Your Guide to Assessments in the PYP:
Unpacking the what, why and how of assessments

Whether new or experienced, every teacher knows the importance of assessments in informing our classroom practices and identifying gaps and next steps. However, given the guided inquiry approach of the PYP, we can often get confused by what to assess and how best to assess it. We have designed this comprehensive guide as your companion for inquiring into assessment in your PYP classroom.

Through this guide and the accompanying resources, we will deep dive into 5 key questions: 

  1. Part 1. Why do we assess?
  2. Part 2. What to assess?
  3. Part 3. How to assess?
  4. Part 4. What do we mean by assessment capable students?
  5. Part 5. What are some ways of reporting on learning?

At different points in this guide, you will find resources that you can start using in your classroom today. Excited? Let’s get started! 

Please note:

We designed this guide to be navigated sequentially. That being said, this is your inquiry so feel free to jump around to the sections you find most relevant to your context.


Part 1- Why do we assess?

Simon Sinek says no matter what you do, “start with why.” When the learning community is aligned on the “why” of assessment, trust is built and meaningful action takes place. Teachers, students, parents, and administrators can then work towards a common goal.

Assessment holds different meanings for different stakeholders. It is often an intimidating subject to broach. Assessment impacts much more than just grades, it affects instruction, placement, student retention, and funding. It pushes us to ask hard questions, such as “Are we teaching effectively?”, “Are all students catered to?”, “Do teachers use assessment to better teaching and learning practices?”, “How are we performing as a school?”. 

Before we dive into the “what” and “how” of assessment, it is important to align on the “why”. We will break down the conceptual question “Why does assessment matter across the learning community?” 

In this first part, you will –

  • Understand the importance of assessment for the different stakeholders in our learning community. Read more

Part 2 – What to assess?  

Now that we know why we assess, we need to be able to identify what we are going to assess in our classrooms.

Sugata Mitra says, “We live in a world where, when we want to know something, we can learn it in two minutes. Could it be, the devastating question, that we’re heading towards a future where knowing is obsolete?” He makes the case that often we assess what children know rather than assessing whether they can think.

As PYP educators and designers of inquiry-based learning, it is often challenging to figure out what to assess. Some big wonderings include “Should we be assessing knowledge or concepts?”, “How do we use curricular standards or scope and sequence documents to create success criteria?”, “What are strategies we can use to assess meaningfully?”

In the PYP, you are responsible for assessing student knowledge, conceptual understandings, and skills. We will dive into the conceptual question, “How do we decide what to teach and assess?” 

In this second part, you will – 

  • Unpack how to assess knowledge, understandings, and skills. Explore more
  • Grab editable assessment templates you can use in your classroom. Download here

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Part 3 – How to assess?

Assessments in the PYP are all about process over product. Assessments are often designed after learning is planned, but they need to take center stage. Assessments need to be weaved in through the course of the unit. Our goal is to be able to tell the story of learning – where it began, how it grew, how thinking changed, and what understandings were brought about. 

However, the big question remains “How do we check for student understanding while they’re still in the process of learning?” We will get hands-on and look into the conceptual question, “How do we design meaningful and balanced assessment for a unit of inquiry”.  

In this third part, you will –

  • Explore the 4 types of assessments. Read more
  • Discover an assessment cycle and strategies you can use to create meaningful ongoing assessments for your classroom. Click here to watch the video. Explore more
  • Watch this guided video to unpack the assessment cycle and view real-life examples. Click here 
  • Use our assessment planning template to organize yourself. Download here
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Part 4 – Developing assessment capable students

Assessment capable students are simply students who have agency, take ownership, and reflect on their progress. 

In educator circles, it is repeatedly said that we’re preparing children for an unknown future. We cannot know what challenges and opportunities our students will face in their future. Therefore, our primary goal as PYP educators is to equip students with the skills and capability they need to learn on their own.  

When children become assessment capable, they continuously reflect on their learning, set learning goals, and plan next steps to achieve their goals. They self-assess by asking questions such as, “Where am I going?”, “Where am I right now?” ,“How can I close the gap?” Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and John Hattie say, “When students know how to learn, they are able to become their own teachers”. Once that happens, once children become assessment capable, learning is truly limitless. We will zoom into the conceptual question “What is assessment capability and how do you grow it?”

In this fourth part,  you will – 

  • Dive into 3 traits of assessment capable students in this guided video. Watch here
  • Learn simple but effective strategies for growing assessment capability for all learners. Explore more
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