Restorative justice dates back to the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (about 1700 B.C.) where it was believed that any crime harmed the whole community. In nursing, it refers to a healing process where the treatment is responsive to an identified need. Restorative assessment holds promise in education, especially for learners who may stumble through conventional measures. Assessment becomes restorative when it re-engages learners, restores confidence, and encourages progress, one resolute step at a time.
Restorative practice in school fosters a positive climate and empowers students as owners of learning. It is remarkably effective and especially essential for students who struggle to learn, are frustrated in school, and ultimately face failure.
Restorative assessments interrupt that sequence. It shifts the focus from assessments that indicate deficiencies to ones that illuminate strengths. With appropriate routines, all types of learners, from the disengaged to the divergent, can make progress towards mastery. Restorative assessment includes these essential elements:
- Reciprocal means that learning intentions are visible to both the student and the teacher. Expectations are clear and exemplars are available. Transparency, authenticity, accountability, and dialogue offer a safety net. When anyone stumbles—be it the teacher, student, or learning partners—interventions and resolutions are prompt and focused.
- Responsive assessment relies on multiple types of evidence of student learning. It responds to strengths and challenges with just-right adjustments to practice, pacing, and depth. This formative approach, embedded throughout teaching and learning, incorporates feedback that is timely, specific, and actionable.
- Inclusive considers the needs of all learners and supports students as goal-setters and planners. It is fair and unbiased. Relevant learning intentions and reasonable challenge is supported by transparency, flexibility and enriching guidance.
- Restorative assessment starts with the learner and continually monitors their progress. It relies on multiple assessment methods throughout the taxonomies of learning. From knowing to producing, students rely on their strengths and overcome setbacks through reflection and self-assessment.
We live in a world of soundbites, but assessment cannot be restored simply with platitudes. Synthesizing what is proven about best practice improves learning outcomes for all students. This doesn’t require an extreme makeover; rather it relies on purposeful practice, complementary pathways, and balanced approaches and that engage the whole community and get everyone on the ramp to success.