Importance of assessment;Briefing;Research Focus

29th January 1999 at 00:00
Nine of the new standards for the award of qualified teacher status are concerned with the assessment, recording and reporting of pupils' achievements.

But research conducted at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, suggests that trainees' ability to assess pupils' work, to record their progress individually and to use this assessment to inform their planning receiveslittle attention during lesson reviews with mentors.

This claim is based on questionnaire responses from 87 PGCE students and their mentors at secondary schools in South Wales, from teachers' written reports on 34 lessons and from 17 oral debriefings recorded on audio-cassette.

Assessment issues accounted for only 4 per cent of responses in formal evaluations of students' teaching. Much more attention was given to teaching strategies (42 per cent) and class management (36 per cent) throughout the PGCE year. Other responses related to subject knowledge (4 per cent), professional development (3 per cent) and administrative matters such as arrangements for the next lesson observation (11 per cent).

Where assessment was discussed, mentors tended to focus on issues such as the quality of students' responses to answers given in class. The strategies by which assessment results could be used to shape planning were seldom discussed.

We also found that one in four students was unclear about the criteria to be adopted when grading children's assignments even though guidelines for helping students in this respect were invariably offered to mentors by higher education institutions.

There may be several explanations for these findings. Mentors rightly assume that planning and control are vital, and therefore concentrate on these areas. Most students are also pre-occupied with lesson structure and class management. They tend to see assessment as a summative rather than formative process.

What can be done? It might be beneficial if certain debriefings focused upon specific issues such as the systematic recording of pupils' progress. Senior mentors with oversight of their school's initial teacher education arrangements could also check that subject staff are giving due attention to assessment.

Finally, students should be encouraged to record for each lesson any assessment methods they intend to employ and the ways in which they will use the resulting information.

Such tactics may help to eradicate the belief that teaching and assessment are two totally separate processes and address weaknesses in schools to which the inspectorate has drawn attention.

Send any correspondence toDr Arthur Geen 01222 506765 or e-mail

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