National Curriculum Establishes Assessment As Part Of Teaching Education Essay

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The National Curriculum establishes assessment as an integral part of teaching and learning, stating that 'assessment is how pupils recognise achievement and make progress, and how teachers shape and personalise their teaching' (National Curriculum, 2010). Assessment in all its guises is a critical factor in planning for short, medium and long-term pupil progress. If the importance of formative and summative assessment is recognised during the planning stages, it allows for a more in-depth analysis of pupil achievement and attainment and a more constructive evaluation of the effectiveness of personal teaching methods. The focus of this paper is the importance of effective planning of both formative and summative assessment for teaching and learning. Without some form of assessment it would be incredibly difficult for both teachers and learners to gauge how much progress has been made during a lesson or over the course of a particular unit of study. Assessment should not be simply an add-on at the end of a unit of work, but rather a fundamental component of daily classroom teaching and learning. It is for these reasons that I have chosen it as the focal point of this paper. In its simplest form, assessment is the process by which teachers analyse students' learning (Briggs and Ellis, 2004. p.63); however it is much more than that. Assessment enables learners to recognise achievement and make progress, and teachers to shape and adapt their teaching to individual needs and aspirations (National Curriculum, 2010).

Research has shown that assessment (with explicit regard to its National Curriculum purposes) can be divided into two key areas that work as separate entities yet are inextricably linked. Pachler, Barnes & Field have labelled these two areas as the 'macro and micro dimensions' of assessment (2009. pp.235-236). The macro strand consists of the national, regional and local/school-based legislation, policy and documentation that are frequently updated and used to create performance data. The micro strand, which involves the monitoring and improvement of individual class/pupil knowledge, understanding and learning, utilises these policies and documentation in order to achieve the results required to further inform and develop the macro strand. This cyclical structure of assessment only reinforces its importance, as the success and progression of both the individual pupil and the national education system depend upon it. With such significance weighing upon its core application through teaching and learning in the classroom, it is essential that assessment is given due consideration during the planning process in order to ensure that it is used resourcefully and profitably.

In order to make the area of assessment more accessible for classroom use, it is possible to further categorise it so that it becomes a functional feature of teaching and learning. The micro strand of assessment can itself be broken down into two distinct yet also interlinked dimensions, namely formative and summative assessment. The Assessment Reform Group have defined the formative, assessment for learning as '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 next and how best to get there' (Assessment Reform Group, 2002). Pachler, Barnes & Field have defined the summative, assessment of learning as 'assessment which describes/summarises what a learner has achieved/attained. A snapshot of achievement. It also informs teachers of how much of and how well a group of learners has progressed against the intended learning outcomes' (2009, p.236). The 1987 report compiled by the Task Group on Assessment and Testing (TGAT) put forward the concept that formative and summative assessment could and ought to be used in tandem for the benefit of pupil progress.

According to the TGAT, combining the results of assessments with the specific purpose of providing formative information could provide a beneficial general picture of a pupil's educational progress. However, the TGAT also claimed that since summative assessments occur at the end of a phase of learning, formative information could not be obtained from them and therefore could not demonstrate an accurate view of the pupil's educational history (TGAT Report, 1987. paragraph 25). Therefore, using both forms of assessment together would appear to be a fundamental approach to examining a pupil's overall academic attainment and was a core factor in my own planning for teaching and learning.

The planning process itself is at the heart of teaching and learning. It is through planning a series of lessons that a clear direction for the intended learning is achieved. Individual lesson plans relate via units of work to the scheme of work, which outlines the work to be covered over a period of time or a period of study defined by examination specifications (Pachler, Barnes & Field, 2009. p.100). Each individual lesson planned needs to be part of a 'bigger picture' in order to set realistic medium-term learning targets. Killen states that there must be a direct and obvious connection between what you do lesson-by-lesson and what the syllabus suggests pupils should learn in the long term (2006. p.66). A teacher needs to create an effective Medium Term Plan clarifying what it is a pupil is expected to learn and a variety of possible methods to help them achieve this. Medium term plans begin to situate the learning in contexts that are meaningful, relevant and appropriate (Browne, 2007. p.180). A well organised medium term plan with achievable learning objectives and outcomes will help to provide a clear and concise teaching and learning path.

For the purposes of this paper I am going to evaluate the planning and teaching of a sequence of lessons for one Year 7 German class. My first step in this process was to gather as much information as I could about the School Phase 1 (SP1) school, the department and the class itself, paying particular attention to the school's rare social setting. I did so as a result of prior reading before arriving at the SP1 school, namely Cohen, Manion and Morrison's recommendation that one should begin by investigating features and resources of the neighbourhood in which the school is situated, as some of these may prove to be relevant to the lessons you will be teaching and organising (2002. p.44). Through discussions with my mentor and other members of staff I discovered that a large proportion of the pupils in the SP1 school come from military families and as a result of the nature of this occupation, the school can frequently have pupils arriving and leaving at any time of the school year. Therefore, it was necessary during the planning process to be mindful of the likely possibility that a pupil with no prior knowledge of the language may join the group at any stage. The Year 7 class was a mixed-ability group comprised of pupils with no prior exposure to the German language before starting into Year 7, pupils who were taught German in Year 6 as part of a Primary Languages Programme and pupils who had resided in British Army Bases in Germany for more than six months. With such a varied mix of abilities in the group Cohen, Manion and Morrison's recommendation proved to be crucial to planning the sequence of lessons I was to teach.

Before writing my own medium term plan I observed the group with their regular classroom teacher. I had also intended to familiarise myself with the department's policies and documentation, however, the department was undergoing changes and developments at the time so current and up-to-date policies and documentation were not available until after I had taken over teaching the class from their regular teacher. As a result of this I was not fully aware of the homework or marking procedures of the department. This is one of the major areas for improvement I have highlighted for developing my own professional practice as I aim to be more thorough in my future understanding of departmental practices even when no formal documentation is accessible. Despite this setback, I began to develop my medium term plan by using the National Curriculum and the Framework for MFL as well as the department's Schemes of Work and the Teacher's Guides that corresponded with them.

Through discussions with my mentor (who was also the classroom teacher of this particular group) I established where the class was in their learning in accordance with the scheme of work and together we agreed an appropriate starting point for my medium term plan. I used all of the information available to me until I had created a basis for the teaching and learning that would take place over the period of four to five weeks. Each week I taught the group one lesson of 100 minutes duration. Before I took over the teaching of full lessons, I began by teaching small elements of them including starters and activities during a lesson; however they did not feature in my medium term plan as they took place before the agreed starting point. My medium term plan covered one full unit of work, comprising of five 100 minute lessons; however as it was a working document I altered and amended it in line with the progress of actual teaching and learning which was taking place (appendix i). For each lesson accounted for in the medium term plan I included the following: the lesson focus with reference to key framework objectives, the learning objectives and expected learning outcomes of the lesson, the resources which may be used during the lesson and a general outline of possible learning activities. I subsequently created individual lesson plans for each lesson that would be taught which provided a more comprehensive outline of the teaching and learning involved (appendix ii).

With this paper in mind I narrowed the focus of my evaluation of my planning for teaching and learning on my use of both formative and summative assessment to inform pupil progress. I planned to use both forms of assessment with specific regard to the monitoring of pupil progress in Modern Foreign Language Attainment Target 4 - Writing. The SP1 school divides the academic year into six terms and teaches a compressed, two year Key Stage 3 curriculum and therefore has high achievement targets for the end of Year 7. The department concentrates on these through centring its summative assessment on one Attainment Target at a time. "Focus 3: To raise achievement at KS3. Quantitative Targets: To enable 80% or more of yr7 students achieve NC Level 3 by end of term 2 in writing" (appendix iii). As I would be teaching this group during term 2 I incorporated this target into my planning. I developed lessons in which I tried to ensure there was adequate progression of writing skills. In order to maintain a balance however, writing was not always a key focus of the lesson so that attainment of the other three language skills; speaking, listening and reading, could also be enhanced at a similar pace.

As I began to teach and evaluate full lessons, I noticed that the same problem areas of my teaching kept appearing which were having an effect on pupils' learning. These areas were pace, projection of voice and most importantly sticking to my lesson plans. In the beginning I was not able to translate my planning of lessons into teaching of lessons. On occasion I left out activities I had planned or created new activities during the lesson that I had not planned for. While this did not have a detrimental effect on pupils' learning, pupils' progress was slightly inhibited due to my own inability to deliver what I had planned. Although I had designed specific assessment for learning elements of lessons to inform me of pupil progress, these areas were sometimes overlooked in the beginning for reasons such as my timings of main activities were unrealistic or I was focusing too much of my attention on managing pupil behaviour. As a result of this, at the early stages of my teaching, I was often unable to give adequate time to assessing how much learning had actually taken place during the lesson. Throughout the lesson, however, I ensured that I would take notice of those pupils who were struggling with the learning involved and those who were finding it straightforward. In my evaluations after the lessons this helped me to determine a general impression of what areas of the lesson I had been successful in teaching and those that I needed to improve.

Once I had evaluated my teaching in relation to pupils' learning I was able to establish clear areas for development which would aid the improvement of both. My planning became more focused and my timings more realistic so that I was eventually able to plan a lesson that I could successfully teach and in which I could monitor the achievement of learning outcomes. I began to use formative assessment techniques more frequently and productively during lessons and could therefore provide more suitable assistance to pupils of all abilities. I delivered the sequence of lessons with the summative writing assessment in mind. While in the beginning I was unsure of how to set tasks at the appropriate level for the learning which had just taken place, evaluation and reflection of these lessons aided my preparation of future lessons ensuring I included and monitored tasks which showed obvious progression of writing skills. For example, written tasks which showed a development in pupil ability from copying single words for new vocabulary (Level 1) to gap-filling exercises which modelled key grammatical structures (Level 2) to ultimately adapting these models and writing their own sentences using the key vocabulary and grammatical structures previously learned (Level 3). The majority of pupils were then also able to recall this language and grammar from memory during the writing assessment itself (Level 4) (appendix iiii).

As I stated earlier, the focus of the department was to raise achievement at KS3 so that at least 80% of Year 7 pupils attained a Level 3 by the end of term 2. To evaluate the progress made during this term a formal summative assessment was given. In this assessment pupils had to write a short text about themselves using as much of the information they had learned since the beginning of term 1 as they could. I provided the pupils with a departmental-approved information outline sheet in English to assist them with the task (appendix v). In terms of pupil progress and reaching set targets, my teaching and pupils' learning was successful. The results of the summative assessment show that 94% of the group achieved a Level 3 or higher, with 83% of the group actually attaining a Level 4 (appendix vi). As a summative result this is above the target set, however, these results mean little if the pupils themselves do not understand the criteria for achieving these levels (appendix vii). In the lesson following the assessment I planned for the majority of the time to be spent on returning the assessments to pupils and introducing them to the idea of reflecting on their own development. I also provided them with teacher-feedback and allocated time for pupils to self-assess their own progress and identify areas to improve for their future learning. According to the Assessment Reform Group, 'successful learning occurs when learners have ownership of their learning; when they understand the goals they are aiming for; when, crucially they are motivated and have the skills to achieve success' (cited in Pachler, Barnes & Field, 2009. p.234).

As well as reaching attainment targets pupils, as well as teachers, need to develop the ability to reflect upon their own development and indentify the key areas that can motivate them to improve and reach higher. I introduced this vital element of lifelong learning by providing each pupil with a simple feedback sheet attached to their assessment, so that it was possible for them to reflect upon their work and distinguish and record areas that they completed successfully and those that they need to improve upon in order to raise their attainment levels in the future (appendix viii). I have discovered from my own planning and delivering a sequence of lessons why such value is placed on reflection and evaluation. Without evaluating what you have done in the past it would be an arduous task attempting to progress in the right direction. Evaluation is in itself a form of assessment. Evaluating my teaching in terms of pupils' learning has allowed me to see what progress I have made and what successes and failures have been encountered along the way. With this knowledge it has become much easier to identify clear targets and objectives for my future professional development.