If you want a very good summary, look no further than @MichaelTidd1979's site, after you have read this, of course!
I wrote an initial set of thoughts after that publication, but, in continuing to think about what the actual act of assessment entails, I started to tweet some basic “tips”, all premised on the principle of knowing the children well and getting to know them even better. A few people were kind enough to comment positively on them, so I thought I’d collate and develop them, where further exploration might help.
#assessmenttip 1 Watch what children are doing. Spot the difference between today and yesterday/last week/month. Identify and celebrate.
Observation is a key skill in assessment. Watch any EYFS practitioner and they will be very busy looking closely at what the children are doing in response to a stimulus. They may be capturing their observations in note form or through digital photos and notes. I’d always advise an ITE student, or a NQT to get their heads up and look around the classroom, to see what is happening. Avoid the head down and close focus with a group, to the detriment of the children.
#assessmenttip 2 Get children to talk about what they are doing. Ask Qs to clarify and explore their thinking. Ask Qs to challenge.
Questioning is the means by which children can be encouraged to explain and explore what they think. This can be scaffolded to the needs of the subject or personalised to the needs on an individual child. Open and closed questions will support different types of thinking.
Unless children are engaged with during a lesson, the teacher has to rely on the end product to form opinions. This can then mask a multitude of issues, which could ensure that a wrong impression is given, creating a learning gap that may only become apparent at a later stage.
#assessmenttip 4 Keep records, be aware of outcomes that can show developing patterns that might require deeper engagement.
#assessmenttip 5 Ask questions that need answers to show clearly what a child "knows" (at the point of testing)
#assessmenttip 6 If in doubt, work closely with individuals, observe, talk, question, clarify, reflect, repeat as necessary.
Where a child is not meeting the teacher expectations, it is incumbent on the teacher to explore more fully what might be contributing to the problems. This might involve diagnostic marking, deeper discussions, enabling the child to explore the identified issues and to come up with possible ways forward.
#assessmenttip 7 Broaden your understanding of children's outcomes to balance your judgement, especially at the upper/lower margins.
This is probably key to decision making. It is easy to get caught in the culture of a particular school, or within specific parts of a school; eg always teaching KS1 in a Primary school. Learning is a journey though different years of a school. Knowing what has gone before and what will come after allows teachers to tailor their teaching to a known position. A teacher new to the profession will not cary with them a broad understanding of children’s outcomes. That is one reason why I’d advocate for a National Exemplar portfolio, or at least a school level portfolio, so that specific journeys can be moderated against a broader perspective.
#assessmenttip 8 Create learning challenge that enables children to demonstrate looked for skills and knowledge.
#assessmenttip 9 Know chn, plan challenge, engage learners, advise, adjust to need, check outcomes, know chn better. Refine next challenges.
#assessmenttip 10 Sit down, think of a child, sum up what you know about him/her and what you need to know next. Repeat for class.
#assessmenttip 10a Write a classlist. Who gets remembered early? Who gets forgotten?
I will always remember, early in my career, sitting down to write class reports and thinking I had finished, counted up the reports to find one child missing. At that point I decided that no child would ever be invisible again.
#assessmenttip 11 Write down essential information, to collate over time, to determine patterns. You can't remember everything.
#assessmenttip 12 Recognise limits of your own skill. Use skill, knowledge and experience of others to extend/enhance, to benefit learners.
Children are the responsibility of the school as a whole, even if they are in your class for a year or so. Others will have insights that will supplement your own. If a child is getting under your skin, then a chance to download with a colleague might just put everything into perspective.
#assessmenttip 13 If you can’t remember all the targets and the details of what you want from each and every child, tweak your work books, so that they become personal learning organisers.
Have a browse of this blog.