Using Assessment Information to Inform Evidence-Based Teaching

By Rodwell, Michelle; Sale, Catheryn | Practically Primary, February 2011 | Go to article overview
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Using Assessment Information to Inform Evidence-Based Teaching

Rodwell, Michelle, Sale, Catheryn, Practically Primary

Teachers are increasingly focused on collecting and analysing assessment information to inform evidence-based teaching. The Literacy Engagement Assessment Process (LEAP) was implemented in two Kindergarten classrooms over twelve months. The aim was to enhance teacher capacity to analyse and use assessment information to inform their literacy teaching in Kindergarten (the first year of school).

LEAP as an Assessment Process

LEAP is built on the premise that observation and assessment of children's language and literacy development over time can broaden a teacher's knowledge about individual students. Further, it allows for the planning and implementation of effective literacy teaching inclusive of evidence-based decisions about teaching instruction. Clay (2005) reminds us that 'if we attend to individual children as they work, and if we focus on the progressions in learning that occur over time, our detailed observations can provide feedback to our instruction' (p. 4).

This article explores the approach taken by two Kindergarten teachers, a Reading Recovery Tutor and Literacy Education officer in a NSW school in the Illawarra region, approximately 60km South of Sydney. The Kindergarten teachers made daily observations of the students as they worked in small literacy groups and in daily guided reading and writing. Coupled with these was a process of assessment that included of a range of items such as those listed in Table 1. The results of these item based assessments were not considered in isolation, but were combined in order to provide a more holistic picture of the child's abilities. They were used in an effort to use a flexible approach to assessing literacy learning and to inform classroom teaching.

Getting started

The languages, experiences and cultural experiences Kindergarten students bring to the classroom provide the basis for further language development. Therefore, during the first six weeks of Term 1, the students were provided with extensive opportunities for talking and listening, immersing the students in oral language and book language. The intention was for the teachers gather informal assessment data. It allowed them to move among the students as they worked within a social context of interaction and involvement. The opportunity was provided for a deeper understanding of each child's individual and multiple pathways of language development. Formal assessment for these students did not begin until week 6 of Term 1. Table 1 outlines the LEAP plan for these Kindergarten classrooms over 4 terms.

Note that Term 1 assessment items were read ministered in Term 3. Similarly, Term 2 assessments were read ministered in Term 4. This decision stemmed from Clay's (2005) questions:

* What typically occurs for the children we teach as learning is taking place during the time between tests?

* How is the individual child changing over time in relation to what typically occurs?

Repeating the assessments every second term provided an opportunity to respond to these questions as the teachers measured literacy learning and monitored the progress of students at regularly spaced intervals. Individual student strengths and learning needs were easily identified. As a result the teachers reflected on their teaching in order to understand the progression of individual students and more importantly to plan for supportive instruction.

Assessment data and classroom practice

Information from the 2010 Term 1 assessment highlighted two important points:

1. There was a considerable diversity in the range of student literacy strengths and learning needs in both kindergarten classrooms.

2. These students needed a variety of literacy activities including reading and re-reading of continuous text, writing, word study and phonological awareness activities.

As the teachers examined the assessment information, teaching practice became a focal point.

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