Assessment of learning is also known as summative assessment.
Assessment of learning is carried out periodically (e.g. at the end of a unit of work) or at the end of a year or Key Stage to judge how well pupils are performing. In Key Stage 4, almost all pupils will take GCSE at either Higher or Foundation levels. In secondary schools, the outcomes of ‘end of unit’ assessments are usually recorded in terms of a comment. GCSE assessments are sometimes set alongside national standards, so that a school or teacher can evaluate their own performance against that of others, as well as pupils having their own certification. This also allows schools to track progress over time.
Because GCSE assessments are so important for pupils, schools and teachers, their validity and reliability are crucial. It is also vital to balance making assessments rigorous with making them manageable for teachers and pupils. Recently the assessment of GCSE mathematics has been changed to remove the coursework component, reflecting concerns about the educational experience for pupils and about the validity and reliability of the assessments.
Analysis and interpretation of results of assessments can help teachers to identify trends, set realistic targets and identify pupils’ needs.
Assessment of learning is well established, but it is not always recognised that sharing expectations and targets with pupils will contribute to their learning. For example, on occasions pupils can be given the chance to mark their own work, consider the test criteria and set themselves personal targets. They can also benefit from making up ‘test questions’ of their own.
Assessment for learning is also known as formative assessment. It takes place all the time in the classroom. It is about all the different ways of seeking evidence on how well pupils are doing in mathematics and using the information to improve their future learning. Here is one definition from the Assessment Reform Group (2002):
‘Assessment for learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.’