Blank ruler assessment.
Use the blank ruler below to determine how big the penny is
Measurement, of any kind needs a scale against which to make appropriately accurate judgements. In Roman times, measures were things like cubits and hand-spans. Non-standard measures can be useful for approximation, a sort of rule of thumb, but, if accuracy is needed, then standardised measures are essential.
I used to tell a story to illustrate this point with young learners.
A king wanted a ship built, went to a carpenter with measurements, 50 feet long and 10 feet wide. When the day of the launch was arranged with all the dignitaries present, the king went red in the face, shouted at everyone, especially the carpenter, that the ship was too small.
What had happened? This question gave rise to a variety of thoughts, leading to formalising measures.
I’d say that assessment in learning also needs a scale against which learners can be measured, but more from the point of view of supporting them to take the next steps, based on the evidence of outcomes.
In many ways, it can be argued that this scale is embedded within the development of discrete subjects, with one element leading to the next, so that, for some teachers, presenting sequential lessons provides that structure, as each aspect is covered. However, most teachers would acknowledge that assimilation and retaining of information, coupled with organisation and recall issues, can mean that different children make progress at different speeds.
It’s relatively easy to put children into a list order, from less able to most able. This has been the stuff of many aspects of teaching for a very long time. Examinations and test scores do this, based on score outcomes.
Examinations and tests are based on criteria, exploring aspects of what has been learned. Rarely will an exam or test enable a participant to demonstrate the whole of their competence or capability. If the parameters of the test or exam are known ahead of time, they can be planned for and rehearsed, as effectively as possible. They are usually knowledge based, with a simple remit to ascertain what has been retained. They serve that purpose.
Occasionally, they require the participant to reflect on some pieces of information and to make an argument for or against a proposition. This is a more demanding challenge, as it moves into using and applying the knowledge, and may, to some extent, and in some, or most, subjects, rely on a more general articulacy, rather than subject specific content.
Assessment, to a large extent, is just describing learners, what they can do, where they are in relation to the learning journey and what they need to do next. I always summarise this as “Know your children well”.
“Testing” this, and recording it, at specific points allows for tracking of progress. However, any teacher who spends time with learners should be able to provide a reasonably accurate summary at any point. Equally, teachers need to be aware of the limitations of different forms of testing, including an awareness of their own perceptions that can skew decisions on some individuals.
It is a cyclic process, (articulated within the blog entitled 24652), where all teaching and learning is premised on knowing the learners really well and refining that knowledge over successive teaching cycles.
Teaching standard 2 is Progress and Outcomes. This can be analogous to process and product, with the learning and thinking process leading to a product which can be evaluated, reflecting on the development to find the points where additional attention would improve future products/outcomes.
Knowing the steps to develop the subjects is essential and this can appear to be the point of the Progress Descriptors. At one level, the decision is whether a child can do, or knows something or not. It is a list of attributes, but each is long and detailed and will probably need to be distilled to make sense on a day to day basis, with certain key elements being essential for focus.
The process is likely to be an integrated mixture of experiences, in school or external to school, technicalities and interactive advice. Unpicking experiences and bringing the detail of those experiences into classroom learning makes for greater progress, but, where learners may not have had background experiences outside school, their thinking will be disadvantaged.
Consider a range of cultural experiences; museums, galleries, places of interest/worship and wild places. Each will hold sensory experience which can be internalised, especially if they have an interested adult to point out, question and reflect on what is being experienced. Access to the internet, or to documentary style programmes on the TV, can have a second hand impact. The oral culture of the family is likely to impact on learning, as are the reading habits, of books shared together, or encouraged independently. From all these experiences come the foundation of vocabulary, which enables the learner to join in the learning conversation.
School experience should enable the learner to use what they already know to explore new situations, thereby adding to their working vocabulary. A rich adult language also adds to this stock. The outstanding teacher/storyteller contributes to this through interactive storytelling. They use the more difficult words then interpret to the needs of the rest of the audience, so links are made overt.
Learners need to learn the words, the way in which words go together to make sentences, then to order and organise their thoughts into a clear narrative; they learn to tell the story their way.
From the oral organisation, this can then be recorded in a variety of ways, including writing.
It is often this latter point that is subject to “testing”. The ideas, wrapped up through a learning narrative in response to a question. It is then the fluency and articulacy with which a learner expresses their understanding that is more often the basis for judgement. If they can get their ideas across, they are judged to be higher grade than one who struggles.
If the process of articulation is explored thoroughly, then where aspects are missed out can be identified and rectified.
Towards a portfolio approach
Structures matter. The two page approach to writing (see blog) was an attempt to embed the process of crafting ideas into regular exercise book use. Each aspect of the process could be considered at a personal level. Linked to flip out personal targeting (see blog), this provides the agenda for discussion between the teacher and the learner. Writing frames enabled whole writing, with an emphasis on particular parts for different purposes, but always to present a whole narrative. This draft, edit, redraft approach can be very powerful in supporting learning. I’m not going down the route of Triple Impact Marking (TIM), as, to me, this can distract from the process of draft and redraft with editing embedded.
I’d suggest this as opportunistic teaching, as outlined in this nutshell.
Over time, the portfolio builds with a succession of processes, feedback and responses, first draft material that might have been further developed, linked to personal development points which can be affixed as a permanent agenda for discussion, to the side of the exercise book.
Each piece becomes a new baseline, from which progress can be described, by both learner and teacher. It provides a certain amount of flexibility too, to the teacher, to engage with different aspects of the process to better guide the learner.
What’s interesting is that this approach can apply to all subjects.
Emphasise and improve the process, so that the outcomes show improvement.
Improvement =positive mind-set.