Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Assessment - last but not least, Principle Five

Finally, assessment. The policy was written when Assessment FOR Learning was the major issue - formative assessment being the goal. The part that assessment plays in learning and as a tool for feedback and course planning is important.

Principle Five: Effective assessment plays a significant role in the learning process and is an important tool for feedback, learning and curriculum planning.
Supporting Statements
a.     The ABC Assessment Principles (see separate document) distinguishes
-        assessment for learning, which is used to inform teaching and learning and
-        assessment of learning, which is used to monitor achievement and development.
It is recognised that many assessments can be used and interpreted for both purposes but some assessment for learning will be a feature of all teachers’ assessments.
b.     At a whole school and at Departmental level a thorough analysis of internal and external assessment results, along with all relevant feedback from examination boards takes place annually. The results of these analyses inform teaching and learning as adjustments are made to methodologies, curriculum planning and documentation, assessment and grading policies and practices.
c.     All teaching staff recognise the importance of analysing assessment results and responding individually to assessments in order to improve learning and teaching in terms of adapting schemes of work, classroom activities and lesson plans.

The Assessment Principles, referred to in statement a. above, are reproduced below. These do give a very complete picture of what is important in assessment.

Key Assessment Principles:
The focus of the principles outlined below is on assessment for learning, used to inform teaching and learning, in addition to assessment of learning, used to measure achievement and development.  If assessment is constructed and delivered effectively it can add tremendous value to the learning process.
Key Principles 
1. Effective Assessment reflects an individual’s strengths and identifies areas for improvement. 

  • Strengths: areas where the student is capable. Such areas need to be identified to help motivate students, to develop self-esteem and to generate a belief that they can improve.
  • Areas for improvement: skills, concept or knowledge gaps  This must be based on well understood criteria by both teacher and student, between actual and optimal capability with clear next steps determined by clear learning objectives.
2. Effective Assessment provides ample opportunity for meaningful feedback to students with teacher, self and/or peer involvement.
  • Feedback: focuses on the task, is closely related to criteria and linked to next steps. Needs to be applied regularly, focusing on individual pieces of work as well as units of work.  Feedback can be provided in  written or oral form by the teacher, a peer or the student.
  • Involvement: involves sharing assessment criteria with students and showing them how to interpret the criteria to provide meaningful feedback that promotes development.
3. Effective assessment uses a range of methods, both formative and summative, to help identify success and monitor progress
  • Formative methods: emphasise feedback, student involvement, modeling quality, criteria, next steps, clear learning goals, self esteem, communication, ownership/responsibility of and for learning process, self-assessment/self-correcting and self-referencing. These are very valuable in that they contribute to learning itself whereas summative methods alone do not.
  • Summative methods: emphasise objectivity, exams, tests and group referencing.  They provide a useful measure of progress and attainment in both teaching and learning, provided reliable and valid tools are used.
4.  Effective assessment equips students with the skills to self-correct and self-assess and with the strategies to improve via realistic achievable goals. 
  • Equips: involves teachers sharing criteria and clear learning objectives with students and providing well designed tasks to develop the skills indicated by the criteria.
  • Skills: the ability of students to understand and apply criteria, including the ability to analyse, evaluate and make informed judgements.
  • Self assessment/self-correction: modeling quality (ie using samples of work enabling students to explore criteria).  Detailing how work meets criteria along with tasks that enable and develop students’ ability to examine their own work in a critical, meaningful way and to appreciate the importance of being open minded to constructive criticism.
  • Strategies/goals: includes next steps and clear targets which are attainable and understandable.  These strategies and goals need to be reviewed on a regular basis to give them validity. This allows progress to be identified and for next steps and targets to be set in order to achieve further progress.
  • Realistic goals: needs a sensible time frame where students and teachers can monitor progress easily. Regular reviewing is an important part of the process to maintain awareness and to generate purpose and confidence in the ability to achieve goals.
5. Effective assessment creates an atmosphere which motivates all participants and provides the opportunity for self-improvement and academic progress
  • Atmosphere: should be set to positively reinforce students’ learning by praising, rewarding and motivating them in their work as well as ensuring that students recognize and relate to the goals of assessment for and of learning. This requires high quality classroom management, well designed working tasks and regular feedback with constructive criticism.
  • Motivates: students who see, understand and embrace their own intrinsic role and responsibility in the learning process enabling them to be true life long learners and therefore to always aim to improve and achieve more.
  • Self-improvement: is based on self referencing, not peer to peer or year based referencing and there need to be opportunities to review and determine progress through portfolios, targets, modeling of quality, to have conferences between teachers students and parents with feedback and to have opportunities to improve. All this needs to be based on a clear understanding of the criteria for progress.
6.  Effective assessment educates parents, teachers and students in the principles of assessment and involves them all in the process of assessment
  • Educates/involves: this refers to the involvement of all relevant parties in understanding what the principles of assessment are at the ABC, why they exist, what responsibilities each party has and what is expected from the assessment process. This involves effective lines of communication in all areas and at all levels.
  • Principles of assessment: this document needs to be explained to all parties involved in the process
  • Process of assessment: this focuses on processes as well as outcomes and has a clear planned structure and purpose.
7.    Effective assessment for learning needs to have its principles embedded in all areas of the school. This requires that staff and students be equally engaged in the process as part of their own individual development as teachers and students  

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