Assessment Overview

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This resource is licenced under an Open Government Licence (OGL).


This resource is an adapted version of an Initial Teacher Education - English resource, the original of which is available at: [1]

Assessment

Bethan Marshall

Introduction

Assessment is one of the things that student teachers find hardest to grapple with. It comes well behind the fear of facing a bunch of rowdy kids and some way behind understanding how to plan a lesson. What they eventually come to understand is that knowing what the pupils can already do or are finding difficult is essential to planning and that a well planned scheme of work is half the battle in creating a well motivated class. This is because at the heart of good teaching lies knowing your pupils well and listening to what they have to tell us. There is no real substitute for the relationship that this creates but there are certain procedures that student teachers might adopt to help them on their way. To signal the importance we place on assessment, and to introduce them to some of the attendant procedures of assessment for learning, student teachers can be asked to create an assessment portfolio which is designed to reflect good practice in assessment and their own developing practice in this area. We suggest it might include the observations of lessons or lesson plans including

  • self assessment
  • peer marking
  • use of sharing criteria with pupils
  • oral feedback to pupils during the course of a lesson

We ask also that it include

  • photocopied samples of assessed work (anonymised)
  • comment only marking that gives productive feedback on what pupils might do to improve, particularly at the drafting stage
  • examples of record keeping that focus on pupil targets
  • examples of the school's English department's assessment policy

By the end of the course we hope that student teachers will be familiar with the following

  • using success criteria to inform planning
  • using examination assessment objectives/criteria to inform planning
  • using prior attainment to inform planning
  • using evidence of achievement against success criteria to inform planning
  • sharing the above with the pupils

Planning for assessment

Student teachers need explicit sessions on assessment but the principles also need to be embedded within the practices of the course itself and identified and applied in the school context. Planning for assessment can be modelled for student teachers in a number of ways during the ITE course including

  • at the beginning of the course, tutors can write detailed session outlines, share these with the students and discuss the extent to which the success criteria have been met
  • at the end of each week, collect in learning logs which can help tutors to gain insight into student teachers' learning and indicate the direction of future planning. Tutors can then make explicit in subsequent teaching where they have altered their planning to address student teachers' needs
  • designating slots during the course to put on sessions where student teachers express the need for more input. In this way tutors indicate that simply covering a curriculum is insufficient and that long term planning has to include opportunities to revisit issues and ideas
  • in subject specific assignments student teachers can be asked to show evidence of how they have used assessment in the planning for, and adjustment of, a scheme of work

Responding to pupils' work

Early on in their ITE year, it is helpful to identify with student teachers aspects of assessment to look for when they are observing others teach e.g.Oral responses

  • interventions/comments during lessons to individuals based on evidence of pupil performance
  • interventions/comments to whole class based on evidence of positive achievement against criteria
  • interventions where there is evidence that pupils have not fully understood the task and the lesson plan is altered as a result
  • questioning as a means of eliciting and extending pupils' understanding

Written responses

  • comments in the margins of pupils' work that indicate where pupils have met the criteria
  • proof reading symbols for technical accuracy
  • comments at the end of pupils' work which include identification of achievement and targets for improvement against success criteria/assessment objectives
  • the symbols +, 0, -, given on pieces of work against prior attainment (can be used in preference to effort grades)
  • grades/marks on final drafts if required by school policy

Peer and self assessment

  • pupils examine types of language used in assessing work
  • pupils rewrite examination criteria/level descriptors to use in peer or self assessment
  • pupils are given simplified versions of examination criteria/level descriptors
  • pupils write their own success criteria based for example on generic features
  • pupils are asked to look for very specific content/features
  • pupils participate in their own target setting

Applications of assessment

As student teachers begin to spend more time in the classroom, working alongside school colleagues, they can be asked to gather information about different applications of assessment, monitoring, record-keeping and local/national statistical information e.g.Assessment

  • pupils are asked to re-write very specific sections of their work in the light of comments during a lesson
  • lessons have allocated times for pupils to read and implement changes based on assessments
  • drafting time and time for peer and self assessment is built into schemes of work
  • differentiation is fine-tuned in relation to success criteria and pupil prior/current attainment
  • lesson plans are adapted in the light of evidence of pupil learning
  • subsequent schemes of work are adapted in response pupil progression in current scheme of work
  • pupils and teachers use Assessing Pupil Progress grids to help identify strengths and areas for development in a portfolio of work

Monitoring and record keeping

  • as an aid to differentiation
  • as an aid to planning
  • as an aid to establishing progression

Local/national statistical information

  • how SATs grades, CAT scores, the register of special needs, EAL,YELLIS, ALLIS are used to develop individual records of pupil achievement and set future targets

As the year progresses, student teachers also benefit from opportunities to take part in standardising meetings and co-mark examination scripts or coursework.

Formative and summative assessment

One way of helping student teachers make sense of the role of assessment in learning and establish good practice, is to include it in the tasks that student teachers carry out in schools early on, and to use the evidence gained from these tasks in training sessions on assessment.Formative assessmentFor learning about formative assessment, such tasks might include some of the following

  • take a pupil's exercise book and focus on one or two pieces of work. Consider what features of teaching led to the final product and how the work might have been scaffolded
  • find and photocopy three examples of comments written on pupils' work that you feel are particularly effective
  • interview a pupil and ask them what they find useful in the kind of comments teachers give them including verbal and written
  • track and photocopy a piece of work from first draft to the final version, considering whether and how the teacher's comments, and possibly peer assessment, and the drafting process itself have aided progression

The tasks suggested above came from a steering group of English mentors. Sharing and using the good practice of mentors is one way it can be helpful to encourage consistency across ITE partnership schools. Summative assessmentFor learning about summative assessment, useful experiences might include

  • attendance at standardisation meetings
  • double marking alongside experienced teachers
  • double marking sections of examination scripts

It can also be useful for student teachers to learn from mentors who are examiners, taking them through examination syllabuses and grading criteria, helping them to analyse and assess sample exam and coursework scripts. In order to make effective personalised provision for pupils with English as an additional language, it will also be helpful for student teachers to become familiar with the QCA Extended Scales for assessing the speaking, listening, reading and writing of those who are working below National Curriculum levels.

Modelling formative and summative assessment in ITE courses

One very important way for student teachers to learn about assessment is to make explicit the way in which assessment is used to aid their own progression throughout their ITE course. In most, if not all, ITE courses student teachers carry out regular self assessments and set targets and these are recorded as evidence of their progress against the Standards. Evaluation of their own teaching is a mainstay of their development as reflective practitioners.Peer assessment and self assessmentIn sessions student teachers can be encouraged to assess each other during presentations using both pre planned criteria and criteria devised by them. They examine the pros and cons of both methods Half way through the course we ask student teachers to bring in their teaching files, devise their own criteria for assessing these files and then peer assess each other's files using these criteria. This not only models peer assessment but also enables them to set targets to remedy gaps in their teaching experience in the next stage of their professional placement.Comment-only markingIn a session on responding to pupils' writing, student teachers can be asked to write a brief piece and mark each others work identifying two strengths and two areas of improvement. They have to address these comments and then return the piece to their marker to see how they assess whether it has or has not improved. This activity not only develops their understanding of the assessment process but also raises issues about the nature of the drafting process, the need for explicit criteria, how to articulate feedback so that it shapes the progress of the student teacher's writing, and so on. Oral feedbackOne of the most difficult things a student teacher has to learn is not so much how to question but how to respond to pupils' answers and how to use these as the basis of the future direction of learning both for the individual and the class. This is particularly the case during the feedback on a group activity or plenary. Often student teachers simply praise pupils rather than using their feedback as an opportunity for further learning. A training activity that can be useful is: in a given task, one group (A) is given the responsibility for conducting the feedback on another group (B) and then group B comments on how well they feel group A has fed back. The same process is continued throughout the session.

Further reading

BooksThere are now a number of publications that are helpful in supporting assessment for learning in the classroom. The following provide a useful digest of the research on formative assessment and suggestions on how it might be implemented in the classroom. They also have substantial reference lists which tutors and student teachers will find valuable.

  • Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998) Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment London: King's College, London, School of Education
  • Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B. and Wiliam, D. (2002) Working inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the classroom London: nferNelson
  • Marshall, B. (2004) English assessed Sheffield: NATE
  • Marshall, B. and Wiliam, D. (2006) English inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the English classroom London: nferNelson
  • Swaffield, S. (2008) Unlocking assessment: Understanding for reflection and application London: David Fulton Publications

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