A new online pupil assessment kit aims to spread university research and teachers' best ideas into more classrooms, writes Raymond Ross.
An online toolkit for assessment, to be launched at the SETT show next week, will help provide a streamlined and coherent system for ensuring pupils, parents and teachers have the feedback they require about children's learning and development needs.
This is in line with the main aim of the national Assessment is for Learning programme. But its great strength, says Learning and Teaching Scotland's principal education officer, Norman Emerson, is that most of the materials have been developed from the ideas and strategies of teachers within the programme.
"It's based on real teachers' experiences in real classrooms, covering topics from formative assessment and personal learning plans to sharing standards and working with parents, and it is intended for class teachers, headteachers and local authority managers," says Mr Emerson.
"It doesn't provide a magic formula. It's not a recipe or a complete package that you can download. It's about giving examples in context."
The toolkit has been piloted in schools in every Scottish authority and is designed to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. It is structured around three main concepts: assessment for learning (supporting classroom learning and teaching), assessment as learning (learning how to learn) and assessment of learning (gathering and interpreting the evidence).
Under assessment for learning, for example, themes on the site include involvement, discussion and feedback; planning and evidence; and partnership: how supporting and working with parents and pupils as partners improves learning and reporting.
"This is a significant development because it is designed to change classroom practice. It is the first time a national initiative has focused on individual teacher practice," says Mr Emerson.
"It empowers teachers. It's not a national model but is designed to cater for the individual teacher's practice and I believe teachers will feel valued as a result.
"It is also the first time in my knowledge that the partners involved - the Scottish Executive Education Department, Learning and Teaching Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, all the Scottish universities and all the local authorities - have signed up to work to a common aim," he says.
The involvement of the universities is important for both research and quality assurance. "The universities are involved in developing assessment and practice in schools and this will come through in extracts from teaching colleagues' work on the site," says Mr Emerson.
"The universities provide expert research so that class teachers are carrying on work based on a solid research basis and the whole range of partners in the programme will provide the necessary quality assurance."
To date there are some 170 case studies, extracts from which will go on the site.
"The capacity is limitless but to keep the site fresh we will change the case extracts according to the established themes as new ones come forward.
It will enable primary and secondary teachers to learn from each other, which will prove essential if we are serious about 3-18," says Mr Emerson.
It is hoped that the toolkit will be seen as one of a range of strategies to change practice and feed into continuing professional development, and that the site will support face-to-face networking between teachers.
"It will become part of a teacher's CPD.
"Schools may also use it as a whole school activity, looking, for example, at similar schools' practice," says Mr Emerson.
The developers would like the site to be available generally and intend to create a section for parents with resources for them and examples of how schools have worked with parents, he says.
"It's about real teachers in real situations and the value of that voice in changing practice," says Mr Emerson. "It's about bringing researchers into the classroom and getting teachers to become researchers themselves. It's about professionalism for the 21st century, asking teachers to be active and reflective practitioners."
www.ltscotland.org.ukassessNorman Emerson and colleagues will give a demonstration of the online toolkit at the SETT show in Glasgow next week