Theme 6: Assessment for learning

Effective teachers use a range of assessment practices to make students’ thinking visible and to support students’ learning.

A wide range of both formal and informal assessment practices are reflected in the stories below as teachers outline how they diagnose learning issues, teach and provide feedback, and monitor progress. Assessment is an integral part of teachers’ informed practice as they seek to know what is and what is not working for their students.

Classroom teachers engage in intense assessment and response on a moment by moment basis in their regular daily teaching. By setting appropriate tasks, by asking effective questions, by giving time for students time to think and give explanations of their thinking, and by listening attentively as their students “think and reason aloud”, teachers skilfully guide learning with reference to progressions and frameworks.

It is also important to highlight the importance of ensuring that consistent messages and information are being shared and valued by all involved in the students’ learning, and across transitions, for example between primary and intermediate schools.

Schools here make it clear that specific task related feedback is critical to the success of their students. Some too have ensured their students have engaged in peer and self assessment and evaluation as a regular part of their programme.
 

Exemplars:

Their discussion and actions allowed me to follow their thinking processes and reasoning so that I could redirect them where necessary. Assessment was on-going throughout each session and determined where to next in my planning. I think this was a key to the success of the programme as I was able to tailor the learning specifically to each child in the group.
At the beginning the needs of each child as well of the group were established. Children individually were given their results and the teacher spoke to them about where they were at and where they needed to get to. Children were also told of how they may get there. All programme planning was tailored to the needs of the child and their preferred learning styles. The follow up sessions filtered and became part of the daily classroom programme. Essential to success was the approach of using formative assessment information throughout and therefore the teacher was flexible during the lesson to respond to the needs of the children. This ensured that the teaching and learning was targeted and helped students to consolidate their understanding and clarify any misunderstanding in the process.
Teaching to identified needs: by identifying the children’s individual learning needs from the pretest was one of the best things I did. This made it very clear to see the knowledge the children already had, and to see the gaps I needed to fill. I found I referred to this piece of paper (although a very simple idea) constantly throughout the term and it kept me very focussed on what each child needed in terms of teaching and learning.
 
Feedback: I found that providing immediate feedback to the students was a useful way of ensuring the children knew what they had to do next time (solve a problem correctly). This feedback during our sessions was always verbal feedback, but it wasn’t just evaluative feedback such as “good boy” but focussed on what they were actually doing and linked to the learning intention for the session. We didn’t do worksheets during these sessions we used whiteboards for recording, or recorded ideas on big pieces of paper to go up on the walls for revisiting or to help us remember what we had done.

 

In an ongoing sense, the formative assessment that I was doing every day as I worked with the students, allowed me to specifically target each individual lesson at an identified point of need. This was helped greatly by the ten minute reflection time that I disciplined myself to take immediately after I finished each session with the children.
Having strong and well formed relationships with my students contributed to their success, as I was able to identify their specific learning needs, assess as we went along and give them a sense of achievement within the whole class. Despite the formal assessment showing small gains, as a qualified professional I was able to use formative assessment and my OTJs to see real progress for these students.
Each student was given a new notebook to write in daily reflections. This provided insight for me as to their attitude and feelings throughout this process. They were self reflecting and gave student voice which created next steps for their learning.
Informal assessment as we went along was helpful, the games appeared to be games to the children but they were an excellent gauge for me of who was getting it and who wasn’t. Sharing problem solving in pairs worked similarly. Remember that this is a group of children who have come through school appearing to fail at maths, as well as other areas, therefore they tend to seize up when it comes to ‘real’ tests.
Extensive verbal feedback/feed-forward. The small group, regular scheduled sessions (3 x weekly) allowed for individualised interaction between pupil and teacher. Feedback was very specific, always with an acknowledgement of the successful thinking shown.
These groups changed based on formative assessment data. Each lesson began with a diagnostic snapshot which enabled the teacher to build on existing proficiencies. Formative assessment was used throughout the lesson to enable the teacher and student to identify what they knew and next learning steps.