Assessment – evolve not devolve

Like many, I thought I would sit back and wait to see what would happen with assessment under the new national curriculum.  However, I have come to accept that the government have said what they are going to say and now it is over to us. One document that might help those who use talk for writing is Transforming Writing which is an evaluation of Pie’s work. This talks in detail about the improving activities that teachers engaged in with their class.

Sadly, I have  watched on twitter those who have developed their own assessment procedures patronise and denigrate those who are still using Assessing Pupil Progress (APP).  Acceptance that not everyone is in the same place is crucial if we are to move forward, each of us at our own pace.

The NAHT commissoned a report on assessment and whilst it was a little vague, it was  full of principles but light on what we should actually do. There were some interesting parts to it.  One was ‘Don’t Panic’ and the other one that stuck in my memory was evolve; don’t throw everything out and start with a blank piece of paper.

So, if you are using APP, how do you start to evolve?  Well there are all sorts of ways but some of them  might be:

  • Use an elicitation task before starting your teaching sequence.  This will enable you to ensure that your must/should/could statements really do meet the needs of your class.  An elicitation task asks children to write in as similar way as possible to the key outcome.  It is not a test, so support the children with the content through speaking and listening activities, but don’t support the way in which the children write it.
  • Use this to determine the must/should/could statements to ensure that they meet the needs of the children.
  • Mark and identify the innovate writing in order that elements for further teaching are identified and then included in the invent stage of writing.
  • Following on from the invent writing, identfiy what the children need next.  This might mean that you don’t teach the text type that you were expecting to, but  teach a different one that allows the children the opportunity to develop what they need next.  One example of this is that I was working with a school on a narrative unit and found that the key outcome suggested that the next steps were to develop vocabulary choices.  The next unit that the teacher had planned was a non-chronological report.  In fact, what the children needed was a poetry unit. This is a major change for some.  Coverage is not the issue under the new national curriculum.  Responding to the needs of the children is!
  • Don’t plan out a year’s work of literacy in advance.  If you take the above point seriously, you you will understand that this is not possible.  Collect the text types taught and the titles used each half-term and reflect upon genre covered and those that now need to be addressed.
  • Understand the role of testing in assessment procedures.  Some schools that I talk to insist that testing for reading is the way in which reliable reading results will be achieved. If as a school you believe this to be true, then follow it and keep up to date with publishers. (I am sure that when Gove invited the publishers to be involved in assessment, this would be the end result.)  If testing is not your preferred method of assessment, how will you assess reading? If APP is embedded in practice, then start to collect information about what the children can do and what next the next steps might be

There are of course, many other ways in which schools could start to evolve in terms of their assessment procedures.  What are you doing?