Moving towards Outstanding Assessment

Our departmental mantra is that the key purpose of strategic assessment is to promote learning and teaching for the purpose of facilitating pupil progress and building learning power (BLP).

Our belief is that it must therefore:

1. Occur in all lessons.

2. Actively involve all students.

3. Allow all students access to success criteria.

4. Provide all students with constructive feedback that gives them the opportunity to reflect on their learning and make continued progress.

 

Assessment in Science:

In Science, anything that a pupil does, says, writes or investigates can be used for assessment purposes. The resulting records are obtained not only by testing but also by:

  • Assessing practical and investigational work.
  • Observing and listening to pupils.
  • Keeping examples of work.
  • Involving pupils in record keeping and assessing their own progress.
  • Marking work and valuing effort.

We feel that assessment should be feasible, manageable and purposeful. It should allow teachers to:

  • Diagnose difficulties.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of teaching.
  • Plan future lessons.
  • Record progress clearly.
  • Motivate pupils.
  • Monitor pupil progress.

 

 Following Whole School Policies:

 The Science Faculty follows the school’s Marking, Assessment, Recording and Reporting policy. The essential details are as follows:

  • Assessment of pupils’ work must be regular and on-going.
  • Assessment must be used to inform teaching and planning.
  • Records of assessment must be kept by teachers.
  • When marking class or homework positive, helpful comments, identifying weakness and setting targets for future work should be regularly included – pupils should be given feedback on how to improve.

 

A strategic approach to assessment:

In order to put our beliefs into practice we view assessment from 3 key linked viewpoints:

Day-to-day assessment provides us as practioners with a wide range of evidence of learning in specific contexts which shapes immediate next steps.

Periodic review of this evidence gives us a clear profile of pupils’ achievement across the whole subject and informs and shapes future planning and targets for improvement. When required, these judgements and insights can be more formally shared between pupils, parents and teachers at transitional points between year groups, schools and phases.

The key features of these three assessment viewpoints are summarised here:

Day to Day
  • Learning objectives made explicit and shared with pupils
  • Peer and self-assessment in use
  • Pupils engaged in their learning and given immediate feedback.
Periodic
  • Broader view of progress across subject for teacher and learner.
  • Use of national standards in the classroom.
  • Improvements to medium-term curriculum planning.
Transitional
  • Formal recognition of pupils’ achievement.
  • Reported to parents/carers and next teacher(s).
  • Uses external tests or tasks.

(The Assessment for Learning Strategy 2008 http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/publications)

 

1). Teacher assessment should promote inclusive learning and build learning power (BLP).

 As a department we have a shared and clear understanding of: (a) Assessment for Learning (AfL), (b) Assessment as Learning (AaL), (c) Assessment of Learning (AoL), (d) Diagnostic Assessment (DA), (e) Formative Assessment (FA) and (f) Summative Assessment (SA). We are aware of the pedagogy relating to each and of how to implement them across series of lessons in order to maximise pupil progress:

 

(a)  Assessment for learning:

  • Comprises of two phases – initial or diagnostic assessment and formative assessment.
  • Assessment can be based on a variety of information sources (e.g. portfolios, works in progress, teacher observations, and conversations with students).
  • Verbal or written feedback to the student is primarily descriptive and emphasises strengths, identifies challenges, and points to next steps.
  • As teachers check on understanding they adjust their instruction to keep students on track.
  • No grades or scores are given – record-keeping is primarily anecdotal and descriptive.
  • Occurs throughout the learning process, from the outset of the course of study to the time of summative assessment.

(Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B. & Wiliam, D. (2003) Assessment for learning: putting it into practice (Maidenhead, Open University Press).

 

(b)  Assessment as learning:

  • Begins as students become aware of the goals of instruction and the shared success criteria for performance.
  • Involves goal-setting, monitoring progress, and reflecting on results.
  • Implies student ownership and responsibility for moving his or her thinking forward (metacognition).
  • Occurs throughout the learning process.

 

(c)  Assessment of learning:

  • Assessment that is accompanied by a number or letter grade (summative).
  • Compares one student’s achievement with standards (targeted levels or grades).
  • Results can be communicated to the student and parents (e.g. reports).
  • Occurs at the end of the learning unit (or during whole-school screening).

 

(d)  Diagnostic assessment (pre-assessment):

  • Assessment made to determine what a student does and does not know about a topic (e.g. multiple-choice quiz at the start of a new topic).
  • Assessment made to determine a student’s learning style or preferences used to determine how well a student can perform a certain set of skills related to a particular subject or group of subjects (e.g. assessing practical skills).
  • Occurs at the beginning of a unit of study.
  • Used to inform instruction: makes up the initial phase of AfL.

 

(e)  Formative assessment:

  • Assessment made to determine a student’s knowledge and skills, including learning gaps as they progress through a unit of study (e.g. mini-tests).
  • Used to inform instruction and guide learning.
  • Occurs during the course of a unit of study.
  • Makes up the subsequent phase of AfL.

 

(f)   Summative assessment:

  • Assessment that is made at the end of a unit of study to determine the level of understanding the student has achieved (e.g. mock GCSE papers, termly KS3 tests).
  • Includes a mark or grade against an expected standard.

 

Assessment for Learning:

“Assessment for learning 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.”

(Assessment for Learning. 10 Principles. Assessment Reform Group 2002)

The Department feels that there are many benefits to AfL in particular in terms of making robust pupil assessments and series of lessons are planned to incorporate the key findings of The UK Assessment Reform Group’s (1999) paper on ‘The big 5 principles of Assessment for Learning’:

  • 1. The provision of effective feedback to students.
  • 2. The active involvement of students in their own learning.
  • 3. Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment.
  • 4. Recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self esteem of pupils, both of which are critical influences on learning.
  • 5. The need for students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.

 

When planning series of lessons we ensure that AfL makes:

1. An accurate assessment – knowing what the standards are, judging pupils’ work correctly, and making accurate assessments linked to assessment levels (currently under review).

2. A fair assessment – knowing the methods used are valid.

3. A reliable assessment – ensuring that judgements are consistent and based on a range of evidence

4. Useful assessment – identifying barriers to pupil progress and using that information to plan and discuss the next steps in learning

5. A focused assessment – identifying areas of a child’s learning where there are blocks to progression, which might, for example, benefit from the attention of one-to-one tuition.

6. For continuity of assessment, enabling better transfer between years and schools.

 

The Assessment reform Group (2002) believes that AfL should:

  1. Be part of effective planning of teaching and learning.
  2. Focus on how students learn.
  3. Be recognised as central to classroom practice.
  4. Be regarded as a key professional skill for teachers.
  5. Be sensitive and constructive and take account of the emotional response to assessment.
  6. Take account of the importance of learner motivation.
  7. Promote commitment to shared learning goals and assessment criteria.
  8. Ensure that learners receive constructive guidance on how to improve.
  9. Develop skills of reflection and self-assessment.
  10. Recognise the full range of achievement of all learners.

 

Assessment for learning is a powerful way of raising pupils’ achievement. It is based on the principle 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).”

 

As a result we do not view it as add-on or a project; our belief is that it is central to effective teaching and learning. Indeed current rresearch on the impact of Assessment for Learning strategies suggests that it is associated with just over half a level of improvement at KS3 and just over half a grade of improvement at GCSE.

 

Our AfL Strategies – To Promote:

  1. Independent learning. AfL requires students to be actively involved in peer and self-assessment. Our focus: ‘Talk-less teaching’ so students don’t become passive.
  2. The development of effective tasks and assignments. In AfL students are able to set personal targets in terms of levels or grades because they understand the assessment criteria and know what they have to do to reach their goals. Our focus: Differentiated open worksheets or assignments, designed to allow students to progress at different to different levels at different rates.
  3. Constructive Feedback: This is a critical aspect of successful AfL.  Some of this is through dialogue with individuals or small groups. Our focus: Well planned learning tasks to engage students to allow teacher circulation and intervention with key groups / students and ‘See 3 before me’ strategy to promote pupil interdependence and resilience.
  4. The use of classroom displays. The assessment criteria for tasks or assignments needs to be clear if students are to use it to set targets.  Models of practice are essential if students are going to be able to interpret the complex language often used by examination boards or awarding bodies. Our Focus: Graded work of all standards for all year groups to be displayed in all classrooms along with the associated (pupil-speak) assessment criteria and ‘Work of the week’ to be photocopied and displayed in classrooms too.
  5. A strong agenda for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. The motivation, self esteem and confidence of students is central to AfL.  Without a ‘can-do’ philosophy many students will not take advantage of the benefits AfL can bring to learning and teaching.  Motivation and self esteem are usually enhanced if teachers are successful in engaging students and encouraging their participation in a non-threatening and supportive environment.  Clear purpose, pace, encouragement and positive feedback are all key characteristics of such classrooms. Our focus: Well-planned, purposeful lessons with pace and challenge. Use of engaging starters and thunks. Strong behaviour-management techniques  and purposeful peer observations to promote AfL

 

Assessment for students with special educational needs:

Some students with special education needs will require adjustments to assessment practices in order to demonstrate what they know and can do in relation to syllabus outcomes and content.

These may be:

  • Adjustments to the assessment process (e.g. additional time, rest breaks, quieter conditions, or the use of a reader and/or scribe or specific technology).
  • Adjustments to assessment activities (e.g. rephrasing questions, using simplified language, fewer questions or alternative formats for questions).
  • Alternative formats for responses, (e.g. written point form instead of essays, scaffolded structured responses, short objective questions or multimedia presentations).

 

Differentiation through Assessment:

In terms of differentiation there are a number of strategies that can be used to meet the needs of individual students:

  1. The feedback from assessment can be used to set students differentiated targets for improvement.
  2. Some examination boards offer courses, which have different forms of assessment: coursework, written tests, portfolios, practical assessments and so on. Students can be guided towards those courses that offer assessment methods that suit their learning preferences.
  3. Assessment information can be analysed by both teachers and students to identify weaknesses, strengths and needs.       This information can be used in the planning of future work, in providing appropriate programmes for revision and in modifying the teaching or the resources.
  4. Peer and self-assessment strategies, handled sensitively, can ensure that students understand how assessment works, how grades or levels are arrived at and what needs to be done to make improvements or progress.       Students are then able to provide support and guidance to each other – another effective approach for meeting the needs of individuals.

 

2). Assessment criteria should be shared with students and be thoroughly understandable:

Our belief is that assessment criteria should be shared with and understood by students, enabling them to set their own learning targets. Such criteria may be written in ‘pupil speak’ in order to be more understandable by students and may need to be further differentiated for certain groups of students. Indeed, students should be encouraged to come up with their own success criteria wherever possible in order to promote metacognition and high-level thinking. Models should be used to illustrate the meaning of the criteria as and when necessary.

Most teachers will make use of the assessment criteria published by examining boards and awarding bodies. Copying these for students, particularly post-16, will is common practice in the department. In vocational courses most students are given folders where the units of work are set out with clear descriptors on how each unit is accredited, and the criteria used to judge performance, levels or grades.

 

Successful Strategies Effectively Use:

  • Levelled outcomes at the start of lessons to give pupils a ‘route map’.
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy to show progression between levelled outcomes (Recall Describe, Explain, Evaluate).
  • Must’, ‘Should’ and ‘Could’ criteria in lessons to facilitate pupil progress.
  • ‘Can do’ tasks to determine if a student has the skills to perform a task successfully.
  • Exemplar material to highlight success.
  • Mark schemes.

 

3). Student assessment should promote inclusive learning and develop build learning power (BLP):

 When students have assessed the work of others, they could be instructed to sit face to face to give their feedback to one another. To do this the emotional environment in the classroom must feel safe. The feedback process is useful for both parties; as the person must really scrutinise the others work against the success criteria. This process helps them reflect on their own work. The student receiving the feedback will benefit from someone providing an alternative view on his or her understanding.

Since students find giving objective feedback very difficult, and tend to avoid doing so, preferring just to say positive things. To avoid this establish the following ground rules:

  1. The group / person receiving the feedback must sit in silence and only speak if they are asked a direct question. This allows them to focus on the feedback, and makes it safer for the people giving feedback.
  2. The person / group giving the feedback must feedback only against he agreed criteria. This helps to keep the feedback fair and open.
  3. The feedback must include successes and advice on how to improve.
  4. The feedback must be finished by saying I / we have finished our feedback. Thereby drawing a line under the feedback.
  5. The person/group must respond “Thank you for your feedback”. This shows that the effort made is appreciated.
  6. No further discussion must take place after the feedback is over. To help with this it is advantageous to have groups feeding back to different groups that they received feedback from.

 

 Allowing enough ‘Waiting Time’:

During question and answer session the effective use of wait time can help students reflect more on their understanding. As teachers we should not be answering our own questions. When a student appears stuck, often the time waited for a response is only around one second. So, this technique simply aims to increase the time to about 4 seconds. At first the silence of four seconds feels uncomfortable, but once the students start thinking and responding with thoughtful answers it will seem worthwhile. It should be used directly after a question has been asked to allow the students time to think through possible responses.

When a response has been pause again. This sends a strong message to them that further elaboration of their ideas is required. Any response given by the teacher at this point may stop the student in their tracks. A smile would convey that a correct answer is being given, although it may not yet be complete. A furrowed brow may indicate that a incorrect answer is being given. Feedback can be this simple.

When listening to responses an open body posture and impassive facial expression will help the students complete their thinking. The effective use of wait time is an integral strategy in the assessment for learning classroom.

  • It increases student motivation, shown by more student contributions and questions.
  • It helps build confidence prompting students to be more speculative.
  • They will test their ideas, as they know they are being supported
  • It develops students’ ability to self-assess their answers. These are likely to become longer of better quality.

 

4). Teacher (and student) marking should provide feedback that celebrates achievement and identifies targets for improvement (feedforward):

Our shared belief is that effective marking is of the utmost importance in terms of facilitating pupil progress. As practioners wespend hours marking students’ work, but, how effective is it in helping students learn? To make the most of this effort it is most useful just to provide them with comments only. Research shows that when students receive a grade along as well the impact of the written comment is reduced. Our strategy is to ‘make marking matter’ by marking both regularly and for purpose in order to provide students with good written feedback (to promote metacognition):

 

‘Making Marking Matter’:

  • Marking should be in the confines of a unit of work so that topic-specific targets can be set (and responded to) before a student moves on to a new topic.
  • Marking should be positive and constructive.
  • Marking should encourage students to write back to the teacher to promote learning conversations.
  • Marking should explicitly highlight what a student needs to do to improve.
  • Marking should promote good literacy (e.g. by highlighting spelling mistakes and grammatical errors).

 

Good written feedback:

1. Informs the students if they are on the right track.

2. Encourages improvement.

3. Provides guidance on how to improve.

 

 ‘Making Marking Matter’ Strategies:

Practioners may wish to use all or a selection of the following strategies to promote effective marking:

1. Plan key pieces of work into schemes of work or series of lessons in different topics that will be marked in detail.

2a. Use comment-only marking as a default marking strategy.

2b. Use graded marking in assessments and exam-style questions.

3a. Ensure that praise is specific, such as “You have listed some reasons behind global warning. I particularly liked the layout of your news article. Well done.” (as opposed to “Good effort”).

3b. Only comment on agreed success criteria.

3. Plan for dedicated improvement and reflection time (DIRT) actually in lesson time for students to respond to feedback.

4. Plan opportunities for students to go back to set targets.

5. Plan self and peer-assessment into schemes of work or series of lessons.

 

Comment-only marking strategies:

Practioners may wish to use all or a selection of the following strategies to promote comment-only marking:

 

Strategy 1 – Provide a hint.

This will help students think through the problem whilst keeping ownership of the learning. (e.g. giving the first letter of the answer, or starting a sentence, or drawing their attention to where they have useful information in their book or worksheet).

 

Strategy 2 – Rephrasing the question:

This can help students think about a problem in a different way and promote interdependence and resilience.

 

Strategy 3 – Provide a structure for students to work in, such as sentences with gaps in so that students have to fill in key learning points.

This can really help weaker students to focus on the subject. (e.g. “Some other ways to keep food fresh are r________ (make it cool), p________(heating to kill microbes), and i__________ (using gamma rays to kill microbes)”

 

Strategy 4 – Provide model answers:

These can be highlighted in students’ work. (e.g. They can be referred to if work slips below the required standard; They can be used as targets for students to match structure and quality).

 

Strategy 6 – Guidance can develop a students understanding:

Specific tasks should be quick to complete so that the student can see the improvement. For example, “A good explanation – insert these key words into your answer: antagonistic, fulcrum”.

 

‘Marking for Purpose’:

‘Marking for purpose’ has very little use if a student does not have time to review and improve their work base upon teacher feedback. Put simply we need to ‘make marking matter’ or else it becomes simply not fit for purpose. Marking should be the most important thing that a teacher does as it informs both planning and assessment and allows fluid series of lessons to be taught. To this end it is vital that students are given an appropriate amount of time (Dedicated Improvement & Reflection Time) to reflect upon and improve their work; this may be within the lesson or at another appropriate time. It is our belief that students should be marking their own comments against a teacher’s feedback in order to give an indication of the improvements that have been made since receiving the feedback (possibly underneath or near the original comment). This needs carefully scaffolding with all students, but especially with lower ability students. A purple pen could be used by the student to show that progress is being made. Purple could be the colour of progress, with the more purple being visible in a student’s book giving an indication as to the amount of progress that that student is making towards their specific target grade, for example. This can provide powerful visual evidence that feedback from pupils, teachers and parents is actually contributing to a pupil’s progress.

Why not give it a go using the following pupil guidance list?:

Be radical – with the Purple Pen of Progress.

Read feedback carefully.

Ask if you don’t understand what is written down.

Decide which improvement you are going to make first.

Indicate which success criteria you are working on.

Colour of progress is purple – remember your purple pen!

Ask your partner to look at your improvements and to give you honest feedback.

Link your work to the feedback given by your teachers by telling them what you have done and why.

 

Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time:

One thing that the department is trying to embed into all lessons is DIRT which stands for Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time (through assessment AS learning).

As the process of learning is a journey, DIRT is about raising awareness about this process by reminding students frequently to check their learning process and progress. What have you learnt? How far have you travelled towards the learning outcome?

DIRT can be used whenever marked work or assessments are returned to students. It gives students the opportunity to read feedback and to ‘write back to their teacher’ (in green pen) improving on their work. (Almost a quality control moment) This massively relies on the quality of the marking being good (otherwise students have nothing to respond effectively to!)

Working to redraft, improve and amend following constructive criticism is a vital part of the learning journey. It also gives the students more control and responsibility for the outcomes. It can be used as a mini-plenary during a lesson or after home works have been completed.

 

Reporting:

Reporting is the process of providing feedback to students, parents and other teachers about student progress.

Teachers are to use assessment evidence to extend the process of assessment for learning into their assessment of learning. In a standards-referenced framework we are to make professional judgements about student achievement at key points in the learning cycle (screening). These points may be at the end of a year or stage (currently twice a term) when schools may wish to report differentially on the levels of knowledge, understanding and skills demonstrated by students.

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