Assessment: a key character in the story of learning

Thanks to Sebastian Rowland, Head of Year 6 at Etonbury Academy

Assessment. Love it or loathe it, it is a key character in the story of learning. As we plan, mark and assess in an ongoing cyclical process it is important to check that each assessment continues to have a purpose. In this article, I have outlined how we ensure our assessments have a clear purpose in improving teaching and learning in our school.

How we use assessment in our school

  • All formal assessments are calendared and conducted following the same format as SATs to ensure children’s familiarity with the process and understanding of how to achieve their expectations.
  • The validity of each assessment is important, ensuring correct conclusions are drawn. An assessment should focus on the skills you wish to assess, these may be against a specific National Curriculum Programme of Study, specific content domains in reading, weekly spellings or grammar terms to name a few.
  • To achieve validity, I encourage purposeful discussions to develop children’s skills in reflection, consolidating their understanding.
  • A gap analysis for each test highlights key areas of achievement and areas for development for the class and individuals.
  • During testing, I have observed children, particularly during multiple-choice, ‘guessing’ answers. It is important to discuss tests with children to establish misunderstanding and address this, ensuring I know if they understand the concept or have ‘guessed’. This is invaluable as children see where they have dropped marks themselves, often without my help.
  • To support children’s understanding of different assessments, I discuss each question’s components, the language and the skills required to successfully answer questions and model written answers. These rich discussions address misconceptions. We use a number of different assessments from Rising Stars that reflect the content and layout of the SATs to help to familiarise children with what to expect, including Achieve 100, Progress Tests and Optional Tests.
  • This modelling and reflection is also embedded throughout each lesson. Cracking Comprehension engages children with various text types, providing opportunity to model different answers through whole class or individual responses.
  • Children are involved daily within assessment processes, actively self-evaluating their learning against specified aims, developing action points to improve. Developing such understanding broadens the purpose of the terms and supports the acquisition and implementation of the skill in the correct context.


Assessment next steps

  1. Interact with the data and the children. What is the story? What are your next points? Knowing how you are going to utilise the data is key and focuses future lessons.
  2. What is the purpose of the assessment? A full test paper is not always relevant if a child understands a topic. Instead create a bespoke assessment (via Assessment Bank) that assesses the relevant skills.
  3. Identify children that need further support or challenge and intervene promptly.
  4. Assessments need not be time-consuming, instead be complimentary to everyday teaching; keep them focussed and specific, supporting effective teaching. For example:
  • Bingo: Write a list of key grammar terms you have been focussing on for the children to discuss and define. Children individually select and write six terms (not the definition). Read out the definitions and the children listen and mark off if you read their term.
  • Pre test spelling: test spellings before you set them, teach the rules and definitions of each spelling before re-testing.

In summary, within the assessment story, reflection is important for both child and teacher. A test assesses select topics so it is important to establish if these are truly understood. Viewing the face value of each score will not support or develop the child so instead view assessment as a developmental process, not a burden. The data story does not need to end on a cliff hanger but should lead on to the sequel and continue the series!

And finally, wellbeing of all involved is paramount.


Find out more about assessment resources to help your school here.

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formative assessment, key stage 1, key stage 2, standardised tests, summative assessment

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