5 hot takes on assessing assessment

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“What can educators do to personalise assessments?” We posed this question to five of the UK’s leading edu-suppliers. Here are their thoughts....

1. Carl Sheen, head of training and product development at Genee World

Personalising assessment is an effective way to ensure the success of every child. Student ability should be at the forefront of any assessment decision. It’s important to identify what level of understanding pupils have about a topic, whether this is from a summative or “Whole-class activities allow teachers to quickly assess where learners are.”formative assessment. I’d suggest that the first step should be a whole-class activity, as this is an opportunity for teachers to quickly assess where learners are with a topic. For example, setting a quick summative assessment via student devices can allow a teacher to monitor the results across the whole class. By doing this, teachers can identify the strengths and weaknesses of the class as a whole.

Following this, a lot of classroom-based technology can allow teachers to delve into the needs of every learner. Teachers can use this to frame future work and address the need to tailor assessments to certain groups of the class. For example, to support those who may struggle to retain facts and text-heavy passages, teachers can use software to quickly and easily insert images or videos to help learners remember information more easily. Being able to personalise formative and summative assessments in the class is essential for help learners to reach their maximum potential.

2. Sam Warnes, CEO of EDLounge

A major way that educators can personalise assessments is to provide a platform for learning and assessment that all students - regardless of age, location, or disability - can comfortably access. Technology provides this opportunity through e-learning and virtual classrooms; assessments can be given outside of traditional school hours, and assessors in a central location can manage the test takers.

This format is ideal not only for school-aged students, who may suffer from mental health disorders like social anxiety, but also for adults pursuing further education, including stay-at-home parents and shift workers.

3. Gary Bryant, UK country manager for ITSI

When planning assessments for students, it is important for educators to be able to personalise them for their specific intent. Is this assessment for learning, “This new curriculum should mean that children don't ever fear being wrong.”or assessment of learning? Only they will know - at what pace - the curriculum that they have covered, and they will know their cohort of learners best. It’s important, therefore, to provide educators with tools, closely linked to the curriculum content, which enable them to quickly and easily test students to understand on what they do or do not know.

By making assessments personalised, educators are able to focus on improving learning outcomes by better directing their next phase of teaching.

4. Dr Becky Parker, Physics teacher and director of Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS)

The way to personalise assessments is to do two things not often found in STEM assessments.

1. Make the assessments personal to the students, in that they care about what they are working on. For example, students are engaged in learning genomics when they can see there might be some impact of their work in tackling a neglected tropical disease.

2. Give them some agency in how they focus their work for assessments. Group and individual research projects allow students to learn basic skills and background, before tackling a question which they want some answers to. These research questions that young people attempt to answer bring out independent skills and new ideas.

Giving young people the opportunity to show their initiative and potential brings phenomenal insights far beyond any PAG assessments for A Level Sciences. It makes assessments a far more enjoyable experience for both the students and the teachers!

5. Brent Hughes, Primary Maths educator at Matific

Historically, assessments such as SATs are based on questions requiring a right or wrong answer. The same questions are given to children of all developmental levels, and unsurprisingly, campaigners against SATs object to the huge pressure this puts on Primary schools and their students.

In my view, recent changes in the curriculum are driving the need for a more flexible, personalised approach to assessment. Let’s take the Maths curriculum as an example. Because this subject no longer focuses on individual skill development alone, and requires a problem-solving approach to achieving Maths mastery, shouldn’t its assessment follow the same format?

Primary Maths resources today should offer a step-by-step approach to building children’s Mathematical development by assessing their approach to each problem and the application of various skills. This new curriculum should mean that children don't ever fear being wrong; they purely need to be see mistakes as part of the process, and approach the problem in a slightly different way.

Assessing Mathematical skills can be done by setting problems, not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ questions. If a child solves the problem, they should be automatically guided on to a slightly more complex challenge. Those students who are struggling should be automatically given clues on how to improve their approach to solving the problem. By using this personalised approach to assessment, while the children are still being assessed, they do not have to experience the stress inducing ‘wrong answer’ message, but are carefully guided through a constructive, ‘anxiety-free’ way of learning.

[Comment courtesy of Mango at PLMR]

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