What does active assessment look like in Primary schools?

Far too often, assessment is divorced from teaching and learning because it is a relatively passive experience. 

Thanks to John Dabell, trained teacher and former Ofsted inspector, for the following article.

Assessment makes a significant difference to learning, especially when children are actively involved in their own learning, when assessment is an essential part of the learning experience and when assessment boosts self-esteem and motivation.

The first and most important principle of learning is that children are engaged in the process. Assessment isn’t done to children but with them as an active process.


What is active assessment?

Active assessment is a type of formative assessment that helps children to be more involved and engaged in the assessment process, not passive recipients. When done well, active assessment involves information being fed back to children which they then use to make improvements.

It invites participation and involves them directly in identifying, challenging and developing their ideas by unearthing evidence of understanding, revealing misconceptions and detecting concepts in embryo.

Knowing what you know, don’t know and partly know, focuses learning and helps children and their teachers make the right moves, close gaps and make purposeful progress.

For active assessment to function as a learning experience, children need rich opportunities to explore and discuss their ideas, share responses so teachers can listen, change course and intervene strategically and appropriately. This formative framework drives teaching and learning.


Ideas to incorporate active assessment into lessons

There are various strategies you can use to make the assessment process more active and interactive such as card sorts, concept cartoons, deliberate mistakes, graphic organisers, matching, odd one out, rumours, spidergrams and true-false statements. The content can therefore be exploited in innovative ways to enable children to reflect on their own ideas and the responses of others and to use their critical faculties to better their work.

Using tests as active assessment opportunities is one way in which we can seamlessly join teaching, learning and assessment together to promote progress and keep learning on track. Children need appropriate feedback on their performance and they need help in assessing their existing knowledge and competence.

The new Reading Progress Tests (Second Edition) are ideal for making assessment an active process to help children embed skills securely. Although they can be used as traditional tests there is also the option for a class to dissect them together. This enables children to work as team readers and help each other get inside texts and develop more sophisticated thinking.

Tests are not designed to be exclusively summative or retrospective – their real power lies in their formative potential. Tests need to be discussed, ‘emptied’, analysed and poured over. They are best used as prospective tools for learning that children can collaboratively reflect on and re-assess their knowledge through discussing and arguing about ideas together.

The Reading Progress Tests (Second Edition) can help children engage with a variety of new texts and the range of responses required of them. When used as part of an inclusive high-quality teaching approach, the tests can support focused teaching of comprehension, effective questioning and modelling, guided instruction, collaborative learning and independent learning.


Using active assessment to monitor progress

Active assessment prioritises learning and makes a difference when it becomes a process rather than an event. Far too often, assessment is divorced from teaching and learning because it is a relatively passive experience: a child sits a test and data is generated for the purposes of accountability.

Active assessment does things differently to this. It promotes learning, searches for ways to improve and doesn’t generate fixed data because it is learner-centred. It recognises that test results are just a snapshot and can change. As learning is constantly evolving, active assessment never stops still as it is always building on knowledge, always gap spotting and always striving to make a difference.

The most effective use of the Reading Progress Tests (Second Edition) is for strategic gap-filling. What the MARK online reporting will show you are where the pot-holes are as well as where children have taken the wrong turn, stalled, run out of fuel, gone off-road or crashed. It is these learning curves that are ripe for next steps planning using interventions with a formative flavour.  Gaps in learning are opportunity gaps to practically problem-solve and keep children moving forward with awareness and confidence.

Through active assessment, you can discover the rate at which children are learning, assess their current knowledge, decide what information or skills they still need to learn, and judge whether the learning opportunities you are providing are effective or if they need to be changed or adapted.

Active assessment is about leaving the doors open and being in a position to coach and support, co-learn and be part of the learning journey to support upgrades in knowledge and understanding. It is fluid and organic assessment at its best.


Download a FREE sample of our brand new Progress Tests and try these active assessment suggestions in your class today.

Read John Dabell's previous blog - 'What does effective assessment look like in Primary Maths?'


formative assessment, key stage 1, key stage 2, maths

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