Key role in devising tests

28th June 1996 at 01:00
ASSESSMENT. Caroline Gipps, Institute of Education, University of London

The UK has the most sophisticated assessment system in the world. In the hands of skilled teachers it both supports good teaching and learning practice, and provides effective certification. Some might argue that there is too much assessment and disagree with its use in league tables, but few would challenge its quality.

Research has changed the face of testing and assessment in this country over the past 20 years. The strategies which have emerged for involving teachers in assessment in their classrooms have commanded world-wide respect and served as models for other countries The research on graded tests and records of achievement encouraged teachers to take on broader notions of assessment in which pupils could work at their own speed and be assessed when appropriate; it brought pupils into the assessment process, and encouraged the setting of targets for oneself rather than against peers. The ways in which teachers have subsequently organised their activities have been much influenced by these breakthroughs.

The seminal work by the Assessment of Performance Unit was the first to design true performance-based assessments with rigorous administration and marking schemes. Teachers were trained as markers by the research team and these skills have fed into the training and development of teachers for practical assessment and marking.

Early SAT tasks, which in diagnostic and formative assessment terms were probably some of the best designed for teachers, all came out of the APU's experience. The SAT tasks "trained" key stage 1 teachers to become extremely competent assessors, in terms of close observation, assessing against criteria and moderating the results - with obvious consequences for the teaching provided subsequently.

The early school-based research on moderation and the design of mode 3 exams involved teachers in developing, using and moderating assessment. Teachers have played a central role in shaping these developments and the partnership between researchers and the profession has had a great impact both on classroom practice and teachers' professional development.

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