Pupil assessment

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07 November 2016
Although assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning cycle it shouldn't govern what is taught.

It's vitally important that assessment promotes key learning skills. Rather than focussing on the gaining and repetition of 'know-what' knowledge, the emphasis needs to shift to pupils' demonstrating skills and understanding. Rather than memorising facts, it is more important that pupils learn and understand concepts within any subject which can then be applied in different contexts, enabling learners to identify essential links between different situations and therefore develop/deepen their understanding of a wide range of phenomena. Learners also need to understand the learning process itself, in order to build/develop the skills, understanding and desire needed for learning throughout their lives

Types of assessment

There are three key types of assessment:

  • Formative assessment records development in progress, rather than completed development. It is an ongoing part of classroom activity, it is cumulative and provides information which informs teachers' future planning. This forms part of ongoing teacher assessment in the class.
  • Summative assessment summarises completed learning. This type of assessment usually takes place at the end of a period of teaching, such as at the end of a topic, the end of a year or the end of a key stage. Summative assessment statements may be compiled using information from formative assessments in addition to formal tests taken at given points within pupils' school careers.
  • Assessment for learning, an extension of formative assessment, is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there. It should be ongoing and part of effective learning and teaching. Assessment for learning uses assessment in the classroom to raise pupils' achievement. It is based on the principle that pupils will improve most if they understand the aim of their learning, where they are in relation to this aim and how they can achieve the aim.

Assessing pupils

There are many different ways to assess pupils' progress, but if assessment is to be meaningful and informative it's important that teachers:

  • identify clear learning objectives
  • choose a suitable activity to facilitate children's learning
  • articulate the assessment criteria to the pupils, as it is important that learners are aware of what is being assessed
  • decide who to assess, and who will be doing the assessment (eg teaching assistant, teacher, pupils)
  • decide how to assess (eg observation, discussion, working with a learner, looking at work in progress)
  • record the activity, including learning opportunities - consider how this will be done
  • decide what evidence is required for the children to be able to demonstrate that learning has taken place
  • observe and record the key findings (photograph, tape recorder, annotated notes etc)
  • share the outcomes of the assessment with the children in a constructive way, so that targets can be set for future learning
  • note any individual needs for extension or reinforcement - this will inform future planning and differentiated activities
  • plan further action based on the assessment findings.

Assessment evidence can be found through a range of sources, which may include:

  • teacher analyses of the work pupils have done
  • interviews and discussions with pupils
  • planned observations
  • listening
  • incidental observations
  • pupils' self-assessment of work
  • tests.