In our last two blogs, we’ve discussed the approaches to tracking progress and ways of thinking about attainment that we’ve seen in schools; today, we’re very much focusing on formative assessment, and how schools are using it to positive effect.
Many schools have been used to recording formative assessment with a ready-made framework, previously that given by the government and more recently ones created by publishers. The expectation is that someone else knows what your pupils need to learn and how to check whether they’ve learnt it. Of course, that has some merit – ‘experts’ are great because they lead the way and shine a light. However, these off-the-shelf assessment frameworks are unlikely to be a perfect fit for every school due to the differences in curriculum, different approaches to assessment and characteristics of teachers and their pupils.
Assessing what’s being taught
Within the parameters of the National Curriculum, schools have a degree of flexibility and control about what is taught to pupils and when. There are expectations in terms of content, and expectations in terms of the skills and attainment that should be met by the end of key stage. But how that is achieved is deliberately left up to the school so that they can create a curriculum which suits their context.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen schools start to use this freedom to select topics, teaching sequences and adapting schemes of work in a way that engages their learners and really meets their needs.
A school-specific curriculum requires a school-specific assessment framework. There’s no point in recording any assessment information just for the sake of it. When recording formative assessment, every click or tick has to have a purpose and value to the teacher doing it, otherwise it’s resented as extra workload.
On the other hand, when a formative assessment framework matches what’s actually being taught, teachers don’t feel that they’re doing something ‘for the sake of it’ and they can see and harness that value in their teaching – intelligence that they can use to help their pupils achieve their full potential.
Adapting ready-made frameworks
Common grumbles that we hear about ready-made assessment frameworks are about those that contain ‘too many statements’ and those where there ‘aren’t enough statements to inform teaching’. Unless you’re using an assessment framework that’s been published alongside an exact scheme of work that you are using to the letter, it’s unlikely that it’s going to exactly meet your needs.
Over the last year we’ve seen an increasing number of schools meet this realisation. We’ve had lots of discussions with schools about adapting assessment frameworks to better suit them. While in the beginning this was focused on scoring and adapting thresholds, schools then began to focus on assessment statements: adding, deleting and adapting these to better meet their school’s needs.
Creating school-specific frameworks
Some schools have gone even further along this journey. Rather than simply adapting an existing assessment framework, some schools are using ones that have been explicitly designed to fit their own curriculum. This has been particularly common within Multi Academy Trusts, clusters and informal groups of schools who are collaborating and sharing ideas for the good of their pupils. And it’s particularly the case for foundation subjects where schools have decided they want to assess the specifics of the topics and the approach to the subject that they have within their schools.
Matching frameworks to pupils’ needs
Alongside schools starting to match their frameworks more closely to their curriculum, we’ve also seen schools start thinking about whether the framework they’re using meets the needs of all of their pupils. In particular, for children with SEND. Depending on the specific need of these individuals, it may be that they’re following different programmes of learning or just that they need smaller steps in order to make progress.
We’ve seen schools creating frameworks to match the intervention programmes that are being run in school so that teachers and teaching assistants can use this in their planning and assessment. Some schools have also created individual markbooks for individual pupils based on targets within their Education and Health Care Plans. These are then assessed and evidenced over the course of a term or year providing a rich information source for sharing and reviews.
So have you checked that your assessment framework meets your needs? Whether it’s considering a different ready-made framework to the one you’re using at the moment, adapting an existing framework to meet your needs or creating framework(s) to meet specific needs, Classroom Monitor is helping schools to make sure that what they’re assessing is truly supporting what they’re teaching and their pupils’ learning.