Whether it’s internal centre assessments or external examinations, being able to accurately measure students’ achievements is a fundamental element of education. Following the cancellation of last year’s GCSEs and A levels as well as this summer’s exams, the issue has returned to the spotlight and there are renewed calls to develop a nationwide system to strengthen internal school assessment.
While teachers, of course, have a huge amount of knowledge around assessment, a recent report by the Centre for Education and Youth states that the problem is, in fact, that, "All too often this knowledge has been gained by ad-hoc arrangements, brief introductions at initial teacher training and possibly through involvement with examinations boards (by writing or marking exams)."
Simon Child, head of assessment training at Cambridge Assessment Network, agrees the time is right for robust assessment training that empowers teachers to contribute to the debate about the future of assessment. Child explains that the current situation, and indeed the past year, is shedding light on the need for change.
"The new methods of teaching caused by the Covid-19 pandemic mean that it’s perhaps more important than ever that teachers are confident in using assessment to identify learning loss and to make sound holistic judgements about student progress," he says.
"The pandemic has reopened debates about the role of teacher-based assessment in informing final grade outcomes for students across all stages of education. Teachers will have an essential role to play in shaping this debate and responding to policy decisions in the next couple of years.
Teacher CPD: 'Professional development in assessment is crucial'
"To best prepare them for this and ensure educators’ understanding of assessment is informed by the latest research and innovation in this field, professional development is crucial."
This is where Cambridge Assessment Network can help; it provides training courses that build upon educators’ prior knowledge to make assessment CPD truly effective in giving teachers the tools and framework for improving assessment in their classrooms.
The Network offers a flexible portfolio of courses that range from introductory to deep dives like the Postgraduate advanced certificate in educational studies: Educational assessment. The Assessment Network sees assessment as a professional discipline and career specialism, and its fully accredited assessment training can be recorded as a part of formal CPD requirements from professional bodies, institutes or employers.
Cambridge believes the main challenge is that teachers often lack the assessment expertise they need to feel confident tailoring assessment practices to their students’ needs. The CPD Cambridge offers aims to address this by giving actionable, specific tools to educators to best assess students and become "empowered assessment professionals". The courses aim to help teachers to learn not how to assess, but how to best assess specific classes and students.
"The Assessment Network is part of the research division at Cambridge Assessment, the largest of its kind in Europe," says Child. "This connection to the research team is unique, and thus we are able to take advantage of the latest research in assessment practice and interpret it for the purposes of impactful professional development."
The Creative Education Trust (CET) worked with the Assessment Network to develop a series of five practically focused online CPD sessions. The aim of the CPD was to equip 60 subject leaders across the trust with the tools to develop a suite of assessments in key stage 3 to inform progress in the first school term. Alexander Laney, vice-principal and KS3 assessment lead for CET, said the CPD was hugely valuable.
"Drawing on the expertise of the Cambridge Assessment team, their wealth of experience, and being exposed to research within the field, enables leaders to be challenged and supported to deepen their own understanding of assessment," he says.
Laney adds that this blending of old and new knowledge to develop new insights into how to assess students to best support learning outcomes has been transformational. As a result of the training his subject leaders received, Laney says students "will be sitting high-quality, robust assessments that [are] assessing the right things, the precise knowledge outlined within our aligned curriculum".
"The training has enabled the creation of an academic community across the Creative Education Trust, who share a common understanding of the benefits and limitations of assessments," he explains. "This can only be a positive thing."
The trust says it can now use the data from its new assessments to reliably address what students have failed to master.
Assessment training can enable innovation and support sound decision making. Laney says he’s now confident the leaders within his trust not only understand the underlying principles of assessment, but also now know how to apply these to the construction of student assessments. "The validity and the reliability of the data gathered from these assessments will be fundamental in enabling our teachers to respond to student needs, refining the curriculum to do so," he adds.
Luke Bowers, director of performance for CET, agrees that CPD training has enhanced leaders’ use of assessment to evaluate student performance. "Feedback from our senior and middle leaders has been overwhelmingly positive," he says. Specifically, he adds, "Our middle leaders can now clearly distinguish between validity and reliability, can understand the benefits and pitfalls of multiple-choice questions and are now fully versed in the importance of item ordering."
As a result of the CPD training, Bowers says, "We have now developed a full suite of Year 7 assessments in all subjects which are of high quality. We also now have an army of assessment design experts and are looking for them to disseminate this information to other colleagues in their schools."
Cambridge’s commitment to assessment education brings together assessment professionals from around the world to build upon each other’s knowledge and share what they know about best practice learning to help give students the best outcomes possible.
Cambridge Assessment Network provides professional development to the assessment community.
We equip practitioners with the skills and knowledge needed to design and develop effective assessments, from an understanding of the key principles to in-depth practice-based learning in the design and delivery of successful, valid assessment. Advance your practice with our CPD accredited online courses or our new assessment practitioner workshops. Whatever your organisation’s professional development needs, as assessment leaders we are committed to supporting you and your learners’ aspirations. Find out more about Cambridge Assessment Network today.