The assessment process itself should not determine what is to be taught and learned. It should be the servant, not the master, of the curriculum. Yet it should not simply be a bolt on addition at the end. Rather it should be an integral part of the educational process, continually providing both ‘feedback’ and ‘feedforward’. It therefore needs to be incorporated systematically into teaching strategies and practices at all levels.
(DES 1987, para. 4)
In recent years assessment has been the subject of much debate. Questions have been asked about what and how we should assess. Standard Assessment Tasks have been criticised for poorly worded questions and inappropriate content which does not allow children to demonstrate what they know. Educators have grown anxious over the problems of assessing thirty-plus children in a wide range of practical and conceptual areas. Yet early years educators have always monitored their pupils’ development, to inform their day to day teaching and to allow them to report learners’ achievements. They have used a combination of formative assessment, where the emphasis is on planning the next steps to be taken with a child, and summative assessment, providing a snapshot of the child’s achievements and abilities at a particular stage, in building a picture of the whole child. They have, in fact, always seen assessment as an ‘integral part’ of the learning process. In doing this, they have made assessment all-embracing, and most would certainly agree with the thoughts of Hurst and Lally: