Analysing how assessment may support pupils learning
Formative assessment has always existed, even before the national curriculum and assessment had been implemented, but it was never acknowledged in legislation. It is commonly referred to as ‘Assessment for Learning’ and it is only over the past decade that its significance has been recognised by researchers and practitioners (Hall and Burke, 2004). It is now a crucial aspect of the national strategies and personalized learning. There has been numerous research carried out which has been dedicated to formative assessment, providing an understanding of the process and how it functions within the classroom. Black and William (2002, 2003) conducted a review of formative assessment and believe it to be better than any other assessment strategy that has ever been implemented. As a result of their research the DfES made assessment for learning a significant aspect of its key stage three and primary national strategy (James, et al, 2005). Shirley Clarke (2001, 2008) has written extensively on formative assessment and wrote books which provide teachers with guidance in order to help them implement formative assessment within their classroom. Caroline Gipps (1995) investigated the effect of ‘intuition’ and ‘evidence’ in assessment and has helped develop an understanding of suitable feedback. Furthermore, the National Strategies (DfES, 2010) and the TLRP Learning how to Learn Project (James et al, 2005) have created research based on formative assessment to reflect how it is working in schools and how it could be further utilised as an effective method to help pupils learn. However, the effectiveness of formative assessment has been questioned for a number of reasons due to a lack of consistency in schools and sharing of knowledge between teachers and also training (James et al, 2005). This essay will reflect on this research that has been conducted in relation to formative assessment and compare it with my school observations, in order to evaluate its effectiveness in order to reach a conclusion as to if it can enhance learning.
Assessment is now focused on the learner and aims to help them consistently make progress. Formative assessment is encouraged occur in all aspects of teaching (Hall and Burke, 2004). It has become increasingly recognised in schools since the introduction of Assessment for learning, in order to promote children’s learning. Alexander (2009, p.315) argues that formative assessment is ‘the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there’. He refers to it as a ‘cyclic process’ in which teachers carefully collect information in relation to pupils understandings and skills, through the teachers regular observations, questioning skills and listening to children’s perspectives and feelings with regards to their learning. Feedback is crucial and is involved in all aspects of preparation for lessons and children are encouraged to think about their own learning and play an important role in active learning through a range of self assessment processes. (Alexander, 2009, Lambert and Lines, 2000). This assessment process keeps the teacher constantly informed as to how the children are making progress (Lambert and Lines, 2000, Clarke, 2008). Teachers then use this information that they have collated in order to devise the next appropriate steps in learning (Alexander, 2009, Lambert and Lines, 2000).
Summative assessment plays a crucial role alongside formative assessment and one cannot exist without the other. Sadler (1989, p.120) states that ‘summative contrasts with formative assessment in that it is concerned with summing up or summarising the achievement status of a student and is geared towards reporting at the end of a course of study especially for purposes of certification’. Formative assessment is a continuous process and summative assessment provides a standard of attainment by summing up all of the available evidence (Kyriacou, 2007). However, some argue that summative assessment can often take over from formative assessment. Teaching can be altered due to future testing, making children be tested in preparation rather than allowing opportunities to learn and make use of formative assessment (Harlen, 2006). From my observations in year 6 the whole year is focused on the SATS meaning frequent testing during lesson time and teaching constantly relates to the tests. As a result formative assessment seems to be pushed to one side. Alexander (2009) argues that Primary school records and reports in 2008 focused on children’s performance in levels, despite the fact that providing a level was only necessary at the end of key stages.
Sharing the learning objective is the first ‘active element’ of formative assessment (Clarke, 2001, p.19). Teachers are expected to share the learning objectives with the class for each lesson and teachers and children work together in order to develop the success criteria for each unit of work, allowing the children to understand what they need to do to achieve the lesson objective, therefore becoming more engaged in their learning process. The success criteria provides scaffolding which aids the children s learning, making sure that they fully understand their next steps and therefore are in control of their learning. Schools following this process feel that the children have become more confident and autonomous learners as a result. Furthermore, children clearly understand what they are learning and how they will see if they have reached their learning aims though the discussion of learning objectives and learning outcomes . One Year 6 pupil spoke of the success criteria which he refers to it as the ‘steps to success’ and said, 'The "steps to success" guide me through what I have to do in the lesson. They show me how I have improved since the beginning of the week. In Year 4, I sometimes struggled to know what to do if I finished my work but with "steps to success", I know what to do. I find it much easier now because they lead me through the lesson.' (DfES, 2010).
Clarke (2008) argues that children become more motivated and on task if they are clear as to what the learning objective is. She interviewed 72 children, asking them if their teachers shared the lesson objectives with the class and a significant proportion of children replied no. Clarke spoke with the teachers and encouraged them to identify the learning objectives at the start of each lesson and display them somewhere in the classroom. She notes that the difference among the same children was hugely significant. When asking the children for a second time, they provided good feedback about the learning objective, how it was displayed and what the learning objectives may have been. It benefited a range of abilities, as the more able children said that it helped them to concentrate on the task ahead and kept them motivated. The less able children could look up at the board to remind themselves of the learning objective and the success criteria when they needed to. I clearly observed this in a school I have been in and some which have not and I have noticed the difference. During my preliminary attachment in a year 2 class the learning objective was to write a simple sentence. She told the class however, what she would be looking for would be good use of capital letters, full stops, finger spaces and a wow word. On the board she displayed the learning objective and success criteria using cartoon laminates of WALT and WILF and the children could refer back to them both throughout the lesson in order to remind themselves what they needed to include in their sentence. It actually got some children excited as they all wanted to achieve the learning objective so that they would receive a stamp on their work. It clearly kept them motivated as they had something to aim for and they knew what they had to do in order to be successful. In another school in which the learning objective and success criteria was not made visible or even discussed, I could see a huge difference. The lesson was about instructions and the children had to create instructions as to how to make a sandwich. The lesson was quite chaotic as the children in this lesson were constantly asking for assistance and were not on task. The standard of work was completely different as they did not seem to be aware of how to set their work out They did not use capital letters, they would forget to use finger spaces and would not write on the line. They did not have anything to aim for and therefore their work was not to the best of their ability. The teacher didn’t seem to know who was struggling or doing well. This clearly reflects the importance of identifying the learning objectives as they are crucial to the children’s understanding of the task. Harris (2007) argues that children need to be fully aware of what is expected of them and what they need to have achieved by the end of the session and how. It is only then that children can subsequently concentrate on their goal and are more likely to achieve it. Children then have the necessary tools in order to succeed, they can visualise success.
Questioning plays a significant role in formative assessment. Through effective questioning children play an active role in their learning and can independently explore. Teachers adopt the role of facilitating children’s learning rather than being the ‘font of all knowledge’ (Harris, 2007, p.255). Pollard et al (2008, p.399) states that teachers can ‘use a variety of questions for different purposes, for example, to engage interest, to ascertain current knowledge, to gain insight into children’s understanding or to check learning’.
Open questioning can provide a wide range of answers and helps children extend their thinking. Teachers use this form of questioning in order to see what the children understand and know. Children can explore meaning for themselves, in a year six science lesson about dissolving children were asked what they think would happen when water was added to salt. The children had not yet learnt directly about dissolving but they could think about what they thought would happen building on experiences that they had had and knowledge they already knew in order to explore the answer. Piaget spoke of ‘assimilation’ and ‘accommodation’. Pollard (2008, p.175) states that, ‘when children encounter a new experience they both ‘accommodate’ their existing thinking to it and ‘assimilate’ aspects of the experience.’ As a result the children move from one phase of ‘mental equilibration’ and rearrange their thoughts in order to compose another. Through teachers providing children with innovative experiences and situations and adopting an open ended questioning process, this can elicit assimilation and accommodation. As a result children develop a more advanced understanding of their experience.
In year two during my preliminary attachment I observed a numeracy lesson. Using whiteboards, the teacher told the children she was thinking of a number which had so many tens and so many units. The children had to write answer on board then they would all show the teacher after a count of 3. Through using her observations skills she could see that a child had misunderstood, instead of pointing out they were wrong she questioned the child skillfully and said ‘Dylan, if I said that this number had 5 tens and 4 units, what should be in my tens column?’ The child quickly realised he had mixed up his tens and units and quickly changed his answer. Through questioning from the teacher the child corrected his own mistake. Clarke (2001) argues that this skilful questioning helps the child to develop thinking without direct teaching.
In each class there are children who constantly contribute in class discussions and always want to put their hand up and then there are those who like to shy away and not take part. However, in classrooms today there are opportunities in order to prevent this from happening so that all children are included, such as talk partners, having no hands up and providing children enough time to answer a question. Children know that there is a possibility of them being asked a question and therefore makes all children think of an answer and not just sit back and let others do the work (Hall and Burke, 2004). Piaget who was a constructivist theorist focused on intellectual development. He believed that leaning was an active process and that children construct meaning from the world around them, from their own personal experiences and interaction with others (Pollard, 2008). Therefore, for Piaget it is important for children to have control over their learning so that they are independent and can build knowledge for themselves. Through talk partners I have noticed that the quieter children who refrain from putting their hands up during the lesson, find themselves having to express their thoughts to their partners. Those particular children were more confident after having this time with their partner to share their thought with the rest of the class. The Primary National Strategy (2004, p.19) states that ‘talk is an important means by which we communicate and build social relationships, and it plays a crucial role in learning.’ The ‘talk partners’ strategy is adopted in many classrooms and means that all children get the opportunity to think, discuss and express themselves orally. Some children who usually refrain from answering questions feel more confident discussing their thoughts with their peers as they feel that to the whole class can be quite daunting. Many children fear that they will get a question wrong which prevents their learning process, however, through ‘talk partners’ this obstacle can be defeated as it becomes a shared responsibility which as a result can raise children’s individual confidence and further their engagement. In addition, it provides the teacher with more opportunities to ask higher order questions which require children to think more and through talk partners children have more time to think (LCC, 2006).
Butt (2010) states that it is much better to recognise that all learners can and will improve on their previous performance rather than creating two teams of winners and losers. Furthermore, Black and William (1998, as cited in Harris, 2007) argue that learning within the classroom should not focused on getting right answers and should be about how children can develop and move forward with the support of their teacher. In a year 2 classroom that I was in, the children all felt comfortable answering questions in class, there was no fear of getting anything wrong. If they did get it wrong the teacher would answer positively respond and help the child to understand. Questioning should create learning rather than test it. Wrong answers help children learn. Black et al (2002) argues that it is crucial to provide children with enough time to answer a question so that they can think. However, it is argued that it is often common that this is not the case (Butt, 2010 and Black et al, 2002) and teachers either ask another child or simply provide the answer. Through observing class teachers, they have all tried to allow for ample thinking time but due to the age, concentration levels and timing of her lessons this was not always achieved. Rowe (1974, as cited in Black et al, 2003) conducted a study in classrooms and discovered that the average time that teachers waited after asking a question before interceding was only 0.9 seconds. In relation to this study, the KMOFAP (as cited in Black et al, 2003) study acknowledged that such a low wait time prevents many children from taking part in class discussion. If children know that this is what will happen, they will not feel it is necessary to even try and attempt the question, knowing that the teacher will soon move on. Butt (2010) argues that teachers should not accept those children who they know know the answer even if it is human nature for teachers to automatically go to those children first. He argues that by allowing more thinking time, this gives all children the opportunity to respond and improves the collective thinking process. Rowe (1974, as cited in Black et al 2003) investigated the effect that allowing longer waiting time had on children. He concluded that their answers were more extensive, more children wanted to respond and their answers were more confident. Also, other children expanded and questioned answers from their peers and a wider range of explanations evolved.
Feedback through marking
Sadler (1989, p.120-121) argues that, ‘teachers use feedback to make programmatic decisions with respect to readiness, diagnosis and remediation. Students use it to monitor the strengths and weaknesses of their performances, so that aspects associated with success or high quality can be recognised and reinforced, and unsatisfactory aspects modified or improved’. George and Cowan (1999) and Fautley and Savage (2008) discuss that assessment alone will not solely contribute to pupils progression but it is the timely feedback which is essential for the assessment to be worthwhile and effective. In light of Vygotsky’s theoretical perspective, the teacher adopts the significant role of the 'reflective agent'. The teacher provides 'meaningful and appropriate guidance and extension to the cognitive structuring and skill development arising from the child's initial experiences. This . . . supports the child's attempts to "make sense" and enables them to cross the zone of proximal development' (Pollard, 1990, as cited in Tunstall and Gipps, 1996, p.390). The child becomes more independent and the support is no longer as necessary as the child becomes more confident at that particular level (Torrance and Pryor, 1998, Gipps, 1994, Harris, 2007).
Kluger and DeNaisi (1996, as cited in Black et al 2003) looked at reports to show if feedback effected children’s performance. They found that children’s learning improved only when it provided guidance as to how the child could improve. There was a decrease in performance when they are only told if they have done well or poorly as it effected their ego.
Butler (1988, as cited in Black et al, 2002, p.8) conducted research and states that, ‘learning can be advanced by feedback through comments, the giving of marks or grades has a negative effect in that pupils ignore comments when marks are also given’. Children work towards targets and tips given if there is no mark or grade present, as that deflects the child’s attention.
Black et al (2003) refer to Butler (1987) who carried out a controlled experiment based on the feedback which children received within the classroom for their written work and what she found reflects my observations. In her experiment, she constructed three separate methods of feedback to children, mark, comments, and marks and comment together. The study reflected that the children’s learning was most improved for the particular group who had been given only comments by their teachers. The other two groups had shown no learning gains at all from the marking they received. The teachers involved in the experiment discussed putting into practice comment only marking and argued that from their experience, on rare occasions do children actually ready any comments that their teacher has made and children prefer marks, they want a number or a grade so that they can easily compare these with their friends and compete with on another. They went on to say that teachers tend not to give children the time to read the comments or take them on board and that the same comments appear in children’s book meaning that they are not specific to the child.
I witnessed a teacher in year 1 using the 2 stars and a wish feedback strategy which provides positive and constructive feedback to the children. The teacher would write two positive comments in relation to their achievement of the success criteria, then a comment on how they can develop. Through using this strategy the childs self esteem remains intact as there is more focus on the strengths rather than the child’s developmental needs (Harris, 2007). When children received their books in this class they were very excited to see what they had been granted as it was a strategy used for all pieces of work and therefore the children knew what to expect. They were very motivated after receiving two positive reactions to their work. I asked the teacher how the children responded to the wish and she said that they appreciated the target that they had been set and that she always made sure when she returned the books that she gave the children time to read the comments in order for them to take them on board at begin to work at achieving them. She said the children would work hard on their next piece of work on that particular target. This strategy would link to the theory of Lev Vgotsky (1978, p.l86) who argued from a social constructivist perspective. He referred to the ‘zone of proximal development’ which he defined as ‘the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’ He would argue that it is crucial in order to recognise not just what children have accomplished, but also what they have the potential to accomplish with the assistance and support of others, such as another adult or even a fellow peer (Torrance and Pryor, 1998). Children can achieve the next step and learn actively when they are aware of what they have learnt and what comes next. The teachers provide scaffolding and supply the glue that allows them to fit all the information together and help them to reach that next level (Harris, 2007).
However, this process of giving the children time to read their comments is something that I have not observed consistently in all schools. In one school in year 2, the children were given their books back in order to start their next activity and were not prompted by their teacher to look at their marked work. None of the children thought to look back at the previous days work to see what comments they had been given. For the children, the lesson had been forgotten as they had a new objective for that day and something new to focus on. They clearly did not take on board what the comments said. Sadler (1989, as cited in 1998) argued that no learning can occur if the child is not actively involved. Feedback needs both the involvement of the teacher and the child in order to be effective. It is only effective if practiced correctly by the teacher, such as the 3 stars and a wish example I have given above. It is essential that time is given to the children in order to take on board the comments and that the comments were unique to the child. It is then when children can learn. From my observations I have witnessed good deliveration of feedback and poor. Not all teachers follow the same method and there were a few who would simply write good or well done and this also includes when supply teachers would come in, this system would flaw again. One particular teacher did not put meaningful comments on the children’s work, would often write the same comment on all their work and he children would not even read it. I think that many teachers may find it time consuming and simply do not have enough training or support to carry it out efficiently.
Black et al (2003) argues that parents, senior management and OFSED inspectors have not reacted in favour of comment only marking. They stress that comments should help parents concentrate and support children’s learning instead of focusing on a single grade and then causing the parents to make their children work harder. A grade or a number gives the child no direction or ways to improve and therefore an opportunity to improve their learning does not exist. Grades and numbers reminds the children of their ability rather than the effort they put in and children can make it into a competition, both which can be quite damaging to the self esteem of some children. Whereas as feedback concentrates on the positive and how the children can improve and enhance their learning. Children need a lot more praise and positive feedback in comparison to the feedback for development. It encourages them immensely through the praise they receive which then causes them to strive to develop and take the comments on board. It also prevents children from comparing grades with one another and therefore eliminating competition within the classroom (Harris, 2007).
Feedback has been criticised for focusing on the quality and presentation of work rather than the progress of the learner. Introducing stickers, certificates or gold stars as a reward for good work may see children working to gain these rewards and not recognising the actual learning needs (Torrence and Pryor 2007, Wiliam and Black 2001). Additionally, teacher’s may have difficulty assessing pupil’s without comparing them to others in the class. The influence of negative feedback through formative assessment methods on pupils has shown that some children become less motivated as they think they will amount to nothing and opt out of trying to improve their achievement (Hodgen and Marshall 2005). Their self-esteem, and in turn their motivation to learn becomes dented and they develop a negative disposition to learning that may affect their education throughout life (Pendlington 2004). Teachers must work hard not to damage the quality of pupil-teacher relationships by worsening their educational experiences and undermining their self- confidence.
Oral feedback is used constantly within a classroom. Research conducted by Priestly and Sime (2005) in schools showed that teachers felt that they found it useful to the children by giving them feedback during the lesson when moving around the classroom. The children would not have to wait until the next day in which case they would have completely forgotten.
Clarke, (2008, mine, pg. 36) argues that through listening the teacher is able to ‘note the level of understanding and addressing any misconceptions on the spot, leading to more immediate feedback and modification of plans to meet learning needs as they arise: active learning and formative assessment in action’. In year 6 during a science lesson the teacher used planned formative assessment. The lesson was on the body and the children in their talk partners had to discuss what they knew about the body and what they would like to know. They were then to write this down in the form of a mind map. During the talking session, the teacher was consciously listening in order to obtain a sense of their understanding and see what they needed to learn. From using her listening and observation skills she could see that some were having difficulty naming and expressing the roles of particular organs. As a result, she discussed the names of organs and then possible vocabulary they could use to describe their roles and they created a word bank which she kept on the board to aid those children. This feedback was immediately effective as those children who were having difficulties were quickly identified and support was given instantly.
Self / peer assessment
Self and peer assessment is argued to be crucial to children’s learning (Sadler, 1989, as cited in Black et al, 2002). Black et al (2002) claim that, ‘pupils can only achieve a learning goal if they understand that goal and can assess what they need to do to reach it. So self assessment is essential to learning’. Strijbos and Sluijsmans (Birenbaum, 1996, Boud, 1990, Orsmand et al, 2004, Sambell and McDowell, 1998, as cited in Strijbos and Sluijsmans, 2010, p. 266) add that ‘peer assessment stimulates students to share responsibility, reflect, discuss and collaborate’. In order for this process to work effectively, children must be ‘let into the secrets of teachers professional practice’ so that they can gain some knowledge and understanding (James, 1998, p.173).
Sadler (1989, as cited in Harris, 2007) argues that when children self and peer assess they work at a much better level and it creates an increase in their self esteem, as the teacher has trusted the children to carry out such a mature teacher like task so competently. Schools have noticed the significant effects of self and peer assessment within the classroom. Children are taking ownership of their own learning, rather than education being something which they simply experience and what is done to them. Through children assessing each others work using the success criteria, teachers have noticed children’s increasing independence and self esteem, as children feel in control of their learning (Harris, 2007, Black et al, 2003, Butt, 2010). Children do tend to complete their work more carefully, with more thought and feel proud, when they know one of their peers will be marking it (Black et al, 2003).
Butt (2010) argues however that the self and peer assessment process is quite difficult. Children having to be honest with each other and also having an understanding of what they need to do in order to improve. He claims that more able children find the process a lot easier compared to the less able. More able students he argues have a clear understanding of what they have achieved and how, easily adopting self assessment before handing in their work to be marked as well as being able to question their work if it does not reach the required standard. He states that the less able children do not possess this ability and lack in self confidence and the ambition to succeed.
Harris (2007) refers to research in order to support her claims of how beneficial peer/self assessment is. A Portuguese study was carried out by Fontana and Fernandes in 1994, in which 25 maths teachers and 354 children aged 8-14 completed tests before and after a course. Both groups had the same amount of time, learnt the same topics and both groups showed improvements. However, the group which took part in self assessment achieved twice a much compared to the other group. Those children who had self assessed had also been clearly identified what the learning outcomes and the success criteria and they assessed their own learning outcomes based on the activities they had been assigned to do. This evidence reflects how in order for self and peer assessment to function correctly, the learning objective and success criteria needs to be clearly identified. (Pollard et al, 2008)
A lot of research claims that children easily accept criticism from their peers rather than their teachers or anyone else in a position of authority (Harris, 2007, Black et al, 2002). However, this claim is something that I disagree with. In year one, peer assessment was used quite frequently especially in literacy. Children would swap books with their partners, they would give a tick each for, capital letters, finger spaces, full stops and a wow word and if they achieved all four ticks they would draw a smiley face for their friend. However, sometimes this strategy was abused by the children, especially between girls. I found that on one particular table of all girls, even though they were only 5 and 6 would often have disagreements on the playground and not talk to one particular member of the group. When peer assessing each others books they were using this strategy against the child who had been left out that day and would make comments about her work that were not necessary. She said ‘I am not giving you a tick for your capital letter because it is too small and your handwriting is not very neat’. Children being unfair and in competition with on another is something I have observed quite frequently during peer assessment. Wragg (2007, p.67) argues that this is something which can occur in peer assessment and states, ‘if children are working in competition with each other, they may be harsh or even unfair in their appraisal of what they see as their ‘competitors’. Even if they are meant to work collaboratively, they may not always behave harmoniously’. In addition, peer and self assessment is argued to not have such a positive effect on autistic children as they felt extremely demanding and caused their self-esteem to be negatively effected (Harris, 2007).
A classroom culture is created in which children feel comfortable to share with the rest of the class and their teacher about their learning and if they are not sure about something and what they are confident about. I have observed the traffic light strategy a great deal in the schools I have visited. Children use traffic light fans at the end of a lesson in order to indicate how they found the lesson. Children were comfortable to admit that they were not sure and might need more help. They knew that the teacher’s reaction would be relaxed and positive. When 2 children showed their traffic light as being amber, she said to the children, ‘Thank you for telling me you are unsure, what is it you would like help with and we can go through it now and help you learn’. Problems, difficulties and mistakes are welcomed within the classroom as they are recognised as a way forward to improve learning. Teachers can see who needs more assistance and can then include this in her future planning in order to aid the children.
After any piece of work the teacher asked pupil’s to complete a feedback exercise to allow her to know how well they think they did in the session and how far they understood the task they were undertaking. At the bottom of every page the teacher stamped a set of faces; one sad, one undecided and one happy. The pupil would colour the face that best applied to them and their achievement in that piece of work. The teacher looked at these to gauge how the pupil’s had done. If, for example, there were a lot of sad faces the teacher may assume that the pupil’s did not understand or think they did well at an activity. She would them assess her delivery of the lesson, alter her material or take time to do one-on-one input to help that individual child. It has been argued that systems such as this are ineffective forms of formative assessment as they are initiated too late for any worthwhile improvement. The child is assumed to have forgotten or moved onto the next task at hand by the end of the session and thus not be focused on changing or improving that piece of work (Clarke 2008, Briggs et al 2008). Instead instant or continuous feedback throughout the lesson is seen as best practice to allow pupil’s to reflect, internalise and apply changes to their work. This has been reflected in my observations as discussed. However, in a fast paced year one lesson this is not always suitable (Briggs et al 2008). The younger pupil’s may get distracted by the interventions and stop start lesson development. Similarly, a year one lesson usually only last for 50 minutes so after the introduction to the lesson, the setting of lesson objectives and general organising of the class there may be little time for mini-conclusions.
Recent research has discovered that most teachers do follow the procedures of AfL correctly, through sharing the assessment criteria with children and using peer or self assessment. However, only 20% of teachers did so in a way which allowed children to become more independent learners (James et al, 2005). In addition, Ofsted (2003, as cited in PNS, 2010, p11) stress that they have observed a great deal of good practice in assessment in schools which has promoted children’s learning. However this practice is not of to this standard in other schools and remains a significant area of development. Their report stated that assessment was ‘unsatisfactory’ in one in six lessons in literacy and one in nine in mathematics. It also criticised targets in numeracy and how they were not effective in helping children move forward (PNS, 2010). Support is being given to schools in order for them to improve their assessment practices (PNS, 2010). Formative assessment is only truly effective when practiced correctly. Simply testing children is not real learning and does not help children progress (Butt, 2010).
Evidence from research and from my observations have reflected that it does enhance children’s learning. However, formative assessment is clearly very demanding and complex and changes in classroom practice are central to its effectiveness. My observations and research has reflected that not all teachers are consistently adopting formative assessment correctly or even at all. I have witnessed first hand how when formative assessment is not adopted correctly, the classroom can fall apart. The Government and schools need to raise teacher awareness of what formative assessment is, the important role pupil’s play in their learning, why formative assessment is important, and how it can be incorporated into teaching. Furthermore, it appears that national tests or summative assessment and teacher’s preparation for these levelling exercises diverts teachers towards convergent systems, due to there being such ‘high stakes’ related to the results, especially in year six (Pendlington 2004, Harlen, 2006). Many schools are criticised for being too concerned with attainment and not achievement. There is a need to enlighten teacher’s of effective assessment for learning approaches so that effective life- long learning may take place. Continuing professional development for teacher’s appears to be the key in enabling them to plan and implement effective lessons. There is a lot which I will take and have learnt from my school experiences so far with regards to formative assessment. It is something which I wish to incorporate into my planning and teaching in SBL1 well. I have witnessed a variety of assessment for learning methods adopted, some which proved to be very successful and which I hope to adopt, such as the self assessment using traffic light fans, good questioning skills, observation techniques through talk partners and show me activities. In addition, what seemed to be apparent is that through introducing the children to methods of self-evaluation, feedback to teacher’s and peers, and personalised learning strategies, they play a crucial role in helping the children throughout the school and into adulthood. It highlights the importance of the school environment in equipping children with attitudes, skills and knowledge for the future, which is something I want to play a role in.
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