We delve into the world of assessment and its many different forms. You may not be aware but the word assessment is derived from the latin ‘assidere’ meaning to sit beside and we very much take this approach at Alice Smith; nurturing, supporting and encouraging student reflection and learning through our assessment practices.
The fundamental reasons for assessing students almost transcends time, but the mode in which students are assessed has changed. This article explores the different methods used and the approach to assessment taken at The Alice Smith School.
Assessment is often partitioned into formative and summative. Formative is the use of day-to-day, often informal, assessments to explore pupils’ understanding so that the teacher can best decide how to help them to develop that understanding. Summative is the more formal summing-up of a pupil’s progress that can then be used for purposes ranging from providing information to parents to certification as part of a formal examination course.
It should be noted that assessments can often be used for both formative and summative purposes. “Formative” and “summative” are not labels for different types or forms of assessment but describe how assessments are used. For example a task or activity is not formative unless the information it provides is actually used to take learning forward. The distinction is undoubtedly useful in helping to understand the different uses of assessment.
There are characteristic differences between the two uses of assessment:
- Summative comes at the end of learning episodes, whereas formative is built into the learning process;
- Summative aims to assess knowledge and understanding at a given point in time, whereas formative aims to develop it;
- Summative is static and one-way (usually the teacher or examiner judges the pupil), whereas formative is on-going and dynamic (feedback can be given both to the pupil and the teacher);
- Summative follows a set of pre-defined questions, whereas formative follows the flow of spontaneous dialogue and interaction, where one action builds on (is contingent upon) an earlier one.
The key difference is expressed in the first bullet point above: formative assessment is a central part of pedagogy. For example, questions or tasks used in class are chosen and fashioned in the light of their potential to engage pupils in making contributions that can reveal key strengths and weaknesses in their understanding. What is revealed is often surprising and unexpected. Formative assessment is dynamic and constant. It creates an atmosphere of challenge and engagement. Students step outside of their comfort zone as they consider what they are learning and how they are learning it. They then become an active participant in moving themselves on to the next stage of their learning; it may look chaotic and be quite tiresome.
In a walk around school you will see students sharing, correcting and developing ideas by writing on glass walls, desks or even the floor. They may use digital platforms to develop and shape work such as Google Apps and Peardeck. Different reference frameworks are used to support students as they move their learning and thinking forward. Images included show one example of the active reflection and scaffolding used to assist students. It’s no wonder that when they come home, you might be greeted with an ‘Uh’ as they respond to your ‘So what did you do today?’, as how could they articulate all that busy mental activity?
This article is supported by publications from TLRP Institute of Education, University of London.
Vice Principal, Achievement & Progression
Click here for this week's full issue - 19th January 2018