, additionally, their lessons were videotaped and lesson designs were collected and analysed. Data-analysis shows that all teachers changed their practices permanently and implemented AfL and WTDI. Although, they considered some aspects as unpractical, the study reveals that the heuristic support was overall practical for the teachers involved and therefore contributes to insight in how to improve implementation of change proposals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-976
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number6
Early online date19 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • assessment for learning
  • differentiated instruction
  • professional development
  • physics and chemistry education


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