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Process - not paper

The means are as vital as the result in ict, as Worcester lea's Jane Finch found to winning effect, says Gerald Haigh

It was the sheer illogicality of approaching ICT assessment by looking at pieces of paper that helped to drive a team at Worcestershire authority - adviser Dave Thompson, teacher adviser Jane Finch and teacher Helen Wilkes - to look for something better. What they sought was a tool to help teachers assess the in-progress stages of tasks involving ICT.

These days Jane Finch makes her point by showing a printout of some work by a reception-age child - a simple shape on a background, involving a choice of colours.

"If it's a scribble on a colour background and the child had a lot of help, then it's probably level 1. If the child has tried to imitate the style of a known artist, and made independent choices in doing so, then the same work could be level 3."

The same issue exists at every stage. "Making a print-out of a control activity, for example, is a nonsense," she says. The point is that you need to see how the child got there."I wanted teachers to stop assessing on a print-out and start assessing a process," she says, "That's become my mantra."

You can do this by watching carefully, of course, but in the real world of the classroom you can't do that effectively enough to see and judge what every child is doing. What's needed is a system that enables you to visit each child's work in progress, and which saves the steps along the way, enabling you to backtrack through it as necessary - a personal electronic portfolio, in fact, built up over time, preserving examples of the child's work in progress and the comments of the teacher.

For Jane Finch, the additional need was to have a substantial and accessible record of each child's capability in order to support transfer between schools. This is a particular issue in Worcestershire which has, over the years, inherited two kinds of middle schools to add to its conventional primary schools and so has transfer into secondary school, according to locality, at ages 11, 12 and 13. So children often move schools in the middle of a key stage, which makes it important that their progress is well recorded and uninterrupted. This, together with what was then the approaching KS3 Strategy, caused the authority team to approach TAG Learning, whose work they already knew. Together they developed what is now TAG Learning's Managed Assessment Portfolio System.

MAPS is a child-friendly system in which each pupil can make a personalised online portfolio of work, annotated by the teacher, that shows progress through a task. Much more than that, it also provides a range of assessment tasks supporting the KS3 scheme of work in ICT.

Crucially, MAPS is web-enabled, which opens up the possibility of children and teachers having access to portfolios from home, and also provides for access between schools across an authority, for the purposes of transfer and also for moderation and exemplification in the assessment process.

Within each school, too, this same openness enables ICT co-ordinators to keep track of work being done by different teachers.

Helen Wilkes, ICT co-ordinator at Ridgeway Middle, says the difficulty for ICT teachers has always been that of looking beyond the ICT skills themselves and to judge how they are being applied."To do this you need to be talking to the children about how and why the computer is being used for a task," she says. "That's difficult when you're teaching a class once a week."

The openness of the system is a challenge for teachers, she says, but if it's approached in the right way it becomes a real help to less-experienced teachers of ICT.

Children like it, too. They feel happy that all of their work is electronically saved rather than having to be looked after as a collection of paper. It will remind them of deadlines, and also gives them the opportunity to post queries to the teacher and receive replies and comments in return.

Ridgeway was one of 10 Worcestershire pilot schools, the first to extend the use of MAPS to all of its KS3 pupils, and Helen Wilkes became a key link with the authority and with TAG Learning in the development stages.

Now MAPS is extensively used, not only in Worcestershire, but in schools across 50 other authorities.

Teaching tips

* Assess the process not the printout

* Use managed systems, such as MAPS, so that you can get on with the teaching

* Remember things will always take longer the first time you do them on a computer

* The feature "Track Changes" in Word (find it in "Tools") is a really useful literacy tool for teachers and learners. (Keeps track of the changes made to a document)

* Don't use the computer as a reward... some children may never do well enough to qualify



Interactive drama for teenagers

* eventspastbe.htm

Innovative approaches to learning and assessment, from NESTA Futurelab


Art education site from Worcestershire authority


A teddy from Worcestershire travels the world - KS2 literacy and cross-curricular


Guide to safe internet surfing Contacts

01474 357 350

* Runner-up

Russell Moon Headteacher Philip Morant School Colchester

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