Staff feel they are back in control

25th April 2008 at 01:00
`You cannot be an effective teacher if you are not assessing,' says leader of pilot scheme

`You cannot be an effective teacher if you are not assessing,' says leader of pilot scheme

"You cannot separate assessment from teaching and learning. You cannot be an effective teacher if you are not assessing."

So says Steve Anwyll, one of the leaders of a government scheme being developed to dramatically raise teachers' assessment expertise.

The Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) model is an attempt to create a much more systematic and robust approach to in-school judgements of pupil progress than that done in the typical classroom.

APP has been in development since 2003 and was piloted in 100 primary schools in 2006-7. It breaks the skills of reading, writing and maths down into a detailed series of assessment "focuses" and then maps how individual pupils achieve against them.

For example, in reading, a primary pupil will be assessed, among other things, on their ability to understand and retrieve information from texts; to deduce or interpret information; to explain writers' use of language; and to put texts into their social and literary context.

For each of these aspects, and more, APP produces a checklist, with teachers invited to say whether the pupil has reached a particular level in that area.

In order to reach these judgements, teachers first have to generate evidence. Pupils are set written questions as part of their normal lessons, with the work taken in. The teacher also observes their verbal responses to questioning, noting down their answers. In each case, the questions are designed to elicit responses which provide information relevant to a particular assessment focus. Once these observations and answers have been collected, the teacher decides which level the pupil has reached, for each assessment focus.

Mr Anwyll, of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's (QCA) curriculum division, told a conference recently that the approach was designed to build a much richer appreciation by the teacher of a child's strengths and weaknesses than was possible simply through national test data.

He added, in his speech to the Association for the Study of Primary Education's National Conference: "Lots of teachers (in the pilot) said, `this has made me feel I am now back in control of assessment, that it belongs to me'. Previously, teachers felt that assessment was external to them. That's a deeply worrying state of affairs."

Improving teacher assessment is seen by the QCA as important in exploring alternatives to the current testing regime, although there is no suggestion that external tests themselves will be replaced.

Instead, the APP model is being used to underpin a new government approach to testing, being trialled in more than 400 schools from 2007 to 2009 as a possible replacement for Sats.

Teachers enter pupils for a test in reading, writing or maths, set at a single national curriculum level, when they decide the pupil is ready to pass. APP is being used in many schools as the means for teachers to decide when to enter the pupil.

However, teacher workload will be a big factor in determining its success. Several schools said the amount of paperwork involved in APP was troubling.

Justin Schiffmann, head of St Andrew's Church of England First School, in Evesham, Worcestershire, which has been running APP since 2006, said: "It was hard work to set up, but now, I'm not convinced it's any additional work. Its huge advantage is that it helps us isolate the next step a pupil needs to take to progress."

THE OFFICIAL ADVICE ON EFFECTIVE ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING

- Sharing learning goals with pupils.

- Helping pupils know and recognise standards to aim for.

- Providing feedback that helps pupils to identify how to improve.

- Believing that every pupil in a classs can improve.

- Teachers and pupils reflecting on pupils' progress.

- Pupils given the chaance to learn self-assessment techniques.

- Recognising that both motivation and self-esteem are crucial for effective learning, and can be increased by having effective assessment techniques.

Source: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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