think assessment 22021-03-03T11:04:55+00:00

Assessment #2

April Wright

Although I am writing from an assessment perspective, it is important to recognise that responsive teaching in itself is impossible to separate in terms of ‘teaching’ and ‘assessment’. One informs the other in a never-ending cycle or loop as we teach, assess, teach, assess to respond to what is going on in our classrooms and in children’s heads. Therefore, I recommend you read this alongside think piece 2: Teaching and Learning.

Secondly, responsive teaching also supports curriculum development as we look to refine and improve its sequencing (the order in which we teach threshold concepts) and progression (how we make intentional links to previously taught knowledge / concepts). We are teaching some of our curriculum for the first time and so it is important we are reflective and keep the curriculum in our mind to ensure it supports students’ ability to grasp those threshold concepts. This is an ongoing challenge as the curriculum is never truly ‘done’ but it is important we all as teachers are empowered to feel responsible for the refinement of the curriculum, we deliver i.e., it is the responsibility of all of us to reflect on our curriculum in this way. Responsive teaching should be seen as the glue that binds CURRTLA.

Responsive Teaching – what does it mean for assessment?

Responsive teaching is the more informal, low stakes yet powerful form of assessment that you may know as formative assessment or AfL (Assessment for Learning). It’s what allows us to determine in real time what students know, understand and / or can do to inform ‘what next’ in the learning episode.  We therefore need to think intentionally about what this type of assessment looks like and consider what is the most effective and efficient way (in line with CURRTLA principles) of assessing what students ‘know’.

Recall that we have asked staff to embrace messiness and I encourage you to do this with assessment. Learning is messy and we as experts can use all sorts of strategies to work out what has gone on in terms of learning. We will never know for sure. And so, challenge 1 – In your own subject, how can you regularly determine what students know, understand, or not, through low stakes assessment (as part of being a responsive teacher)? 

Let me reiterate, no longer do we need to be performative or formulaic with assessment.  What I mean by this is that we don’t need students in a hall under exam conditions. Instead, we need to be intentional about what and how we ask (to assess understanding around the threshold concepts, to address misconceptions etc.), when we ask it (does not have to always be at the end of a lesson but can be) and most importantly what we then do with that information in order to plan what next. It is the never-ending, inseparable loop with teaching that makes assessment in this way transformative.

Let me reiterate, no longer do we need to be performative or formulaic with assessment.  What I mean by this is that we don’t need students in a hall under exam conditions. Instead, we need to be intentional about what and how we ask (to assess understanding around the threshold concepts, to address misconceptions etc.), when we ask it (does not have to always be at the end of a lesson but can be) and most importantly what we then do with that information in order to plan what next. It is the never-ending, inseparable loop with teaching that makes assessment in this way transformative.

Truly knowing our students – but how?

Let me take you back to the Sliding Doors scenario that was enacted in our February 2019 Twilight INSET. If you weren’t a member of staff then, ask a member of staff who was there to ‘retrieve’ this for you. The aim was for us to model what it means for a teacher to know their students (if this is ever truly possible due to the proxies for learning as previously acknowledged); not solely through numbers and percentages or from end of topic test results in a spreadsheet. Instead, it was about being able to narrate with confidence the journey students are on using more ‘softer’ yet arguably more powerful data. This is what responsive teaching should equip us with as it regularly provides some information on what is going on with the students.

Therefore, to challenge 2 – As a class teacher, how and what do you record to support the ‘knowing’ of your classes? I appreciate this will look different for different subjects and for different staff even within a subject. Why not? As teachers, we are the experts and we trust you after all. As I acknowledged above, learning is messy and so can be the recording of it.

What about summative assessments?

As I write this I hear many of you asking ‘but what about the summative assessments?’ and ‘what about data as evidence?’ ‘How can Heads of Faculty monitor progress across a cohort?’ We must acknowledge the role of summative assessments in our curriculum journey but these should not be the main form of assessment in our classrooms. Why? Because the quality of the curriculum, the delivery of the curriculum and the regular assessment of it through responsive teaching is what makes students masters of your subject. This is still a shift (maybe even a threshold concept) for us to make as a body of staff.

So where does that leave us with summative assessments? They have some importance. As teachers, they allow us to: test a sample of a domain (i.e. a few topics from our broad curriculum), standardise a number to a grade, test students cumulatively (i.e. see what they have remembered in terms of ‘knowing, understanding and doing’ from Year 7 to 9). They also allow students to experience exam conditions and force them to remember over a longer period of time.  Therefore, if summative assessments have their place within our 5 year curriculum, we need to consider when – taking into consideration when we have taught enough of the domain. In addition, what do these assessments look like? This will, of course, be influenced by what progress in your subject looks like. This is my third challenge. As a college we still have a way to go to prepare students for this type of assessment and for us as teachers to really think about the questions posed here. 

 

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