Magazine article NATE Classroom

Assessment for Learning? Some Deliberations on Our Own Learning Journeys Whilst Writing Materials for the ITE English Website

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Assessment for Learning? Some Deliberations on Our Own Learning Journeys Whilst Writing Materials for the ITE English Website

Article excerpt

If you have not come across the Initial Teacher Education site for English teachers,, we'd recommend a browse during your coffee break. The website is aimed at anyone involved in the training of teachers of English--which does not exclusively mean academics holed up in ivory towers (if such people exist), but 'new full-time lecturers in higher education, part-time 'sessional' (hourly-paid) staff, classroom teachers seconded for one day a week, tutors working on School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) or Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) courses, colleagues from other disciplines, or mentors working with student teachers in school'. If you are not working directly with a student English teacher yourself, it's a fairly safe bet that you'll know someone who is.

The site is funded by the TDA; its contents to date, however, have been overseen by NATE (the ITE committee) and the UKLA. All the topics have been written by current practitioners in ITE and so are relevant, grounded and practical, yet underpinned by research. They range from Drama at Key Stages 1 and 2 (by Professor Teresa Cremin) to Literature Study Post16 (Richard Jacobs and Simon Gibbons), with a wide range of stopping-off points in between: try 'English for Pupils With Diverse Backgrounds' (Richard Quarshie) or 'English and Behaviour for Learning' (Alison Binney). There are also a series of readings for discussion (valuable, perhaps, as the focus for a departmental meeting?) and summaries of current research (with both Primary and Secondary focuses).

Recently we were invited to submit resources on Assessment for Learning, including Assessing Pupil Progress in English. Since between us our work spans KS2--KS5, we were ideally placed to look at assessment processes in schools and comment on both AfL and APP. Assessment is an interesting area to explore, because, as we suggest in our resources, it is an area that student teachers find challenging. Whilst all student teachers have had the experience of being assessed (for various purposes), few have been assessors, and the bridge from 'assessee' to assessor is not necessarily the easiest to cross.

We therefore decided that it would be most helpful to start off by offering a mini summary of the recent history of assessment, starting with the work of Black and Wiliam and its development by the Assessment Reform Group, up to the recent government drive to promote APP. Tracing the varying definitions of the term Assessment for Learning' through this phase is an interesting exercise in itself--and is useful in establishing that assessment is a sensitive and potentially controversial topic.

The brief we were working to suggested that the emphasis should be on sharing resources that had been tried and tested on our own student teachers; accordingly, the preparation of the section was a valuable exercise in that it enabled us to reflect on our own teaching--what had we covered on assessment with our own student teachers that we would be confident to recommend to colleagues? At our university, we start off by asking the student teachers to question the very notion of assessment. The following discussion exercise (taken from our resources) is effective in challenging preconceptions.

Setting the Context--Why, When and What Do We Assess?

It is important at the start to ask student teachers to discuss the primary purposes of assessment. Useful prompts for discussion include the following.

Do we assess pupils to:

* measure the effectiveness of individual schools?

* measure the effectiveness of individual teachers?

* measure how well individuals can retain information?

* help individuals understand how they can develop?

Background information for such a discussion might include a range of sources, from right-wing press articles condemning GCSE standards or commenting on school league tables, to the Ofsted requirement that pupils should be aware of how they are doing and how do they know? …

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