CfE: Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning cycle and should be central to ongoing classroom practice.
It is a driving force in CfE (and an opinion shared by experts in pedagogy, curriculum and assessment) that the assessment process should not govern what is taught.
Different types of assessment
There are three key types of assessment.
- Formative assessment records development in progress, rather than development when the learning and teaching is completed. It is an ongoing part of classroom activity, it is cumulative and provides information which informs teachers’ future planning.
- Summative assessment summarises completed learning. This assessment type usually takes place at the end of a period of teaching, such as at the end of a topic, the end of a year or the end of a key stage. Summative assessment statements may be compiled using information from formative assessments in addition to formal tests taken at given points within students’ school careers. This is the assessment type used in the annual SQA examination.
- Assessment for learning, an extension of formative assessment, 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. It should be ongoing and part of effective learning and teaching. Assessment for learning uses assessment in the classroom to raise achievement. It is based on the principle that students 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. This forms part of ongoing teacher assessment in the class and therefore guides the leaning-teaching process.
It is important that, having planned activities that will provide opportunities for learning, teachers are able to assess to what degree learning has actually occurred, before moving students on to the next stage in their understanding. I feel this is why AifL is essential to the learning and teaching process. But as my enquiry shows it need not be formal or driven by the teacher.
The Assessment Reform Group (a voluntary group of researchers who work closely with teachers, teacher organisations and local education authority staff to advance understanding of the roles, purposes and impacts of assessment) have highlighted ten research-based principles of assessment for learning to guide classroom practice. It should be:
- part of effective planning of teaching and learning
- focus on how students learn
- recognised as central to classroom practice
- regarded as a key professional skill for teachers
- sensitive and constructive because any assessment has emotional impact
- foster motivation, by protecting the learner’s autonomy, provide some choice and constructive feedback and create opportunity for self-direction
- promote commitment to learning goals and a shared understanding of the learning criteria
- provide learners with constructive guidance about how to improve
- develop learners’ capacity for self-assessment so that they can become reflective and self-managing
- recognise the full range of achievements of all learners.
Why do teachers assess pupils’ progress?
There are several reasons why teachers assess pupils’ progress. Some of these reasons include:
- to find out about the pupils as individuals
- to find out how pupils learn
- to monitor and provide evidence of the progress pupils make in their learning
- to enable constructive guidance about how pupils can improve
- to inform future planning
- to enable teachers to evaluate the provision they make
- to enable focused communication with others, including the pupils themselves
- to make schools accountable.
There are many different ways to assess pupils’ progress, but if assessment is to be meaningful and informative it is important that practitioners consider the following:
- identify clear learning objectives
- choose a suitable activity to facilitate learning
- articulate the assessment criteria, as it is important that learners are aware of what is being assessed
- decide who to assess, and who will be doing the assessment (eg teaching assistant, teacher, student)
- how to assess (eg observation, discussion, working with learner, looking at work in progress)
- record the activity, including learning opportunities – consider how this will be done
- decide what evidence is required for the student to demonstrate that learning has taken place
- observe and record the key findings (photograph, tape recorder, annotated notes etc)
- share assessment outcomes with the student in a constructive way, so future targets can be set.
- note any individual needs for extension or reinforcement – this will inform future planning and differentiated activities
- plan further action based on the assessment findings.
Assessment evidence can be found through a range of sources, which may include:
- teacher analyses of students’ work
- interviews and discussions with studnets
- planned observations
- incidental observations
- students’ self-assessment of work
Records of attainment can be used to support the day-to-day activities in the classroom, to:
- constructively inform and motivate students
- inform planning of future work
- inform subsequent teachers about learners’ progress
- to help learners know how well they are progressing, and help them, with teacher guidance, to set challenging targets for the future
- to provide evidence-based information when reporting to parents
- to inform headteachers and governing bodies about the work in the school
- to enable judgements to be made about pupils’ levels in each attainment target at the end of each key stage
- to be able to justify professional judgements to others
- to enable standardisation of judgements within and across schools.
To conclude, teacher assessment can be supported by fostering a classroom environment in which there is:
- a curriculum which is designed to facilitate observation and recording, and is an integral part of planning for learning and teaching
- a focus on how pupils learn
- a clear understanding, by teachers and pupils, of what is being assessed and why it is being assessed
- recognition that teacher assessment will offer important and valid information
- an agreed style, format and frequency for assessment tasks
- a constructive and supportive classroom environment that motivates the children to learn
- a climate of giving feedback that enables pupils to know how to improve
- a sound knowledge of the requirements of the national curriculum, the Curriculum Guidance for Foundation Stage, National Literacy Strategy and the National Numeracy Strategy (Primary Strategy).
Like CfE shows that it is vitally important that assessment promotes key learning skills. Rather than focussing on the gaining and repetition of knowledge and understanding, the emphasis needs to shift to students demonstrating skills and understanding. Rather than memorising facts, it is more important that students learn and understand concepts in any subject which can then be applied in different contexts, enabling learners to identify essential links between different situations and therefore develop/deepen their understanding of a wide range of phenomena. Learners also need to understand the learning process itself, in order to build/develop the skills, understanding and desire needed for continued lifelong learning.
Assessment Strategies and Tools: Checklists, Rating Scales and Rubrics
Checklists, rating scales and rubrics are tools that state specific criteria and allow teachers and students to gather information and to make judgements about what students know and can do in relation to the outcomes. They offer systematic ways of collecting data about specific behaviours, knowledge and skills.
The quality of information acquired through the use of checklists, rating scales and rubrics is highly dependent on the quality of the descriptors chosen for assessment. Their benefit is also dependent on students’ direct involvement in the assessment and understanding of the feedback provided.
The purpose of checklists, rating scales and rubrics is to:
- provide tools for systematic recording of observations
- provide tools for self-assessment
- provide samples of criteria for students prior to collecting and evaluating data on their work
record the development of specific skills, strategies, attitudes and behaviours necessary for demonstrating learning
- clarify students’ instructional needs by presenting a record of current accomplishments.
Checklists usually offer a yes/no format in relation to student demonstration of specific criteria. This is similar to a light switch; the light is either on or off. They may be used to record observations of an individual, a group or a whole class.
Rating Scales allow teachers to indicate the degree or frequency of the behaviours, skills and strategies displayed by the learner. To continue the light switch analogy, a rating scale is like a dimmer switch that provides for a range of performance levels. Rating scales state the criteria and provide three or four response selections to describe the quality or frequency of student work.
Teachers can use rating scales to record observations and students can use them as self-assessment tools. Teaching students to use descriptive words, such as always, usually, sometimes and never helps them pinpoint specific strengths and needs. Rating scales also give students information for setting goals and improving performance. In a rating scale, the descriptive word is more important than the related number. The more precise and descriptive the words for each scale point, the more reliable the tool.
Effective rating scales use descriptors with clearly understood measures, such as frequency. Scales that rely on subjective descriptors of quality, such as fair, good or excellent, are less effective because the single adjective does not contain enough information on what criteria are indicated at each of these points on the scale.
Rubrics use a set of criteria to evaluate a student’s performance. They consist of a fixed measurement scale and detailed description of the characteristics for each level of performance. These descriptions focus on the quality of the product or performance and not the quantity; e.g., not number of paragraphs, examples to support an idea, spelling errors. Rubrics are commonly used to evaluate student performance with the intention of including the result in a grade for reporting purposes. Rubrics can increase the consistency and reliability of scoring. They may be used to assess individuals or groups and, as with rating scales, may be compared over time.
EXAMPLES OF RUBRICS
Regina Public Schools – Rubrics for elementary dance
Although these rubrics are not related to our CfE benchmarks or criteria, they can give you an idea of how to make your own.
Artswork – Performance Evaluation
From the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts – observation checklists, rubrics, portfolio assessment and rating scales for all kinds of performance tasks.
New South Wales Dept. of Education and Training – Assessment Strategies
A comprehensive look at dance evaluation strategies, with examples and sample tools.
Likeri rating scales have been developed to measure attitudes directly (i.e. the person knows their attitude is being studied).Likert-type or frequency scales use fixed choice response formats and are designed to measure attitudes or opinions (Bowling, 1997; Burns, & Grove, 1997). These ordinal scales measured 5-7 levels of agreement/disagreement.