Undergoing my second teaching practice at school

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This assignment was written while undergoing my second teaching practice at School X in South Wales. School X is an 11-18 mixed, naturally bilingual school (Welsh-English). It is also a community school is used by different organisations. There currently 989 pupils on roll, of whom 161 in the Sixth form. The school serves a large catchment area. About three quarters of the pupils come from rural areas. The main forms of employment in the region are agriculture and tourism. The school receives pupils of all abilities, less then fifteen per cent of the pupils population are registered as having special educational needs. About fifty-five per cent of pupils speak Welsh as a first language. There are no pupils in the school who receive support teaching in English as an additional language.

During this teaching training I gained experience in teaching across Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 covering a variety of topics.

Introduction

Assessment is a topic that teachers are ready to discuss eternally. The two questions arise: 'Why do we need it and why is it so important?' Capel (2005, p.300) states that "Assessment is needed to provide information about individual pupils' progress, help the teacher devise appropriate teaching and learning strategies, give parents helpful information about their child's progress and compare pupils and schools across the country." It is clear that in order to become a successful teacher one should form effective monitoring and assessing (MA) approaches. Assessment is a powerful instrument which enables pupils to progress and set their goals for the future learning. However, in such subject as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) the quality of assessment continues to be 'the weakest area of provision' (Ofsted, 2009, p.29). If there is no assessment carried out or it is used unprofessionally, most learners underachieve.

This piece if work will:

look at a) School X Assessment, Recording and Reporting Policy b) School X ICT Department Assessment Policy;

reveal the choice and reasons for my own MA strategies, their quality and usefulness based on a case study of Year 7 class.

School and ICT department Policies and practices on assessment

School X Assessment policy recognises two main types of assessment: summative assessment and formative assessment.

In Year 7 to 10 summative assessment takes place in the school twice a year and once for Year 11 where pupils obtain A to E grades for attainment and effort (see grades descriptions in School X assessment policy, p. 8, Appendix). At the end of Key Stage 3 (KS3) attainment is recorded in terms of National Curriculum levels for each subject. For GCSE, AS and A level marking scheme is provided by relevant examining board. If the level of work is not set correctly, there might be implications for record keeping at task and lesson level. Therefore, School X ensures that a reasonable challenge is provided for every student.

Pupils can often work for long periods with no real feedback about levels at which they are working or guidance on how to progress to the next level. For this reason School X puts a great emphasis on Formative assessment or Assessment for Learning (AfL). The School believes that AfL gives assessment more purpose and it is more useful for pupils as they can improve their performance before it is too late. Since 2007 it became an integral part of planning for all teachers in School X where they are expected to:

share learning objectives, outcomes and success criteria with pupils;

employ effective questioning techniques;

provide pupils with high quality written and oral feedback;

Special attention is paid to Peer and Self - Assessment as it encourages independent learning and personal target setting.

School X does not impose a particular type of assessment on departments. Departments can choose their own types of assessment as soon as they are reliable, consistent and do not contradict with the main Assessment Policy. ICT Department generally follows the School Assessment, Recording and Reporting Policy. I would like to note here that formative assessment is very important for ICT subject as it has less formal examinations. At KS3 there is a strong accent on AfL. At the end of each topic, pupils are assessed. The information is used to show what the pupil is able to do well and to set targets for the next term. As well as a grade, a written feedback accompanies their work. It focuses what have been done well and suggestions or questions what indicate pupils the next step that is required to improve their work.

There is a greater stress on summative assessment at Key Stage 4 (KS4) where teachers give pupils grades at the end of each part of their project or pupils sit GCSE style tests at the end of each theory unit. However a variety of AfL techniques are used as an 'ongoing' process to help pupils to improve the result of the final outcome using exam board criteria.

Literature Review

The Importance and Purpose of Monitoring and Assessing

Monitoring

It is well known that since the introduction of the National Curriculum, it became a statutory requirement for all schools in Wales and England to carry out assessment procedures and their reporting (Capel et. al, 2005).

One of the main parts of any assessment process is monitoring. Monitoring allows teachers to create a whole and complete picture about pupils' learning progress and make judgement about pupils' understanding of teaching material. It may also identify any constrictions which may slow down pupils' academic progression.

Monitoring is a routine process of all teachers, which ideally should take place at every lesson. It is a process of gathering information by observing, questioning, analysing pupils' work, behaviour and attitudes during lessons. All these details are processed by the teacher and the opinion is made about how well pupils learnt what was intended. It is also important to take into consideration that it informs teachers of what to plan and how to plan for future lessons.

Stanley and Duggan (2007) suggest that there could be a number of different ways of monitoring, from videoing, ticking boxes, 'traffic lights' system for diagnostic assessment to a simple mark book. They give their preference to a well-set-up mark book, which allows a teacher take notes such as whether a pupil was present at the lesson, was he/she on task, whether he/she answered the questions, etc. In such mark book teachers can also write comments or set targets for pupils. An example of a detailed mark book format is given in Appendix X.

One of the sheets from the book provides tracking of learning and behaviour and indicates how pupils react to one's teaching. From this, NCETM (National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics) website identifies that one of the purposes of monitoring is 'evaluating learners' learning'. It is more of a general observation; Stanley and Duggan call it 'soft evidence (that is the evidence obtained through informal observation or chance conversation) ' (2007, p.28). It shows the sufficient volume of work completed by pupils to assess it using any method of assessment.

Assessing

This chapter will look at different strategies that are there to enhance assessment for learning.

The first point to note is that there are a number of different definitions and meanings of the term 'assessment'. It usually combines a selection of methods in order to judge and establish pupil's attainment. Lambert and Lines (2000, cited in Green, 2007, p.133) define it as "the process of gathering, interpreting, recording and using information about pupils' responses to educational tasks ".

There are two main functions of assessment: Formative and Summative (Jones & Tanner 2006). Summative assessment is known as Assessment of learning (AoL) and its main purpose is managerial. Stanley and Tanner gave the definition of AoL : "Summative assessment summarises what pupils know, understand and can do in total over a broad domain at a particular point in time" (2007, p.110). It normally results in the award of a grade, mark or level (Stanley & Duggan, 2007). It is used for AS Level or GCSE sections to summarise the overall achievement and progress made by a pupils throughout the project (Capel et. al, 2005 ). It is a useful tool which informs the teacher about the degree of learning occurred and how effective was the teaching. However, a test at the end of a project or a unit of work is not the most effective form of continuous assessment: it is too late for pupils to act on it. As it noted by Fautley and Savage (2008) that summative assessment looks back on achievement. If to use this type of assessment alone it could lead to the minimum pupil's academic progression or, in some cases, lack of it at all.

As it was noted before, summative assessment looks back on achievement that makes it different from Formative assessment which is used to look forward. However it could also be employed in a formative way, where teachers and pupils could plan ahead what needs to be done to improve and develop future learning and achievement (Fautley and Savage, 2008). From here it would be wise to move to the next function of assessment - 'formative'.

Formative assessment, also called Assessment for Learning (AfL) is a continuous procedure within a learning process, it occurs in every lesson. It is an assessment for the purpose of learning. Different authors glorify the importance of AfL for teaching and learning. Based on research conducted by Black and Wiliam (1998, cited in Jones & Tanner, 2006), one of the most impressive benefits of AfL is that it improves pupils' learning and achievement (GCSE attainment marks rise). Green also confirms that "it helps the pupil identify the strengths and weaknesses and to improve future attainment and development" (Green, 2007, p.136). In other words, it allows pupils to know where they are in their learning, what they need to do to improve it and the best way to do it. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) supports this idea stating that AfL raises pupils' achievement because " it is based on the idea that pupils will improve most if they understand the aim of their learning, where they are in relation to this aim and how they can achieve the aim (or close the gap in their knowledge)" (QCA, 2007).

Furthermore, the two main advocates for AfL, Black and Wiliam, conclude that AfL is an essential element of an effective teaching and planning. They note that learning is motivated by what both teachers and pupils do in the classroom (Black & Wiliam, 1998). According to Black et.al. (2003), teachers can improve their own awareness and use their professional expertise to "move learning forward" Black et.al.,2003, 93). In this case the teacher takes a role of a director to support pupils in their progression. In '10 Principles of Assessment for Learning' by the QCA, it clearly states that AfL should be recognised by teachers as being central to classroom practice (QCA, 2007).

There are four main areas of classroom practice regarding use of Formative assessment (Black et. al., 2003). They comprise questioning, feedback, sharing criteria with the pupils and peer and self - assessment.

Questioning is one of the important and common aspects in assessment in education. Unfortunately not all teachers can use this valuable tool in such a way that it can be beneficial for learners and teachers themselves. According to the research majority of teachers predominantly use closed questions (questions which require one-word answer) in their lessons, which can lead to prevention of pupils' cognitive development (Fautley and Savage, 2008). However if to use open questions (questions which require more than one word answer), it can provide an immediate opportunity for a teacher to find out how well pupils understand what is being taught, reveal most common misconceptions and check their knowledge (Brooks, 2002). Due to its interactive nature, it means that all pupils can participate in discussions and if there are any issues arise, they can be dealt with immediately. In this type of questioning, to provide enough of 'wait time' (thinking time) is essential for pupils and cannot be underestimated. Rowe (1974, cited in Fautley and Savage, 2008) identified a number of benefits it had on teaching and learning: pupils' answers were longer and more correct, more pupils were willing to participate in a question-answer sessions, it increased pupils' confidence in their answers, pupils produced more thoughtful answers. Furthermore, it improves pupils' listening skills as they can reflect on each others' answers.

According to the QCA (QCA, 2001 cited inKennewell et al, 2003), oral feedback is the most effective feedback compared to written one. Like questioning, it is interactive and provides immediate comments about pupils' work and progress. However, feedback has a positive impact on pupils' learning only if it tells them about their "current achievement and indicates what the next steps in their learning trajectory should be" (Black et at, 2003, p.42). In order to get best results from the oral feedback, it should be given in the middle phase of the lesson, when pupils are working on the task. It allows pupils time to work on their mistakes and motivates their learning behaviour (James, 1998 cited in Jones & Tanner, 2006). In order to remain high motivation among pupils, it is vital that teachers give sensitive and constructive feedback (QCA, 2007). And it is true that one careless remark can force a pupil neglect the positive comments made about the work. It indicates that feedback has emotional aspect and should be planned and well-thought that it would not ruin pupils' self-esteem and desire to improve (Fautley and Savage, 2008).

Another way to enhance pupils' learning, making them responsible for their own knowledge is Self-assessment. This type of assessment allows pupils to reveal their strengths and weaknesses and plan for the future improvements. It also encourages pupils' independence. Nevertheless, self-assessment is successful only when pupils are provided with clear learning objectives, success criteria which is easy understandable and achievable (Jones & Tanner, 2006). Why to use self-assessment? Black et al (2003, p.49) states "when students think of their work in terms of set goals, they begin to develop an overview of that work so it becomes possible for them to manage and control it for themselves". Here learning takes place on a deeper level, it also develops pupils' autonomy and responsibility for his/her own learning.

Prior self-assessment it could be useful to have Peer assessment in the lesson as it motivates pupils to display their work more carefully and take more notice of their peers' comments rather than from the teacher. In addition it encourages better communication between teacher and pupils about their learning (Black et.al, 2003 cited in Jones & Tanner, 2006). This process creates independent learners whose cognitive development becomes their own responsibility.

Methodology and Analysis of Results

For the case study, which will reveal the choice for my own Recording and Assessing strategies and their quality and usefulness analysis and evaluation, I have studied a mixed ability group of Year 7 pupils. The class consisted of 30 pupils, 6 out of which had Individual Educational Plans. Graphics have been selected as an area of interest and assessment materials have been designed and used in the teaching of this unit of work. The final goal of the unit was to create a floor plan of an ideal house using Serif Drawplus package (Appendix). The aim of the project was to teach students how to operate this software features confidently, it was also important to show pupils how to present information effectively.

First of all I created a monitoring sheet, where I recorded dates of the lessons together with the lesson titles (Appendix X). Here I used codes in the form of colours and letters to keep a record of the class attendance, pupils' progress within the unit, make comments and note down their attainment. As Capel et al stated: "Systematic recording secures the evidence base on which you base your professional judgements; identifies areas of strengths and development for individual pupil and shows progression for individual and groups" (2004, p.111). This record sheet helped me to plan for the future lessons as I could see the general progress. Moreover I identified pupils who were doing really well in my lessons in order to reward them later and those who were underachieving and being disruptive; it allowed me to prepare the strategies to address and tackle these problems, such as paring more able pupils with less able, oral encouragement and more assistance for those who were behind with the completion of the task and lunchtime support for those who came to improve or catch up with the work. The tracking sheet with evidence of routine assessment of pupils' progression was also required in order to produce summative assessment data, which is collected and stored on the Lison Pathways System and can be accessed by subject teachers, Heads of Departments and Senior Management Team (School X Assessment Policy, 2009).

Another important part to cover in the beginning of the unit was to share the success criteria with the pupils. For me it was important that pupils knew and understood what a good piece of work was and its essential elements. Clearly, pupils' concept of quality had to coincide with my concept of quality (Sadler, 1989, cited in Fautley and Savage, 2008 ). For this reason I created a success criteria check list (Appendix X), which pupils kept in their folders and ticked off as they achieved lesson objectives. It gave them awareness and understanding of what is important in their work and what teacher is going to assess, which inevitably led to better learning and concentrate harder. An exemplar work (Appendix X) of the final outcome was devised to emphasise all the elements from success criteria.

Throughout the whole unit of work immediate oral feedback was provided for the pupils. It contained suggestions for improvement and the best path to get there. I tried not to tell pupils how to do something; I wanted them to get there themselves by just hinting in order to provide the challenge for them. This supported by Kenewell et al (2003, p.113) when he states that "you should not steal the problem from the pupils". There was minimum support but enough to make progress and make pupils think. In addition, in my oral feedback I used praise to motivate pupils and stimulate the learning. On the other hand I tried not to be too overpowering with it, as can become addictive and sound artificial which can destroy all the trust between the teacher and pupils.

With peer and self assessment pupils develop a critical eye when looking at their own work and the work of others. Collaborative learning is very important as it teachers pupils to be independent in their learning. In the final lesson of the unit I included peer and self assessment.

For peer assessment pupils had to assess each others' work against the success criteria checklist. All pupils had their final printouts of their floor plans of an ideal house ready. I gave out a sticky note for each of them which they stack to the front of their printouts. Later pupils swapped their plans and had to write comments on a sticky note about their peers' work. Pupils had to note down two elements they liked about their peer's plan and one aspect which could be improved next time. It is so called 'Two Stars and a Wish' feedback technique which School X has as a part of their assessment policy and uses is in peer and self assessment (School X assessment policy, 2009). (Examples of the peer assessment activity could be found in Appendix X) Peer assessment is the activity which surely requires certain skills for pupils which need to be taught in order to carry out this activity appropriately and with maximum benefits for pupils (DCELLS 2007). Part of the lesson was devoted for the preparation to the activity; using the exemplar plan and a success criteria checklist pupils were reminded again what they need to concentrate on, the learning objectives of the unit were reinforced. Time was also spent on making clear how to give comments, what vocabulary to use and how to be constructive and sensitive at the same time.

Worksheets were devised for self assessment (Appendix X) at the end of the Graphics unit which followed after the peer assessment activity. Self assessment worksheet contained the key words of the Graphics unit and open questions where pupils had to describe what they have done during the unit of work, identify their strong points and weaknesses. Self assessment worksheets was created to enable pupils to better understand themselves in terms of gained knowledge by reflecting back on what they have done via the answers given. It also gave them an opportunity to uncover areas which could be improved next time and be in charge of their own learning. Pupils did not have any problems with this task for the reason that they are used to self assessment activity through other subjects as it is an essential part of the school's AfL policy (School X assessment policy, 2009, p. 4-5).

In order to find out pupils attitude towards peer and self assessment and sharing the success criteria, I asked the whole class to fill in a questionnaire (Appendix X). The questionnaire consisted of five questions, three out of which had a smiley faces answer options which made it easier and more understandable for the pupils to choose the answer (smiley faces option meanings were explained to the pupils). These types of questions also included a 'comments' option, which gave pupils an opportunity to expand their answers.

The results of the survey were the following:

98 % of the pupils chose the options and which meant that it was 'Helpful' and 'Very helpful' being given the success criteria before starting the work. Most pupils commented on this question as that it helped them to understand better what to do, it gave them the guidance what to include in their work and concentrate and think harder on those parts which were important.

97 % of the pupils on the question 'How useful was it to have your peer's comments about your plan?' chose the options , and ('Very useful', 'Useful' and 'OK'). The most frequent comments were: "it helped me to improve my work", "I knew what I should do next", "helped me to realise what I did good and what I can improve" and "it is good to know what other people think about your work".

All 100 % of the pupils agreed that they liked assessing someone else's work, pointing out that it was fun, that their opinion was important and appreciated, you can have a chance to see others' work and compare it with yours and finally you can get some ideas for your own work to be improved. The opinions on the second part of the Question 3 were different. Question 'Did you like your peer assessing your work?' gathered about 66 % of the positive answers accompanies by comments such as that "it helps you to recognise mistakes", "now I know what I can improve on" and "it gave me a boost". However 34 % of pupils with negative answers preferred the teacher assessing their work and referred to their peer being "too childish".

Majority of pupils on the question 'What have you learnt from evaluating your own work?' agreed that it taught them to double check their final design before handing in to the teacher, it gave them an opportunity to look back on what they have done and how and what could be improved next time and concentrate better on what they are doing.

The final question identified that the majority of the pupils were positive that because they have done self evaluation and have had comments from their peers about their work, it is going to get a better grade when the teacher marks their work. However it was only possible if they were given a chance to enhance their work.

To summarise this small survey, it is clear that sharing the success criteria with the pupils has a great positive impact on their performance and learning. It acts as a guide and steers pupils' actions into the right direction. Furthermore, peer and self assessment are revealed to be the activities which pupils enjoyed and they also found very beneficial to improve their performance and secure the knowledge.

At the end of the Graphics unit I also had an opportunity to provide summative assessment. After peer and self assessment pupils had a chance to make improvements to their work, print it out again and hand it to me. Each piece of work was graded and a formative comment was made (Examples can be seen in Appendix X). As it is recommended by the literature (Jones & Tanner, 2006), grades were not given to the pupils but were recorded in the teacher's mark book. The whole summative assessment showed me the progress in general pupils made during the unit of work. It also informed me, as a teacher, how successful my teaching was and whether I reached all important aspects of the unit.

Conclusion

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