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The best activities for assessment success

Allana Gay

Allana Gay is a deputy headteacher at Lea Valley Primary School in Tottenham, as well as a WomenEd London leader and BAMEed cofounder. She champions authentic leadership, equality and diversity in education.

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Image credit: The Chase // ITV. Image credit: The Chase // ITV.

ox•y•mo•ron
noun
a figure of speech in which apparently
contradictory terms appear in conjunction
eg “assessment without levels

It was decided that numbers of ascending rank are no longer apportioned to students at KS1 to KS3. The replacement, a scaled score of tests leading to an ascending rank of age-related knowledge “Why not follow the YouTube trend of vloggers?”and skill, is now enforced. So in our move away from levels we have realised that we do like levels, just in more detail. That said, there has been lots of grappling with ways of assessing that can lead to an accurate-but-fair national system of determining which students are emerging, expected and exceeding. Popular programmes, such as Target Tracker, have progressive statements that teachers utilise to assess into which categories their students fall. This generally extends to evidence progression towards mastery of subject.

In theory, a data-rich system based on teacher assessment; in human, a broad-brush system where a child is made to fit category. So what ideas can move beyond this? Accuracy of formative assessment is the focal point of the change. It widens the variety of assessment while allowing the scope for students to make continual improvement. As the use in assessment of writing is extended across the curriculum, here are a few ideas for tackling assessment while still engaging in their best work.

  • Vlogs: Rather than starting with the writing, why not follow the YouTube trend of vloggers and let students can capture their understanding, as well as show their dramatic flair, in their own originally produced stories? Through their trailers for each activity they can summarise their knowledge securely (as an alternative, podcasts can be used rather than video). From their vlog they can then critique ideas, style expressions and so on, before writing the book associated with their story.
  • ClassMeet: Allow students two slides and three minutes each (like your own classroom TeachMeet), with them taking turns presenting and explaining an assigned topic from the front of the class. This is a very helpful revision system on topics such as the use of each grammatical element, mathematical concepts, or historical figures.
  • The Chase: Game-show setups such as this are useful for timetables or knowledge-based questions in History and Science (or just to let them know you are still a quiz show boss!). Use your favourite programme’s structure in the classroom for great effect.

Formal testing still has an essential role in moving assessment towards a national standard. Testbase continues to be a popular resource for exam-based assessment. They now offer prepared assessment papers for each year group alongside their usual selection of questions. Rising Stars and Twinkl also offer balanced practice to familiarise students with examination technique.

What do you do with all of this data?

While the data collected gives an idea of final assessment, it is the moderation of the data that is the most powerful. I am not speaking of the ‘in school’ kind, though. The best moderation comes “The best moderation comes from partnering with schools from your area.”from partnering with three or more schools from your area (or outside, if possible) and presenting the assessed work and rationale against the standards. This is the crucial part of assessing without levels - partnership. In order to escape the bubble of our singular understanding of a child’s academic performance, we need to extend to what ‘age appropriate’ looks like. This is only possible when schools are willing to share the work they have assessed with others.

More understanding of the criteria is needed, as the Standard and Testing Agency (STA) standardisation for moderators has a low pass rate. Local authorities have had success by hosting half-termly training meetings in order to ensure that Year 2 and 6 moderators are in every school. On the Trial Pile for this academic year is the role of limited marking and increased feedback within the classroom. Self/peer marking and redrafting of writing following verbal feedback with a single focus are viable means of assessment without the massive workload. As used by Shaw Primary Academy, Michaela Community School and St Matthias School, the systems of checking and editing work are an asset to any school that can implement it correctly. The focus it allows teachers to have on specific detail, to respond to in their next lesson, signifies the true reason for assessment - to direct improvement in learning.

Assessment without levels has provided the license for freedom of expression by students in the work they produce. It is now up to us to ensure that we allow sufficient outlets for them to express themselves, offer accurate ideas on where their work lies on the assessment scale, and facilitate continual redraft and editing to improve on their previous best.

[Originally published in the Innovate My School Guide 2017/18.]

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