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What is assessment?
Assessment is a vast topic that covers everything from national testing to everyday grading in the classroom. This assignment will hopefully look into the methods used in my two teaching practice schools and how it has impacted on my development to become a successful teacher during my time on the Graduate Teacher Programme. The first question I needed to ask during my research process was why we assess as teachers? The answers became clear and I highlight methods and strategies discussed in this assignment to improve my own teaching. The second question was, what exactly is assessment?
"The term 'assessment' refers to all those activities undertaken by teachers, and by their students in assessing themselves, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged" (Black and Wiliam, 1998).
The best teachers therefore will need to use assessment well and ensure that the information gathered in their assessment will be well used in the best interest of the individual pupils within the class. This is what I feel the difference between simply assessing because you have to, and good 'quality assessment' that is productive towards the pupils needs.
Quality assessment therefore is "essential for planning children's learning, based on their performance, so they are stretched to achieve their full potential" (DfES, 2003) and to make sure that "learning is driven by what teachers and pupils do in classrooms" (Black et al 2001).
The above quotes explain the importance of understanding what level the children are currently working at as this directly affects how and what you actually teach them in the classroom. It would be of little interest to teach the children something that they already understood and likewise by teaching the children a skill that is beyond their current understanding. This may lead to confusion, loss of confidence and reduced levels of motivation with the children. To be able to teach effectively you will need to know what level the children are currently working at, and this can be achieved by understanding how assessment is used as information of a student on learning.
The standards achieved at early ages are strongly associated on how the children achieve in their future progress according to the document quoted on page 3 (DfES 2003). So we need to know what levels the children are working at currently to improve achievement throughout the child's journey through school. Good assessment ensures pupil progression is monitored within a school, if done effectively pupils learning will always be challenged to achieve new levels of learning and thus progression can occur. It is therefore crucial that assessment needs to be both meaningful and informative in order to positively influence the learning of the pupils and to not hinder or de-motivate learning (Black and Wiliam, 1999).
Black and Wiliam's research indicated that learning through assessment depended on five key points:
â€¢ Provision of effective feedback to pupils
â€¢ Active involvement of pupils in their own learning
â€¢ Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment
â€¢ Recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation
and self-esteem of pupils, both of which are crucial influences on learning
â€¢ Need for pupils to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.
Learning through assessment's five key points (Black and Wiliam, 1999).
There are many forms of assessment used in schools and they can be used for varying purposes, with the most frequently used purposes as to why assessment is used in schools are shown below:
Why assessment used in schools:
â€¢ To provide you with feedback about pupils progress
â€¢ To provide pupils with educative feedback
â€¢ To motivate pupils
â€¢ To provide a record of progress
â€¢ To provide a statement of current attainment
â€¢ To assess pupils readiness for future learning
â€¢ To provide evidence of teacher and school effectiveness
Source: Kyriacou (2007).
Types of Assessment
"As a result of the diversity in the type of assessment practices used in schools, a number of key terms are now frequently referred to" (Clarke, 2005). Two of the more important assessment practices used in schools referring to the above quote include 'Summative' and 'Formative' assessment. Although both summative and formative assessment involve an evaluation of the children's knowledge and understanding formative assessment relies heavily on the judgment of the teachers day to day dealings with the child as opposed to summative which gains evidence of knowledge and understanding based on measurable and comparable results.
Summative assessment is used throughout schools as a form of evaluating and grading the level of knowledge of a child. This process provides a snapshot of a child at that moment in time on any particular subject, and is used as an assessment of learning as the form of a grade or result. Examples of this include end of topic tests and exams such as the SAT's at the end of key stages 1, 2 and 3, GCSE and A-Levels exams. Summative assessment is useful as it enables you to grade the mark against the expected standard and to gain an insight into what they know easily and fairly. You are then able to use this data and base this against other schools and children across the country and in schools similar to the one where the tests were taken to compare results and to see if there is a trend.
From the summative assessment brings data, and lots of it. This data can be cross referenced within the school's Local Authority, other similar schools, and all schools nationally using resources such as the Fischer Family Trust and Raise Online to compare statistical data. Following this analysis of data the school is able to highlight areas for development (via senior leadership team meetings that feed into a plan of action) which finally results in a whole school action plan. How my school achieves this will be looked into greater detail later on in this assignment and it shows the importance of collecting and storing good quality information.
Essentially summative assessment allows other schools to be compared with other schools including inspections, reports, statistics and league tables. The League Table for North East Lincolnshire is broken down into the appendix of this assignment.
The other well used form of assessment that schools use is called formative assessment, and it is very different to summative as it involves a subjective judgement from the teacher. It is formed from feedback and observations given during work during the school day. It is a form of assessment as to where learning needs to progress for the child or class and what concepts may or may not have been misunderstood. This method is often referred to as an assessment for learning of AfL (note: summative is an assessment of learning). This form of assessment enables a teacher to adapt future lessons into the timetable to recover concepts or to further development as learning has been above or below what was expected.
Assessment for Learning (AfL) encompasses the process of what formative assessment is. As Cowie reports, as a result of Black and Wiliam's research "assessment for learning should be an important feature of classroom teaching and learning and that it can raise achievement" (Cowie, 2005). Assessment for learning therefore, aims to enhance learning based on this feedback within lessons taught in a teacher learner process rather than to give an overall grade of learning. The Uk Assessment Reform Group (1999) identified the five principles of assessment for learning outlining some of the key principals shown below:
â€¢The provision of effective feedback to students.
â€¢The active involvement of students in their own learning.
â€¢Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment.
â€¢Recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self esteem of pupils, both of which are critical influences on learning.
â€¢The need for students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.
The Uk Assessment Reform Group (1999)
How Assessment is Used In My School Placements
The effect of assessment for learning "is that the students keep learning and remain confident that they can continue to learn at productive levels if they keep trying to learn" and that "student's don't give up in frustration or hopelessness" (Stiggins 2002). Examples of such practices used in my lead school have included the use of talking partners. This method is well used at SP and children's partners change every Monday morning, they are drawn at random as to who will be each others partner. In key stage 2 this was simply chosen by drawing lollipop sticks two at a time with that new set of partners sitting at the carpet together until no one is left. In key stage 1 a white board programme called 'Magic Hat' draws the children's names out in pairs with sound and animation. This process gets the children focused and excited as to who would be their partner for the week, it was observered that children became more motivated towards their own education which is a positive influence that encourages learning.
Self and peer assessment was also well used in both of my school placements, children were able to peer assess each others work using the tickled pink and green for growth formats in year 4 comfortably as this has been well bedded by the class teacher. In other year groups thumbs up or thumbs down was observed in circle time and plenary to see if children had grasped a new or potentially difficult concept. During an observation in October 2010 in my year 4 class, future lesson planning was adapted because children gave feedback to the teacher in a plenary that they didn't understand time problems 'at all' by showing a mass of thumbs down when asked if they had understood the new things they had learnt that day? This wasn't completely the case, but an extra session was put in place by the teacher the next day to reinforce learning and to improve confidence with the idea of time problems. This was evidence being observed of AfL being used within the school and how it was used to form an assessment of where the class were in terms of learning at that moment in time. This example follows the progression from Black et al's comments that "this type of assessment practice relies on teachers developing in their pupils an orientation towards learning as distinct from performance" (Black, P. et al. 2003), and it was clear to see that this class teacher had achieved exactly that.
I have observed many other assessment strategies in both of my placements at SP and LS schools, and they appear to adhere to what the UK Assessment Reform Group was suggesting in their five key principals. I have already taken them on board and am using them daily within my own teaching practice, they include:
Use of talk partners.
Peer and Self Assessment of work.
Opportunities to respond to marking feedback- from tickled pink and green for growth. This new opportunity is followed up and again marked.
AfL and oral feedback within lessons to help children to improve their ideas and understanding.
When I mark books a green pen is used to set targets to improve the children's learning individual to that pupil that they can respond to, and a pink pen is also used to act as feedback from a particular piece of work that is used in conjunction with the schools marking policy. SP School uses this 'tickled pink and green for growth' strategy across the school which covers aspects of learning. The intention is to provide pupils with up to three points which are particularly good within their work and then one area for growth, perhaps providing examples of how they can achieve this target. My second schools marking policy appeared to be more formal in what I had observed in key stage 1, although feedback was still given by the class teacher there was no where for the pupils to respond to new targets. Therefore I have taken both methods into my own styles of teaching but will favour SP's method as I have seen the increased levels of motivation when children look to see their previous days work.
How Assessment Data is Used
I have been fortunate enough to observe how the data has been used in my lead school (SP) and in my time in my second placement at (LS), I was shown how the school interprets this data to focus priorities towards its main school plan. The data collection is an ongoing process, SP and LS have gathered years of data and they are then able to cross reference their scores and levels locally (within the local authority) and nationally by analysing data through RaiseOnline (Raise Online) and the Fischer Family Trust (FFT).
The day to day tracking in classrooms is formed via assessing pupils progress (APP), this is collected individually for each child in every class by the child's class teacher with both formative and summative assessment methods used to gather evidence. The APP grading is moderated within both schools every term to ensure that they are fair and standardised in line with national standards. Moderation begins by collecting the data from at least three children in every class, the teachers grading is then scrutinised against evidence that is available within the school for that child. Evidence collected includes the child's text books (in English, Maths and Topic work) and photocopies of examples of work for that child. Evidence has included work recorded on individual whiteboards during plenary and starters to show that the child can understand a certain concept, method or skill. This evidence is named by the pupil, dated and photocopied to be used as evidence to be shown alongside textbook work to show reasoning for levelling a certain child. Up to three pieces of evidenced are needed to be able to securely level a child at the agreed level, and this was the case for both students.
The moderation at SP and LS is conducted by experienced professionals within the school (all form part of the leadership group) and they have suitable training on moderation and often liaise with other schools to share information and techniques on regular training sessions and moderation meetings. This is essential, as it ensures that the results are able to be assessed with other classes and other schools fairly and consistently so that every child is graded equally and fairly. All teachers questioned in both LS and SP had received training on APP and this ensures quality within the schools as a whole. The moderation process ensures consistency within the school, and hopes to avoid problems of levelling a child incorrectly.
The results of the APP at SP form the basis of what the school has adopted as its tracking grid coined the 'Pink and Grey' tracking grid which has been formed from an online assessment programme called Optimum O-Track which was exactly the same programme that my second school placement had just moved to in their assessment data tracking. A working example is shown on the next page with the pupils names blanked out. This simple but effective tool enables all staff to see what level the child (class by class) is achieving currently, and what level the expect to be by the end of the school academic year. The pink and grey tracking grid is a very useful tool that can easily be referred to highlight children underachieving academically or highlight those over exceeding expectations (gifted and talented). When using these tracking grids it is an easy job to highlight which children will require intervention strategies to enhance their learning opportunities within school. The class teachers are also able to use these grids to select ability groups within their class, at SP the class teacher has chosen three ability groups with LS having four with class TA to support their SEN group at all times.
The schools data is collected and continually tracked following every pupils progress from foundation throughout the child's school career, data is then transferred at the end of year 6 to the child's new school. During this learning journey data is compared with the child's expected levels which are predicted from a very early stage by comparing years of previous results from across the country. The Fischer Family Trust has been "helping LEAs and schools to make more effective use of performance data. It now works with all the LAs in England and Wales to provide a range of analyses to support self-evaluation, assessment and target setting" (fischertrust.org).
My second school placement at LS used a very similar method to the 'Pink and Grey' tracking grid which I was shown in detail during my time at the school because their results also came from the O-Track system. They have recently adopted the same system as SP (within the past three months) and it was encouraging to see how every member of staff was aware of its use within the school. All teachers have access to the online facilities that show each and every class within the school just like the 'Pink and Grey' tracking system. LS's tracking system is more inline with the default 'O-Track' designed by Optimum (www.secure.otrack.co.uk). More examples of how this data is presented is shown in the appendix of this assignment, this shows how the schools can use the information and form plans as to how they target certain areas.
The school is able to compare their collected data with the Fischer Family Trust and Raise Online data collected nationally to see predictions of what level every individual pupil will be expected to achieve by the end of KS2. The national expectations show that the requirements at the end of KS2 are a level 4, and if a child is falling below this expected level (even as early as year 1) interventions would be triggered within the school to improve and to offer support to improve the learning and understanding of that particular subject.
This highlights the importance of quality assessment, even at a very young age within the school as it enables these intervention strategies as early as possible to offer as much support as needed to get the child back on track to hopefully achieve a level 4 by the end of year 6.
The assessment forms a plan of action within the school as this puts the emphasis on children's learning. The process of record keeping and assessing from APP shows the needs of individual children within a class, and this data is available to show what every child is achieving and highlights who is achieving at what level. In an ideal world every individual child's needs would be addressed with lower achieving pupils getting the support they need with intervention strategies, T.A. support and extra help. Middle achieving children being pushed at a level suitable to their learning needs, and higher achieving (and gifted and talented) being given differentiated work to further their understanding and improve their levels. Realistically it isn't too far away from what actually happens at the classroom level from observations of LS and SP schools.
Both lead school and second school placements showed children being assigned groups within the class, higher to lower ability groups (HA, MA and LA). In every case they were known as names such as Mars, Asteroids, Rockets and Strawberries, Blueberries and Pineapples. They were never referred to as higher or lower groups even though many of the children understood who the higher achieving pupils were. Putting the children into these groups enables the class teacher to offer differentiated work suitable to the level that the individual child is working at. This enables children within the class to work at a level that they are confident at, by dripping extra information and concepts into something that they feel confident in they will naturally show progress and understanding over time, and in turn their levelling will hopefully improve consistently.
The APP data is collected and is compared with national and regional data to compare with other like for like schools. The statistics can be broken down and be filtered for any trends. You are able to check (as an example) by using FFC statistics with the percentage of children who are on free school meals and how this correlates to their predicted grades in, again for example, in English. This is one example, but many other areas can also be cross referenced including special educational needs pupils, and children who have low attendance scores.
Data is outputted into almost any filtered graph or table of your choosing, and it is here where targets are highlighted from Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meetings that follow relating to the statistical evidence. Following on from the SLT meetings a plan of action will follow which will eventually feed into the whole school development plan. This is when information will feed back to the class teachers for a whole school approach. At my lead school they have targeted boy's handwriting and numeracy as a whole as two areas to improve and to focus on for the next academic year. Hopefully this will indeed show improvements over the year and new targets will result as the school development plan proves to be successful. This is a cycle that continues over the course of the school year, and trends are monitored with the statistical information available to the school. Trends are monitored over three years and when numbers consistently rise or fall over these years it can be considered a trend. Many factors can affect the figures, such as a strong cohort for one or two tears, so a three year trend is what is looked for in the statistics as it is considered more reliable.
This assignment has shown me the importance and utmost respect that has to be given to assessment during my teaching practice. Levelling and grading has to be fair and accurate to enable each and every pupil to receive the education that they deserve. Motivation and feedback have struck me as two of the most important features of assessment influenced by a teacher, and I will try to never forget this. It is easy to give a score or grade simply by ticking or crossing a child textbook. What needs to be remembered is that child is eager to know what it is they did well, or indeed why they are getting certain questions wrong. It is up to you therefore, as a successful teacher, to set targets and highlight key areas that need further understanding through clear feedback to the pupil. By offering individuals feedback you can make that child them feel individual with learning personalised to them and offering the opportunity to increase motivation and interest in a subject that just might raise standards.
My assessment of pupils progress within the children's work will need to be accurate as I now know it has long term effects on each child's future learning. Incorrect levelling (even from an early age) has shown with my research to have implications on the child. It can determine how that child is helped during their time at school and what level of work that they are given during their work, if it is too hard or too easy motivation and willingness to learn can fall meaning the child doesn't develop their full learning potential. A child who is too highly graded may miss out on potential intervention sessions to get them to the level you originally thought that they were.
Standard Q11 refers to that:
By using 'Optimum Otrack' the school is able to monitor and compare statistics. Here are some examples of data tracking from Optimum Otrack, as used in my second school placement at LS. Can it be noted that all the children's names used within the tables are entirely fictitious.
Black, P. Wiliam, D. (2001) Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment, King's College London School of Education
Black + Wiliam 2003 used source!!!!
Black, P. Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B. and William, D. (2003) Assessment for Learning: Putting it into Practice, Maidenhead: Open University Press. USED
Clark, S. (2005) Formative Assessment in Action: Weaving the Elements Together. London. Hodder Murray. USED
Cowie, B. (2005) How do pupils respond to assessment for learning? The Curriculum Journal 16 (2) pp. 137-151
DfES (2008) Excellence and Enjoyment: A Strategy for Primary Schools DfES, London.
Broardfoot, P. Daugherty, R. Gardner, J. Gipps, C. Harlen, W. James, M. Stobart, G [The Uk Assessment Reform Group] (1999) Assessment for Learning: beyond the Black Box. Cambridge School of Education USED
Stiggins, R. J. 2002. Assessment Crisis: The Absence of Assessment FOR Learning, in Phi Delta Kappan Vol.83, No.10 pp758-765
Self and Peer assessment
Self Assessment describes the activities employed within and outside the classroom that enable the pupil to reflect on what has been learnt and judge it against a set of criteria, e.g. using traffic light systems which give pupils the opportunity to indicate their own thoughts about a piece of work against the given Success Criteria (SC). This could simply be used during a pit-stop or plenary, pupils mark work with an R, A or G or with the relevant colour. I have seen this working effectively with children in Year 2. Admittedly lower ability pupils require an element of support but simply completing the process prepares and develops their understanding for the future.
Both the whiteboard and the interactive whiteboard are access points for pupils to refer to find their learning objective and success criteria.
Often the LO and SC can be located on children's work.
Self Evaluation is the process by which the pupil gains an understanding of how they are learning as opposed to what they are learning.
There are numerous factors that the class teacher must consider here. Whether there is/are:
The right classroom climate
Clarity in the intended learning outcome and a model of what success looks like - examples of expected outcome, modelled by the teacher or TA
Time for self assessment and reflection
Training to allow the pupils to assess their own work effectively - e.g. use of traffic light cards and colour indicators
Planned opportunities for pupils to assess their work - during plenaries and pit-stops
Resources provided that help the self assessment process - on whiteboard, selected pieces of work
Classroom strategies that support self and peer assessment include modelling by the teacher using exemplars: at the beginning, during or after completing tasks, success criteria shared or created and continually referred to by teacher and pupils (see whiteboard photograph), use of questioning techniques that promote higher order thinking, graphic organisers e.g. thumbs up, post its, charts and concept maps that encourage reflection on learning process and learning outcome, reflection time during the lesson - referring to agreed success criteria, marking that celebrates and encourages the pupil to reflect on aspects of their work related to success criteria, talk partners are sometimes less inhibiting for pupils to express difficulties. The process develops a more analytical approach to their work as they learn from their partner's talks. It is essential that pupils are trained. (And last but not least), setting clear targets that pupils understand and can refer to, in order to improve their work:
Using Talk Partners
Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998) indicated that it is crucial that children are familiar with self assessment before embarking on peer assessment, which can be known as 'talk partners' or 'buddy checkers'. Children need to be trained in how to do this and a set of ground rules need to be established. I have spent a lot of time with pupils ensuring they are all fully aware of the expectations. Additionally, the emotional aspect of sharing work with a partner should not be overlooked as children can find it daunting to share their work with other pupils in their class. However, the teaching of literacy seems to lend itself to these types of experiences because of the emphasis on development of speaking and listening skills.
PEER ASSESSMENT TO DISCUSS
In order to develop a sound understanding of AfL I recommend the approaches Shirley Clarke discusses in her book Targeting Assessment in the Primary Classroom and Clarke's Golden Rules for marking with a talk partner should be an essential part of any primary teacher's toolkit. The guidelines are clear and can be used to create a class agreement for how best to work with your talk partner.
Clarke suggests that both partners should be roughly the same ability, or just one jump ahead or behind, rather than a wide gap, however, I have found that pupils do benefit from working with partners of varying abilities at selected times.
Each pupil should take time to check their own work before a talk partner sees it.
The talk partner should begin with a positive comment - at least one.
The roles of both parties need to be clearly defined. And perhaps displayed for future reference.
The talk partner needs time to take in the child's work, so it is best for the author to read out work first. This also establishes ownership of the piece.
Children need to be trained in the success and improvement process, or whatever is being used, so that they are confident with the steps involved.
Children must both agree the part to be changed.
The author should make the marks on his or her work, as a result of the paired discussion.
Children need to be reminded that the focus of their task is the learning intention for the piece of work.
The talk partner should ask for clarification rather than jump to conclusions.
The improvement suggestions should be verbal and not written down. The only writing necessary is the identification of the success(es) and the improvement itself.
However, I have found that there can be issues with ensuring pupils have time to respond to the comments made. A second issue is having time to mark pupils work in this way, the policy indicates that not all pieces of work require marking in full but to select one key piece a week in each subject, making this a more realistic objective.
The table below indicates the expectations in writing produced by the Dorset Association of Schools Partnership (DASP).
In brief, I conclude, from observations and through my own teaching experiences, AfL strategies provide opportunities for children to contribute to their learning in literacy and other areas of the curriculum, highlighting progression and as a result informing future planning. I believe with the use of AfL children are more focused and aware of what they are learning.