There is one key question that teacher need to ask of learners as they work through a range of issues.
“Can you do this?” ie, a judgement of capability.
There will be a range of answers, from yes to no, passing through possibly, or not quite, or, to use the Growth Mindset, not yet, which, to all intents and purposes has to be no, for now. The outcome of this assessment question decides the next steps for the teacher, whose role is to reflect on the context and the challenge within which the next steps can occur.
Of course, if the teacher chooses then to write down the answer to the question, against some kind of proforma, against the child’s name, this becomes tracking of performance, which becomes cumulative over time. Inevitably, like an MOT on a car, the assessment stands for that moment in time. There can be no guarantee of perfect retention. This applies from EYFS to degree level study. It is useful at the time, to support decisions.
Assessment and tracking are intertwined in my mind, and have been throughout my career.
Phonics is regularly in the news. Starting my career in 1974, surprising to some perhaps, but phonics did happen. One of the key things that I did as a classteacher was to keep a record of the phonic skills of each child, as well as their basic sight vocabulary, all 39 of them, which supported decisions about spellings or words to be sent home. At the same time, each child was heard to read, at least once a week, with notes made after each session, about fluency and accuracy, with specifics noted as aides memoire, which to me is a main purpose of tracking; keeping the teacher on track to ensure quality challenge throughout, rather than assumption and guesswork. This was supported at a simple level by the colour coded reading system widely used in schools. So judgements could be along the lines of “Can you read this level of books fluently and with a good degree of accuracy?” If yes, then move on to higher challenge. If not yet, then stay on the same colour, there’s lots of choice.
The same happened for maths and other subjects too, all before the National Curriculum and the Strategies, although, as I have argued in other posts, the NC level descriptors were useful in supporting this decision making, by articulating aspects of progression in subjects. They made a difference to expectation among teachers and gave a common language for discussion and decision making, based on capability.
And that’s the essence of my current concern. Is there (in each school) a framework against which to make judgements of capability in the first instance? If not, both assessment and tracking could be compromised, especially for newly qualified teachers.
I don’t want to go back to the days of very good, good, satisfactory and unsatisfactory. We made significant progress over the 27 years of the former NC. We should be able to build on that practice, through reflection and discussion.