IN 1998, King's College published an influential report called Inside the black box. It set an agenda for raising standards using assessment for learning, which involves the use of classroom assessment to improve learning. It differs from assessment of learning, which measures what learners know or can do.
The QCA convened a working group to study the report's findings and to communicate to teachers and others the nature of assessment for learning and how it can be used to improve pupil performance.
The King's College evidence indicates that, if the findings about the positive effect of assessment for learning on pupil progress were replicated, pupils could improve their performance at GCSE by between one and two grades. England would be among the top five nations in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (1996) if this was replicated nationally.
A key feature in assessment for learning in mathematics is the involvement of pupils inmonitoring their own progress. Pupils need to be aware of their current knowledge, understanding and skills and have a clear view of what they are trying to achieve. This leads to strong progress.
Another aspect ofassessment for learningpromotes the way teachers respond to pupils' work.
The research indicates that just providing marks or grades to pupils can have a negative effect on their developing understanding and capability.
However, when teachers give feedback which indicates what pupils have positively achieved, where they are "getting stuck" and what they need to do to improve, progress in learning becomes significant.
In the near future, guidance will appear on the QCA website outlining the major features of assessment for learning in mathematics.
These features will be illustrated by case study material. The web page will contain an invitation to schools to contribute more case studies.
The guidance will suggest some strategies for developing pupils' self-assessment and encouraging peer-assessment.
There are also suggestions about the types of question teachers can ask pupils to gain a thorough insight into their thinking and level ofunderstanding.
Report by the subject officers for maths at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 83 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QA. Tel: 020 7509 5555.Web: www.qca.org.uk