‘There is no evidence that increasing the amount of testing will enhance learning. Instead the focus needs to be on helping teachers use assessment, as part of teaching and learning, in ways that will raise pupils’ achievement.’ (Assessment Reform Group)
Extensive international research (William and Black) ‘Inside the black box’ proved ‘without a shadow of doubt’ that, when carried out effectively, classroom assessment with constructive feedback to the student will raise levels of attainment. This research resulted in a major re-think of assessment practices in schools and led directly to the drive for Assessment for Learning and Personalised Learning.
Assessment for Learning
‘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.’ (Assessment Reform Group, 2002)
‘Put simply, personalised learning and teaching means taking a highly structured and responsive approach to each child's and young person's learning, in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate. It means strengthening the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils - and their parents - as partners in learning.’ (Report of the Teaching and Learning in 2020 Review Group)
‘Assessment which is explicitly designed to promote learning is the single most powerful tool we have for both raising standards and empowering lifelong learners.’ (Assessment Reform Group)
Most schools will have the quest for high standards and empowering life-long learners in their mission statement or aims. However the research also confirms that this remains an underdeveloped aspect of practice in most schools.
‘There is abundant evidence from reports of school inspections that the use of assessment to help pupils learn is one of the weakest aspects of practice in classrooms across the UK.’ (Assessment Reform Group)
The perception of assessment has almost become synonymous with testing and SATs in particular. In too many schools this is still seen as the problem or main concern of the Y2 and in particular the Y6 teacher. Early Years practitioners have become proficient in tracking the smallest steps in learning whilst end of Key Stage teachers have, of necessity, honed their teacher assessment skills. Rarely does this extend across a whole staff. Even where targets are set across the school these rarely have the same relevance, importance or consequences as end of Key Stage targets.
If children are to reach their full potential they must receive the same degree of assessment rigour, support and guidance at every stage of learning. Moreover this must in be within a framework that is designed to inform and improve learning rather than merely test it.
‘Inside the Black Box’ identified the key factors that improve learning through assessment. Briefly, children learn best when:
- they understand clearly what they are trying to learn, and what is expected of them
- they are given feedback about the quality of their work and how to make it better
- they are given advice about how to go about making improvements
- they are fully involved in deciding what needs to be done next
Assertive Mentoring has these principles at its heart and keeps the child central to the whole process. It ensures Assessment for Learning, guarantees Personalised Learning and raises achievement for all.