Magazine article NATE Classroom

On the Hoof Assessment

Magazine article NATE Classroom

On the Hoof Assessment

Article excerpt

Schools have got better and better at collecting and collating performance data. Ask them about any child and they will tell you what level they were, are and should be on. If learning is a butterfly then schools are very good at pinning it down and displaying it for inspection.

They are less good at creating the perfect conditions for the butterfly to take flight.

But nothing is really worth knowing just for its own sake. It needs to be used for some purpose. The trouble with assessment in school--despite the excellent practice of many teachers--is that it can become very bureaucratic and self-serving: data presented in myriad ways simply because it can be.

It's not easy to work out who is to blame for this. The inspection regime is often cited as a leading culprit, but Ofsted can be very progressive on assessment. Its often perceptive 2009 report on the state of English, English at the Crossroads, applauded those outstanding teachers who 'used on-going assessment within the classroom to identify pupils' learning needs and to adjust lesson plans accordingly'. What this observation emphasises is that the most effective assessment happens on the hoof during lessons. It is what happens when confident teachers do things to discover exactly what is going on in the minds of their students and then choose what to do next in the light of that discovery.

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For students to take responsibility for their own progress we need to demystify assessment criteria for them. Teachit's EN1 target sheet (individual extended contribution) shares the grade criteria with students so that they can make a useful judgement about their own and others' performances and adjust their approach to make it more effective. Personally I would re-word the criteria offered here to make them even more intelligible for students, but that is the beauty of Teachit: membership gives access to resources as Word files that can be customised to the user's needs.

Effective practice in speaking and listening is an essential prerequisite for on the hoof assessment:

a talking classroom is one which teases out and reveals thinking. Group work role cards is designed to foster extended group discussion that is truly collaborative. Four role cards are provided: speaker, scribe, judge and pioneer. Many other stimulating roles are possible: e.g. assessor, chairperson, envoy. Again, the resource is good as it is, but it can also be taken as a starting point, and the 'Tweakit' attached to it suggests some other possibilities that could be pursued. The 'Tweakits' that accompany other resources emphasise the essential choice that Teachit offers: just take the resource off the peg, or customise it.

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Peer assessment is what brings performance criteria to life for students, and we can see how this might work in Assessment materials, which gives levelled 'I can' statements for creating, performing and responding in drama. Students are encouraged to use these to give each other feedback that can culminate in useful targets. A template is included to guide and formalise this process.

The Sandman: review and novelisation is another good example of a rich resource based on making success criteria explicit. …

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