assessment for learning

The Assessment Reform Group (2002) identifies ten principles to guide classroom practice in assessment for learning . Choose five of particular relevance to your practice and evaluate them in relation to the pupil experience in your school. Assessment for learning (AFL) 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 be and how to achieve their goal.

Black and William (1998) in their research on the use of formative assessment in the classroom found ten principles of assessment which guide classroom practice in AFL. (Assessment Reform Group, 2003) The school I work in is a city based multi cultural school. UIS caters for children from all backgrounds and inclusion is of importance to our setting. I work in key stage 1 as a HLTA. I do PPA cover throughout the year 1 classes and I cover when a teacher is away wherever possible. The subjects I teach are the foundation subjects which are History, Geography, R. S and Music.

I plan, implement and assess these subjects. In UIS, we believe that effective assessment provides information to improve teaching and learning. To do this in our school, we undertake two different but complementary types of assessment: assessment for learning and assessment of learning Assessment for learning (formative assessment) involves the use of assessment in the classroom to raise pupil achievements. 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 this aim i. . to close the gap in their knowledge. Assessment of learning (summative assessment) involves judging pupils’ performance against national standards. Teachers may make this judgement at the end of a unit of work, a term, a year, or if a key stage. We give our children regular feedback on their learning so they understand what it is that they need to do better. Research has shown that their involvement in the review process raises standards, and that it empowers pupils to take action towards improving their performance.

The objectives of this assessment are: to enable our children to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do their work; to help our children recognise the standards to aim for, and to understand what they need to do next to improve their work; to allow teachers to plan work that accurately reflects the needs of each child; to provide regular information for the parents and carers that enables them to support their child’s learning; to provide the head teacher and governors with information that allows them to make a judgement about the effectiveness of the school.

To support our teaching, we use the Early Years Foundation Stage guidance, the Primary Framework literacy and mathematics schemes of work based on National Curriculum objectives. We assess children at the end of each unit of work to help us identify each child’s level of attainment. The first principle that I will be discussing is that assessment for learning should be part of effective planning of teaching and learning. The teachers plan their lessons with clear learning objectives. We base these upon the teacher’s detailed knowledge of each child.

UIS strive to ensure that all tasks set are appropriate to each child’s ability. Our lesson plans make clear the expected outcomes of each lesson. (Appendix 1) Teachers always share the lessons learning objectives with the children as the lesson begins. They also indicate the way in which the activity is linked to the learning objective, and the criteria against which the work will be judged which is the success criteria. Teachers ask well phrased questions and analyse pupils’ responses to find out what they know, understand and can do, and to reveal their misconceptions.

We identify those individual children who do not achieve, or exceed, the expected level for the lesson, and we use this information when planning for the next lesson. Targets are set for end of Key Sage 1 and approved by Governors and the local Authority. UIS set year group targets in Mathematics, Reading and Writing for all our classes, during each academic year. These are expected levels of achievement reached by the end of the year for the majority of children and the more able in class. In Foundation1, staffs know that the next step children need to take is through systematic observation.

These are shared with parents and talked through with children where appropriate. In Foundation 2 children have individual reading targets and group writing targets. In Key Stage 1 all children have individual and group targets in reading, writing and maths. Children’s targets are passed over to parents and carers, the progress of each child at the end of each term is reviewed, and revised targets are set. UIS recognise various methods of assessing a child’s learning. The type of assessment that our school make varies from subject to subject. We assess informally throughout the term, based on observations made by teachers or support staff.

Every week I annotate assessment of the class I teach on my plan(appendix 2) and at the end of term fill out the assessment sheet. (Appendix 3) These observations are recorded in a variety of temporary formats, such as post-it notes, and are used to inform the Foundation Stage Profile or National Curriculum levels. We take the objectives for individual lessons from the board learning objectives within the school’s curriculum plan. These in turn reflect the demands of the National Curriculum / EYFS. The teachers record the progress of each child against these board objectives. This enables them to make a udgement about the work each child in relation to national standards and allows them to monitor the progress of each child. Each teacher passes this information on to the next teacher at the end of each year. ` Teachers can review the rate of progress by looking at work in pupils’ folders or exercise books and by the marks in the record books. They can then use this to adjust day to day teaching and plan further work. One way to improve manageability would be to make a note only of those pupils who achieve significantly above or below the expected outcomes of a task’ (QCA, p. 3).

The second principle that I will be discussing is how assessment for learning focuses on how students learn. ` If children don’t learn the way we teach… perhaps we should teach the way they learn (Eppig, 1981). ’ The process of learning has to be in the minds of both the learner and the teacher. Assessment for learning helps those pupils, who do not always find learning easy, to make progress. ‘Planning for personalised learning focuses on what teachers need to do ,individually and collaboratively ,to develop assessment for learning and personalise learning by establishing supportive conditions for learning’(AFL,Primary Framework).

When we do our assessment of a lesson we have to consider the different styles in which pupils learn. Day to day assessments is an on going and essential part of teaching and learning. Teachers and children continually reflect on how learning is progressing, see where improvements can be made and identify the next steps to take (national strategies standard) . When undertaking assessment of pupils, teachers use their knowledge of individual children in deciding on how to go about assessing the pupil. Research on grading pupils, shows that children are less motivated and often demoralised when they are continually compared to each other. They need to know the criteria for the next level above ,but they do not need to know what that level is called. (Clarke,2001,p. 74)’ We have to consider the nature and level of support that the pupil receives as part of a normal classroom routine. The tasks and assessments are intended to assess a child’s ability in fair and a comparable way. If a child is a visual learner and for the assessment to be fair to him we adapt the test by having pictures inserted as well as questions.

For those children that are auditory learners we read out the questions to the whole class and this enables them to fulfil their learning style. In our setting we have a working wall where the children are able to see what the objective and the success criteria of the lesson are. Appendix 4 On the working wall for the visual learner, we have two eyes to show what the teacher is looking for and ears to show the children to listen. For those children where English is an additional language we have support staff that are available while the test is taking place, so the staff can help where appropriate.

Our school aims to be an inclusive school. We actively seek to remove the barriers to learning and participation that can hinder or exclude individual pupils, or groups of pupils. We achieve educational inclusion by continually reviewing what we do, by monitoring data, and through asking ourselves questions about the performance of these individuals and groups of pupils. In our setting there is a boy that is very able but his writing skills are very poor. His fine and gross motor skill are underdeveloped so to get the best out of him, he does all his work on the computer which is then assessed.

Children that are on the S. E. N . register have their own I. E. P. ’s to work from with their allocated support staff, once their target is achieved they move on to the next target from their P-scales. The third principle that I would like to discuss is that assessment for learning should be recognised as central to classroom practice. Tasks and questions should prompt learners to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills. In our setting assessment for learning is recognised as central to classroom practice. In the Foundation unit the teachers usually plan the lesson with the ideas given by children.

On a Friday afternoon the teacher has circle time with her class where she starts off with a basic topic and the children then give ideas on what they would like to do around the topic. In considering the ideas of the children it prompts the learners to learn and helps with the ongoing of assessments. I did a lesson on electricity in a year2 class which I was covering . In order for me to assess the children I asked a lot of open questions which prompted them to answer. The open questions gave the children the opportunity and encouraged them to think beyond the literal. Research on wait-time showed that teachers need to leave five seconds after asking children a question, to allow them to respond. This is the optimum time it takes to process the question to formulate the answer (Clarke, 2001. p. 87). After having watched the classroom experiment I was able to take on board the idea of waiting time which I now religiously apply. ` Increasing waiting time after asking questions proved difficult to start with due to my habitual desire to “add” something almost immediately after asking the original question. The pause after asking the question was sometimes “painful. It felt unnatural to have such a seemingly “dead” period, but I persevered. Given more thinking time, students seemed to realize that a more thoughtful answer was required ‘(D e r e k, Century Island School). The negative side to the waiting time is that some teachers wait for two seconds before they either ask another child or answer the question themselves . Children often then do not try to think of a response, because they know that the answer would be given or another child would be asked to answer. The lesson was very inter-active I was able to assess whether my success criteria was achieved.

When I handed the worksheets to the children I had asked them to write the learning objective below the date and to refer to it when they were doing there work. The fourth principle that I would be discussing is that learners should receive constructive guidance about how to improve their learning. `An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information that teachers and their students can use as feedback in assessing themselves and one another and in modifying the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged.

Such assessment becomes “formative assessment” when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs (Black and William, 1989). Most learners are curious to know how they have done in a task . `Feedback is sometimes seen as part of a behaviourist approach to learning ,where it is part of the sequence stimulus-response –reinforcement (Wragg,2001,p. 27). The aim of marking in our setting is to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom. Whilst doing my research

I found out that Nancy from Riverside school says that her marking has developed from comments with targets and grades, which is the school policy, to comments and targets only. Pupils do work on targets and corrections more productively if no grades are given. Marking is an integral part of assessment and target setting and the outcomes inform short, medium and long term planning. Its rationale is to enable every child to achieve their full potential. It is recognised that one to one oral feedback is most valuable for young children.

It should remind the child of the learning intention and emphasise the positive aspects of the child’s practical or recorded work. ` Various research studies have concluded that feedback is most useful when it focuses on the learning intention of the task rather than other features of the work’(Clarke,2001,p. 50). In our setting the minimal response for all written work is that it should be initialled and dated to acknowledge that it has been seen. Maths work is usually ticked if correct and marked with a bullet point to signify that the answer needs to be checked.

In UIS traffic lights are used to indicate whether the child has achieved the success criteria for the task. Green-learning objective met, orange-a few examples of learning objective having been met, red-learning objective not met, need to see the teacher. (Appendix 5). When a child meets the learning objective the work may be underlined or highlighted in some way to acknowledge the child’s success. Smiley faces are used to indicate good effort. Whilst doing my research and talking to other teachers in school I found out that each child gets a detailed feedback of their work at regular intervals.

This detailed feedback could be oral or written and should be specific and related to the learning intention set for the particular piece of work. Feedback needs to indicate areas where improvements or next step targets are to focus. It is important to allow children the time to reflect on the feedback and make improvements to a specific piece of work. The fifth principle that I would like to discuss is assessment for learning develop learners’ capacity for self-assessment so that they can become reflective and self managing. `In practice, peer assessment turns out to be an important complement to self-assessment.

Peer assessment is uniquely valuable because students may accept criticisms of their work from one another that they would not take seriously if the remarks were offered by a teacher’(Black and William. p. 6). Peer assessment and self-assessment is much more than children marking their own or each other’s work. To improve learning, it must be an activity that engages children with the quality of their work and helps them reflect on how to improve it. Peer assessment enables children to give each other valuable feedback so they learn from and support each other.

It adds a valuable dimension to learning: the opportunity to talk, discuss, explain and challenge each other enables children to achieve beyond what they can learn unaided. Peer assessment helps develop self-assessment, which promotes independent learning, helping children to take increasing responsibility for their own progress. `Research shows that if self-evaluation is linked with the learning intention of a task, children’s progress, persistence and self-esteem is improved(Black and William,1998). The development of peer assessment and self-assessment takes planning, time, patience and commitment.

When children don’t understand the intended learning outcomes they find it difficult to move beyond superficial criteria related to neatness and spelling. By using a range of strategies and by dedicating time to allow children to reflect on and discuss their learning teachers can develop children’s peer assessment and self-assessment skills. ` Independent learners have the ability to seek out and gain new skills, new knowledge and new understandings. They are able to engage in self-reflection and to identify the next steps in their learning.

Teachers should equip learners with desire and the capacity to take charge of their learning through developing the skills of self-assessment (Assessment Reform Group, 2002)’. UIS trains children to use the traffic light system to indicate directly on their work to what extent they feel they have achieved the learning objective of their given task and how secure they feel they are in their learning. This helps the teacher to identify if a child is having any difficulty and this also give the children confidence in seeking help.

The negative aspects of using the traffic light system at right at the end of the lesson is that some children who are over confident tend to rank their achievement very high and those children that have low confidence tend to under estimate themselves. Teachers in our setting also encourage children use the thumbs up that is when a child is confident they have achieved what was expected of them, thumbs sideways which indicates that they are half way there in understanding the objective ,but could achieve more and thumbs down which indicates that the child does not really understand and needs a bit more help.

In order to develop pupil’s skills with self assessing their work we use prompt questions which the children can think about when reviewing their work. Pupils need to be able to assess their own progress to become more independent learners. ` One of the reasons peer assessment is so valuable is because children often give and receive criticisms of their work more freely than in the traditional teacher/child interchange. Another advantage is that the language used by children to each other is the language they would naturally use, rather than school language’ (Black et al, 2003).

We regularly do peer marking which I find very helpful indeed. A lot of misconceptions come to the fore, and we then discuss these as we are going over the work. I then go over the peer marking and talk to pupils individually as I go round the room. Peer evaluation works really well because children learn from each other where they have gone wrong and how to put it right. The advantage of peer assessment is that children get to work with different children and they get a wide idea on how the pupil has achieved their success criteria.

Some children assume that the more able children never find anything difficult, but this process makes them aware that all learners find some aspects difficult. After having done all my research I have found that the most important aspect of assessment is to have the learning intention and success criteria in focus. In UIS, with the self –evaluation strategies that we use it develops children’s awareness of their learning needs as well as open doors for teachers to get a better understanding of the pupil. Some teachers tend to give feedback to pupils on areas that are not of much relevance to the objective.

It takes a while to get into the habit of giving appropriate and relevant feedback but the strategy is simple, make sure that the learning intention is mentioned first and then talk about the secondary features. If it is necessary to mention the secondary features, then say it in a very low tone to the pupil concerned. `As the research demonstrates, formative assessment makes a significant difference to children’s progress –in their ability to be confident, critical learners, to achieve more than ever before and in raising their self-esteem.

In a world of continuing pressure, it is good to know that we are making a real difference to children’s lives. (Clarke, 2001, p139). ’Pupils enjoy finding that other children often have the same thoughts, share similar feelings on a particular subject, and have similar problems or successes whilst doing self-evaluation assessment. Ofsted had done a survey on 43 schools and found that 7 of these schools were inadequate in their assessment for learning. `Where assessment for learning had had less impact, the teachers had not understood how the approaches were supposed to improve pupils’ achievement.

In particular, they used key aspects of assessment for learning, such as identifying and explaining objectives, questioning, reviewing pupils’ progress and providing feedback without enough precision and skill. As a result, pupils did not understand enough about what they needed to do to improve and how they would achieve their targets. Teachers did not review learning effectively during lessons; opportunities for pupils to assess their own work or that of their peers were infrequent and not always effective’(Ofsted). Michael Fullan also suggests that many educational innovations have been frustrated by the inherent but understandable ‘conservatism’ of teachers. He suggests that real change will only occur where teacher beliefs about teaching and learning have been significantly altered. Education is littered with examples of innovations that have either failed or only been partially implemented because teachers weren’t convinced the change was necessary and would result in real improvement. The result has been that they merely modify their practice at the edges and then abandon the change after a while because it ‘didn’t work for them’.

More effective use of assessment, particularly formative assessment, will require many teachers to reconsider their approach to teaching and learning and to re-evaluate their working practices’(Weeden,2002,p. 127). Therefore if schools and teachers want to make changes they have to have the subject knowledge, be committed and dedicated to continually re-examine their teaching styles. Reference Assessment Reform Group (2002) Assessment for Learning: Ten Principles [online] Available from:www. assessment-reform-group. org. uk [Accessed 19th December 2010]

Black, P. ,and Wiliam,D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan Vol 80, 139-149. [Accessed: 19th December 2010] Clarke,S. (2001). Unlocking formative Assessment . London: Hodder and Stoughton Clarke,S. (2005)Formative Assessment in Action London:Hodder and Stoughton Eppig, P. (1981) Education by design –used in the UK as Critical Skills program by [email protected] (Bristol Education Action Zone) Weeden,P. Winter,J. Broadfoot,P. (2002). Assessment-What’s in it for Schools. online] London: Routledge Falmer. p. 127. Available from: http://northampton. np. eblib. com [Accessed:27th December 2010] Wragg,E. C (2001). Assessment and Learning in the Primary School [online]. London: Routledge Falmer. p. 27. Available from: http://northampton. np. eblib. com [Accessed:27th December 2010] QCA (1999) Keeping Track,Qualification and Curriculum Authority. http://nationalstrategies. standards. dcsf. gov. uk/primary/primaryframework Appendices 1. Lesson plan 2. Annotated Lesson Plan 3. Assessment sheets 4. working wall 5. Traffic lights

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