This think piece follows on from those on curriculum and teaching and learning; the three aspects are very much interlinked. We need to take a careful look at how assessment supports both the curriculum and teaching and learning to ensure students learn, develop and further embed their knowledge and skills to achieve success.
There are two common forms of assessment: summative and formative. We should be absolutely clear about the form, purpose – and limitations of both. In addition, it is important for us to review the collection and use of data in the light of workload. We know data can be powerful – if collected and used – with purpose and care. So we must consider carefully what data best enables us to know our students and their progress.
Amanda Spielman has raised concerns related to over-testing and teaching to the test from Year 7. We should ask ourselves to what extent do we do this? This change in focus very much promotes a culture shift towards formative assessment (previously referred to as Assessment for Learning). We propose referring to this as responsive teaching. It is the key link between curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment – and back again.
What data best enables us to know our students and their progress?
Responsive teaching is key to the ‘implementation’ aspect of the curriculum as it is what we do daily in our lessons. However, it is not mechanically using a bunch of assessment techniques. It is the next step; acting on awareness of what the students don’t know. It is embedding, securing and deepening students’ knowledge and skills, and addressing any misunderstandings identified. Responsive teaching is intentionally acting on what the students don’t know and sticking at topics until knowledge is mastered.
How we record these gaps and misunderstandings for each of our students and how much we record, is something to be explored and may look different across subjects. Nevertheless, responsive teaching as a form of assessment must come to the forefront if teaching and learning, as well as the implementation of the curriculum, are to be supported.
With the reduced focus on internal data that schools collect, this in turn puts into question how often we are assessing students formally using summative assessments. Summative assessments are still important and have their purpose but how often do we need to assess in this more formal way? We need to be clear about the limitations of summative assessments: they are not effective formative tools to identify and fix learning gaps. This is why responsive teaching will be the focus.
As a college we have spent time developing the validity and reliability of summative assessments at Key Stage 4. This is important as it gives shared meaning to the data they derive for all stakeholders, including parents and governors and of course, our students. Summative assessment should attempt to assess understanding from a wide knowledge base, be performed under controlled conditions and the data should allow us to make valid and reliable inferences from it. This is what we have been moving to this year and can continue to be explored as we question the number of assessments and timing.
Some other key questions include: What will valid and reliable summative assessments look like at KS3? What data will we report home to parents / carers? How often will we do this?
More to follow in the next think piece.