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Key stage 3 assessment


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#1 clairereds

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Posted 29 October 2003 - 11:46 PM

I am looking through key stage 3 assessment and have come to the conclusion that I am wasting a great deal of time on assessments for the sake of assessment sake.

I only have 50 mins teaching time per week with each key stage 3 class. As my history teaching staff- including myself have around 17 classes each I want to cut down on unnecessary marking and instead have a number of assessments across key stage 3 that actually mean something, and of which a level can properly be derived.

How do other heads of departments do for assessment pieces across key stage 3?
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#2 Richard Drew

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 09:55 AM

at my school we only give grades to focused assessment tasks, usually at the end of each unit/enquiry - about 1 per half-term. other work is simply ticked/initialled.

assessed tasks (usually targetting one NC key element) are graded acording to a levels markscheme or old fashioned grades. pupils are then given a target for how to improve - if graded according to levels markscheme this is easy, because it just asks the pupils to achieve the next level!!!!
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#3 Stephen Drew

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 11:47 AM

We assess one piece per half term (roughly) plus the school exam in the summer term. So we assess a total of seven per year group at Key Stage 3.

Most of our assessments are homework pieces involving the use of short written sources or pictures which the students have to write responses to. Mainly our tasks require around 50 to 100 words of response - but they can write as much as they wish (and frequently do!).

We do have a longer written task for assessment for each year group once a year (Year 8 is on the French Revolution and Year 9 is on World War I).

All our other homeworks and classwork are marked using a non graded schoolwide system where we focus on the use of diagnostic marking with a big focus on advice for improvement.
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#4 pbargery

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 01:51 PM

I have one core assessment task per unit whihc is graded using NC levels- all other homework and classwork is marked to a more general A5 to D1 scaleand formative comments given


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#5 alison denton

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 06:59 PM

I was on a course on history assessment last week, given by Dr Tim Lomas, and his main points were:
~ most pupils when questioned say they find most assessment 'pointless' (not just in history)
~ most teachers when questioned say they hate marking
SO
~ there must be a safe compromise somewhere:
~ we need to assess less
~ many schools are moving away from putting marks on anything at all, grades are most useful to grade effort, thereafter the department should devise a common system eg. no grades/ levels etc for anything to the pupils - just comments, related to history skills, rather than presentation.
~ Some departments have devised a half-termly (or when you like) system of tracking progress by brainstorming what they mean by 'getting better at history' - what are Y9 better at doing than Y7? for instance - and each half term you are asked to assess each pupil's progress against these criteria (which don't necessarily relate to the NC level descriptors), using whatever method you all agree (he cited a traffic light system: green for pupils performing above what you'd expect. amber for as expected, red for underperforming}
~ the NC level descriptors were never intended to be picked apart and reconstituted as levels in each skill - they are best fit descriptions, considering a range of the pupils work at the end of the key stage
~ we should rely a lot more on our 'gut feeling' about a pupils' competence, as this is in reality professional judgement built up from many observations of the pupil's work in a variety of contexts, including such things as a surprisingly perceptive answer to a question orally, ability to help a partner resolve an historical difficulty etc.
~ we should aim to 'assess' pupils in a variety of contexts, not mainly written - eg. in group work, making speeches, contribution to a poster, oral work etc

I hope I am remembering accurately! Any misconceptions about what he said are entirely mine ....

For what it is worth - I think assessment will be a focus for inspectors now, as we've spent ages on WHAT we teach and HOW we teach it. this is the logical next step:
~ How is pupil progress (not their work) assessed?
~ How are pupils moved on?
~ What use is made by the department of assessment data to inform changes to teaching so as to improve learning?

#6 JohnDClare

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 07:52 PM

~ the NC level descriptors were never intended to be picked apart and reconstituted as levels in each skill ...
~ we should rely a lot more on our 'gut feeling' about a pupils' competence... built up from many observations of the pupil's work in a variety of contexts....

At the time of the National Curriculum the ambiguity of the level descriptors was sold to us as an advantage - we were told that they were consciously wishy-washy, so we could go on as we had always done! I never bought it then and I do not buy it now.

When they say this, what the big-wigs who control the curriculum are really saying is: 'Don't try and tie us down to precision. We don't want to be held accountable. We don't want to tread on any toes. Go home and work out your own salvation.'

But - where I agree that you CAN and SHOULD moderate an NC level on the basis of things you have noticed in the classroom - it is a very different matter altogether to start to base your assessment on anecdotal evidence and 'gut feeling'.

If we are going to assess pupils with any meaning, what we need is a clear statement of what constitutes achievement at the various levels as the basis.

The reasons they come up with all this 'gut feeling' rubbish is that - when they brought out the exemplar materials - the stuff was so unrealistic that we all just filed it in the bin. And they have been running ever since.

#7 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 30 October 2003 - 11:52 PM

If we are going to assess pupils with any meaning, what we need is a clear statement of what constitutes achievement at the various levels as the basis.

The reasons they come up with all this 'gut feeling' rubbish is that - when they brought out the exemplar materials - the stuff was so unrealistic that we all just filed it in the bin. And they have been running ever since.

Run the flag up the flagpole JohnD, you and I are in agreement on this one ;) ;) :lol:
In the absence of anything sensible from the centre I have spent hours translating NC gobbledegook into something both my department and students will understand and find useful. Yet now I am told my "gut feeling" was OK all a long. It certainly doesn't wash with me! I would wager a substantial sum that Ofsted have been advised something quite different from this Tim Lomas (who he?) stuff.

The communication of the essence of assessment/achievement to pupils is the key. I do believe however that we would be mistaken to let assessment impinge on our teaching time.

#8 John Simkin

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 09:59 AM

Have you put these translated descriptions online?

The National Foundation for Educational Research has just published an interesting report on national assessments. See below for further details:

http://www.schoolhis...?showtopic=2278

Edited by John Simkin, 31 October 2003 - 10:06 AM.


#9 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 10:12 AM

Have you put these translated descriptions online?

Yes, they can be found here.
I was surprised how the pupils took to them - they seemed to appreciate the attempt to share what the levels mean

#10 alison denton

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 10:56 AM

Actually I entirely agreed with Dr Lomas on the fact that we can be too tied down to the national curriculum level descriptors as a way of assessing kids progress in history on a day to day basis, though they were probably the best that could be devised at the time for an overall, in the round description at the end of a key stage and not at any other time

John D is right to suggest that for day to day assessmnet using levels we need to agree what constitutes achievement at any level and by implication what further needs to be achieved to reach the next level. What I took away from the course was that the NC levels do not help us decide that, and were never designed to perform this particular function.
It is perfectly possible to disaggregate the NC descriptors and devise level descriptors representing progress in each skill, but I think such an approach is flawed:
1. precisely because the NC descriptors are 'best fit' and encompass the range of skills within ONE level when in fact pupils can easily progress more rapidly in one skill area than another, and
2. because if you study them closely enough there is huge room for debate about whether they DO in fact show progress throughout the levels even when looking just at one skill - the descriptions are often of different aspects of the same skill, not a progression through the same skill.

Thus, there IS room for departments to decide what sort of assessment they want for day to day stuff from Y7-9 - keep it simple and bear in mind its purposes. If the top of your list is accountability to SMT/ parents/ inspectors - go back to the drawing board!

I know a lot of departments are pressurised to make level judgements on pupils each year, or even for each piece of work - but this seems more like an administrative convenience (so depts can be compared, pupil progress 'tracked' - assuming any standardisation has been done across depts of course?! - in a variety of subjects) rather than anything to do with moving pupils forward in history.

The trouble with the 'levels for each piece of work' approach is:
1. Kids progress is peaks and troughs, not linear in history - they may well perform at L5 today on source evaluation or interpretations, but will easily perform at a lower level on the same skill in a different context in 4 weeks, or even if you gave them the SAME TASK in 4 weeks!
2. In theory one could 'average' the levels achieved throughout KS3 to reach a level to give at end of KS3 - BUT, as the real progress in each skill is not necessarily represented by the NC level descriptors this may give a false result at the end of the KS
3. assessment entirely and only using the set of skills identified by NC does not allow for consideration of achievemnet in less orthodox ways, as I mentioned before, and therefore discriminates against some learners, and reduces the assessment process to a clinical matching of pupil work against a known criterion only, when in fact there should be room to use a range of assessments techniques including teacher observation and professional judgement.

Incidentally - I think Dr Lomas was indeed trying to suggest what John D asserts - 'gut feeling' IS professional - it is NOT simply what you happen to think on the spur of the moment, and IS based on more solid foundations of observation across a range of situations, and with consolidation of performance built in as good teachers notice that too! Some people would call that 'gut feeling' but it is not as unscientific and unreliable as that term suggests.

#11 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 05:51 PM

I wouldn't dream of assessing every piece of work in terms of a level. I however believe it is good practice to foster an understanding of the skills within the attainment target so when they do get given a level they at least have some idea what it means and more importantly what they have to do to get to the next one.

Most importantly the AT should be assessed within the context of children producing some "history" and not in a series of half baked tests and exercises.

#12 alison denton

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 06:09 PM

I agree - kids doing history is the thing.
What do you mean though - 'when they get given a level they at least know what it means'?

That is the point I think - why is anyone giving levels based on NC descriptors, either wholly or in part, at any point other than at the end of the key stage?

The pupils do indeed need to know where they are at and how to progress, but this can be expressed to them in any manner of ways - even through comments only with no need for levels, marks, grades or anything else, though a whole variety of ways would be acceptable.

Pupils do need to understand what the history skills are - agreed - and what makes some answers better than others, but the NC descriptors might help, but are not definitive here.
Your dept is better off forming your own idea of what constitutes progression in each skill - IF indeed you think some of the skills can even be separated out for assessment from others - funnily enough that is where the 'attainment targets' started when NC first arrived - God knows how many separate strands of history each with a 'progression' identified through all the levels. Teachers pointed out that this was not how it is in history, and so we got ONE AT, called simply 'history' in the new NC.
Many teachers seem determined now to return to the situation we had ten years ago.

#13 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 06:30 PM

what do you mean though - 'when they get given a level they at least know what it means'?


I mean and actually said they have "some" idea of what skills and levels of performance correspond to the numbers!! I for one am not prepared to tell a child "you are at level blah" at the end of the key stage having not given them the information on how to improve throughout the key stage. If this were to be done I might as well just adopt a mark out of 10 and the whole process could remain a mystery to the children just as it was to me when I was at school.

I agree there are many ways which could be devised within a department to explain and comunicate progression within a skill. Out of fairness to the pupils I chose to use my interpretation of the criteria set down in the NC. It is not perfect by any means but has proven an effective motivator of pupils, and is not born out of desire to return to 10 years ago despite the fact that I was slimmer then and had more hair ;)

#14 Win Bradley

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 07:19 PM

I use pupil-speak statements. These are useful for pupils. In their folders and in large classroom displays. We have to provide NC levels every half term!!!! They are useful for pupils and staff. We have formal assessments but good acquaintance with these statements enables staff and pupils to recognise achievement, even if it is not a formal assessment. It is possible therefore to credit any work that is appropriate, whatever the media. We have record sheets which allow this. we do have compulsory assessments for each unit, but it is important that pupil's best work is credited.

I tend to feel that our standards for teacher assessment are higher that the exam based National Curriculum subjects

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#15 alison denton

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 09:37 PM

It is interesting that you have to provide NC levels every half term, Win. Why?




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