Appraisal, estimate, judgment, computation, determination, estimation, rating, reckoning, valuation, value judgment
I keep struggling with the notion of assessment. At its heart, I think it is looking to answer the question “What are you good at?” and “How can you get better at this?”. It has always been thus. Decisions are made against criteria, the innate understanding of the person making the judgements.
While most scratch their heads and wonder and wait for the answer to come along, it is worth considering what we are doing and why. I am also considering why we might have something that looks like the system “formerly known as levels” back at some stage; perhaps we should call it “?” for clarity.
This diagram shows how earlier documentation viewed the ladder schemata for levels.
Assessment is a slightly messy beast, as it is a composite of many facets. It is essentially the basis upon which we make decisions; some of which are “judgement calls”, with our judgement being refined over time with experience. Most of us, living busy lives, are making decisions with rapidity. In a classroom, especially with younger learners, it is possible to be making several decisions every minute, each of which can have an impact on the smooth running of the class and learning outcomes.
I spent a large part of last year exercised about the implications of the Government “getting rid” of levels as a system, with schools required to create, buy, borrow, adapt a system that enabled them to describe progress in their schools in relation to the new curriculum. One option is just to determine whether “they’ve got it, or not”, a binary decision, but teachers know that children are not binary. Thirty learners will produce thirty outcomes, with subtle differences in their attainment, which need to be capable of articulation, commentary and advice for continued improvement.
In a recent post I looked at the notion of expectation, which, at its heart embeds assessment. If you are primed with expectation, then your decision making has a context. This is why planning too, has a significant role to play, as that is an articulation of your expectation. Everything, to my mind, eventually comes back to assessment in some form, as I believe that assessment for, and of, learning is how teachers think.
Assessment, at it’s simplest can be described in the following way, as it links with differentiation.
Analyse-plan-do-review-record- a cycle of decisions.
- What do they already know-prior learning? What do they need to know?
- What’s the best way forward with them?
- What am I expecting as an outcome?
- What do I do if they finish early?
- What do I do if some “get it” and some don’t?
- What’s a good/better outcome for this age of children?
The new curriculum puts emphasis on the core subjects of maths and English. I have long been an advocate of a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum for learners, with the opportunity of using the interplay between subjects to enhance each other. Maths and English have a central place in all subjects, through the use of interconnected concepts and vocabularies. In fact, English is everything and it is possible to perceive a double value curriculum in English, especially in a Primary classroom.
The “demotion” of many of the subjects other than the core will inevitably lead to an inequality of time allocated, resource availability and, potentially, challenge to those whose abilities exceed that of the class in general, as activities for the whole class take centre stage. This limitation will further inhibit the potential for learning based discussions, such as “How did you do that?” with others learning from the successful outcomes of others.
The incorporation of conceptual vocabularies into writing might also be inhibited, diminishing writing outcomes. Exploring and experimenting with ideas often occurs within non-core subjects. Subjects such as history and geography lend themselves to incorporation into writing, through settings, characterisation and ordering and describing events. Science, art, design technology, among others, lend themselves to instruction and report writing. Why create artificial scenarios in an English lesson to accomplish the same? In a Primary classroom, such a focus can actually enhance the writing for the specific purpose, by being based in the reality of activity.
During my teaching career, there have been at least two HMI reports that have demonstrated that history and geography, along with other non-core subjects, have not been taught well in Primary schools. As a result, there was a movement to improve this, so that learners became level 4/5 historians, geographers etc. I’m speculating that over the next few years, the concentration on the core, and the demotion of the non-core, will mean that the disparity between maths and English and the rest of the subjects will become significant, to the point where the data should not be used in any form to compare progression into KS3 and 4, apart from the maths and English.