The discussion and construction of an agreed assessment policy amongst the staff has been a significant element in improving our assessment practices.
We were particularly keen to give examples of how the policy might be put into practice at staff meetings during the year and I feel that these elements have really helped us to change our practice.
Here is our policy:
- transfer records from pre-school settings indicate progress using the Foundation Stage Curriculum Guidance. This is used in partnership with Reception Class practitioner’s ongoing observational assessments made early in Autumn, Term 1, to ascertain a baseline which then informs subsequent teaching and learning for each child
- future attainment is noted using ‘Activity Records’, photographs and observational notes. Progress is recorded in each child’s Learning Journey and the next steps to be taken are identified
- separate records for understanding ‘numbers for labels and counting’ are also kept; progress is monitored at termly intervals
- statutory assessments are made on entry, mid-term and on exit of Year 2 of the Foundation Stage.
Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2
Assessment operates on three connected levels: day-to-day, periodic and transitional. Children’s involvement in the assessment process is vital at every level.
Day-to-day assessment is often an informal part of the mathematics lesson. Its purpose is to:
- check that children are developing mental skills: for example, that they can recall mathematical facts, estimate, calculate mentally, and use visual imagery
- check that children have grasped the main learning intentions in a particular lesson or unit of work, whether they have any misunderstandings that you need to put right, and whether they are ready to move on
- give you information that will help you adjust day-to-day plans and brief any support staff which children to assist, and how to assist them
- identify information against the defined assessment criteria to contribute towards the process of ‘Building a Picture’.
Some key features of day-to-day assessment are:
- learning intentions being shared with children
- criteria for success being shared or generated with children
- peer and self-assessment
- pupil engagement and immediate feedback
- effective questioning that promotes discussion / dialogue and assesses pupils’ understanding
- observations (eg. of mathematical thinking / approaches)
Some of the things we do include:
- using WALT and WILF at the beginning of lessons to help children understand what the lesson is going to be about and what learning (outcomes) might look like
- regularly using talk partners and asking questions like “talk to your partner about what I have just shown you and try to come up with another question we could ask ourselves to make sure we all understand what is going on”
- asking children to provide feedback on each other’s work, writing comments about one good thing and one thing that might need to be improved
- using activity records to document individual progress and annotate short-term plans.
Periodic assessment is the process of standing back and considering the information that has been identified through day-to-day assessment in relation to the National Curriculum. Judgements are refined into ‘low’, ‘secure’ or ‘high’ within a level. This is done in a holistic way by taking into account how independently, how consistently and in what range of contexts pupils demonstrate their attainment. Its purpose is to:
- review pupils’ progress over the previous cycle of work in relation to assessment criteria and therefore national standards
- identify pupils’ progress against specific individual targets
- provide a broader view of progress for the teacher and the learner
- help improve curriculum planning
- provide information to feed into reporting.
Periodic assessments are carried out each term; in December, April and July. Summative assessments are used at the end of each term as part of this process to monitor children’s knowledge and understanding of concepts taught. The periodic assessment is recorded within the school and is reported to parents on a formal basis.
During the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms, assessments are also made against the current layered targets, progress is indicated on the ‘Curriculum Target’ sheet and discussed at ‘Pupil Progress Meetings’. ‘Pupil conferencing’ involves 6 ‘tracker’ children from Year groups 1 – 6 who are interviewed during the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms by the mathematics subject leader.
Transitional assessment is the process of reviewing pupils’ progress and attainment against school and national targets, based on periodic assessment, and using tests from national sources if considered appropriate.
- statutory assessments are made at the end of each key stage
- teacher assessment / optional tests are completed at the end of Years 3, 4 and 5. Teacher assessments are completed at the end of Y1.
Analysis of all assessment informs whole school layered target setting in order to raise attainment of all learners across each year group and address areas of mathematical strength and weakness.
Differentiated activities are planned by the class teachers and delivered by classroom practitioners.
In July, optional tests and SATs results are analysed and children’s performance inform the starting point for layered target setting in the next academic year.
As a school, we have been looking for ways of strengthening the ‘day-to-day’ part of our assessment policy and developing a richer and more varied evidence base for APP judgments.
At a recent APP network meeting, the LA mathematics consultants demonstrated how the 'Spreadsheet’ activities, found on the Primary National Strategies website , can be enhanced using probing questions. A support document has been produced by the LA mathematics team to support teachers using the spreadsheets and linking the activities to the APP assessment criteria. Some examples are available to download.
At a recent staff meeting, we committed to integrate these ICT resources into our planning and review the use of the Spreadsheets activities after the next periodic judgment.
I introduced class tracker sheets which clearly show pupil attainment and expected progress, not only for the given year but also by the end of the Key Stage. I used half of a school closure day to support teachers in making accurate judgments, using key objectives and layered curricular targets to assess pupils. Each teacher then came to pupil progress meetings prepared with percentages of children who had achieved their curricular targets, and sublevels progress where appropriate. Discussions also focused on what had made the difference for some children and barriers to learning for others.
A staff meeting was used to review the initiative and teachers cited the class tracker sheet as a tool for improvement that had had huge impact on their classroom practice. They reported that it made them much more aware of expected attainment, progress and accountability. There was a positive impact on the vast majority of children’s progress and attainment.
(Excerpts from the Ofsted report Mathematics: understanding the score).
This report offers a range of external perspectives, examples of good practice and indications of national trends and standards which can be very helpful to a subject leader.
Here we have included elements which are relevant to this section on assessment.
Assessment for understanding: the teacher as detective
Why is assessment in lessons important?
115. Teachers who assess well show a fundamentally different approach from those who do not. They focus on ensuring that all pupils move on from their differing starting points. This is immediately apparent in the way they actively seek assessment clues throughout the lesson, adapting their approach in response to the learning needs of individuals or groups.
116. In the best lessons during the survey, the teachers were perceptive listeners and observers, both in interpreting pupils’ responses to questions and when moving among pupils who were working on tasks and exercises. Their strong subject expertise enabled them to monitor and intervene in a timely way. They strove to understand how each pupil was thinking and were concentrated on using this as a basis for structuring learning rather than aiming to convey a particular mathematical method. It was their focus on trying to interpret what was in pupils’ minds, to help them make better sense of the mathematics for themselves, that singled out these lessons. They realised that, unless they knew how a pupil was thinking, they would not be in a position to help them learn effectively.
118. Circulating quickly around the class allowed teachers to check on all pupils and intervene where appropriate. For example, they checked what pupils were writing on their mini whiteboards; they saw where pupils were leaving gaps in quick mental tests or were finding them too easy; after giving a one-minute task, they listened to what each pair of pupils was discussing; having asked pupils to draw axes or a diagram, they confirmed rapidly that all had done so correctly and were ready for the next step. In these lessons, teachers did not allow themselves to spend too long responding to a few pupils who asked for help, thereby leaving others unnoticed. They soon assessed if some pupils were stuck or lacking in confidence and adapted the lesson to make sure everyone could attempt the work.
Improving the use of assessment in lessons
126. Many schools in the survey had ‘assessment for learning’ as a major part of their school improvement plans. This often included a focus on improving the quality of teachers’ questioning. Sometimes, this led to identifying useful ‘key questions’ in teachers’ planning which helped teachers and pupils to focus on and review the important learning points in a lesson. Teachers said they found it very beneficial to discuss with each other what, in fact, the key questions were.
127. The use of lesson objectives, often linked to particular GCSE grades or National Curriculum levels, was another focus in many schools. Various methods were used to match the intended learning to the needs of the different groups in a class but the tasks were not consistently well designed to enable the planned learning to take place or matched to pupils’ previous learning.
128. Marking was a common theme of whole-school training. In the best examples seen during the survey, careful thought had been given to interpreting policies on marking and feedback in terms of teaching and assessing mathematics. The most successful approaches often included pupils assessing their own and each other’s work. More frequently, however, teachers were expected to implement whole-school policies. Some schools required marking which consisted only of comments. Others expected every piece of work to be assigned a National Curriculum level, sub-level or GCSE grade. Many teachers found these policies difficult to apply in mathematics when pieces of work met one element of a particular level description only in part. In any case, the level descriptions in mathematics are linked closely to specific content and often are not directly related to descriptions at the lower levels. One approach to ‘comment only’ policies was to mark diagnostically, focusing on topics where misconceptions were common. The effectiveness of this approach depended on the quality of the tasks. In some cases, the work teachers set and the questions they asked were not challenging or probing enough and therefore did not stimulate useful assessment.