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A work in progress

Eleanor Rawling outlines SCAA's advice on key stage 3 assessment

In 1997, teachers will be required to make a best fit judgment about level of performance in geography for each pupil at the end of key stage 3. To help, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority is to publish Exemplification of Standards: Geography next June. This is part of a series of SCAA publications including Consistency in Teacher Assessment: Guidance for Schools,which was published in June and deals with whole-school approaches to promoting consistency.

A group of geography teachers in England has been working with SCAA on the exemplification booklet, providing a classroom perspective and examples of pupil work. A parallel exercise has been taking place in Wales and a separate booklet from ACAC will also be published next June.

Section 1 of the SCAA booklet will highlight progression and expectation in the geography level descriptions and will use examples of pupils' work to illustrate key points. Section 2 will contain profiles of pupil work and is designed to illuminate the process of making best-fit judgments about overall pupil performance. The materials are not intended to provide a model for how teachers should collect or record information relating to pupils. They are meant to aid understanding of the geography order so that teachers can make their own informed decisions about assessment, recording and reporting.

The key stage 3 development work has identified the following five distinctive aspects of geographical knowledge, understanding and skill development implicit in the level descriptions: * Knowledge and understanding of specific content descriptions * Knowledge and understanding of places * Knowledge and understanding of patterns and processes * Knowledge and understanding of environmental relationships * Ability to undertake geographical enquiry and use a range of skills For each, it is possible to trace broad lines of progression from level 1 to exceptional performance, and in the exemplification booklet these will be illustrated with pupil work. Curriculum coverage of all five aspects, as required by the programme of study, is necessary if pupils are to have opportunities to show their achievements in relation to the level descriptions.

When making a judgment at the end of a key stage, teachers will need to draw on their knowledge of pupils' performance in a range of situations (classwork, groupwork, fieldwork) and they will need evidence of pupils' responses to a variety of tasks (mapwork, structured questions, extended writing, oral work). Also important are the context of the work and the degree of support the teacher provides: pupils will find it difficult to demonstrate their ability to identify relevant questions for enquiry (level 5) or establish a sequence of investigation (level 7) if the teacher always provides the structure and format for investigative work.

Non-statutory assessment materials are also to be published by SCAA next June. These are designed primarily to provide information about pupils' performance in relation to particular elements of the programme of study. This information can contribute to teachers' overall knowledge of pupils' attainment and may assist in end of key stage judgments.

Collecting and interpreting information on pupil progress and attainment are matters for professional judgment. The SCAA materials are designed to assist, but in the end decisions lie with the teacher.

Eleanor Rawling is professional officer for geography at the SCAA

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