Published on: 27 Apr 2012

With the new benchmarking system that will use just eight standards to measure the quality of teaching, compared to more than 30 under the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) scheme, the level of detail expected is certain to be higher

The role of assessment in the new teachers’ standards, Andrew Thraves

After an independent review of teachers’ standards, a new set of clearer, more concise standards will come into force from September 2012. Significantly, the “accurate and productive use of assessment” is listed as one of the eight new standards – the first time that assessment has featured so prominently. But what does this mean? Andrew Thraves, Publishing and Strategy Director of GL Assessment, explains.

 

From the start of this school year, teachers across the board will be judged on their effectiveness using a completely new mechanism. The scope of the changes make the new standards one of the boldest educational reforms yet undertaken by the current government – even if the emphasis on simplification and reducing red tape treads a familiar path.

The new benchmarking system will use just eight standards to measure the quality of teaching, compared to more than 30 under the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) scheme. That is not to say, however, that the new teaching standards represent a lowering of bar: there may be fewer individual criteria being measured, but the level of detail is certain to be higher.

Since taking office, the current administration has emphasised time and again the importance of pupil attainment, so there are few surprises to be found in the choice of categories. For example, under the new system, teachers will be expected to “promote good progress and outcomes by pupils” and “set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils”. The new standards also reaffirm the belief that teachers should have strong subject knowledge and forge strong partnerships with parents.

However, nestled in among those eight new standards is one eye-catching development. From next year, teachers will be expected to make “accurate and productive use of assessment”. This is a sea-change for the profession, placing an unparalleled emphasis on the testing of pupils.

Of course, assessment in itself is nothing new to the teaching profession. Assessment has always been at the heart of the school system, to the extent that over the past few years there has been a tendency to use assessment as the ultimate arbiter of school performance, evaluating schools and teachers on the basis of pupils' exam results.

Now, however, the new teaching standards have refined the concept of assessment, so that it becomes not just about the exam results at specific points but as an ongoing process that checks pupils’ performance against their potential.

Maximising assessment data

As stated in the new guidelines, teachers will be expected to know and understand how to assess their subjects. What is more, the data they get from assessments is expected to underpin their teaching in such a way that they can demonstrate a pupil has reached their expected targets.

Independent assessments, such as the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT), provide one solution. CAT is a standardised assessment that measures developed ability – verbal, non-verbal and quantitative – three of the main areas of reasoning that can identify pupils’ strengths, weaknesses and learning preferences, as well as the potential for current and future attainment. It is used by 50% of secondary schools across the UK, supporting teachers in the design of more effective programmes of study and interventions. 

Such tools are not intended to replace a teacher's own judgements, but instead they are most powerful when used in conjunction with other indicators of pupil potential.

Indeed, this theme was expounded in Lord Bew’s final report on Key Stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability, which stated:

“Research evidence shows that secondary schools make widespread use of Cognitive Abilities Tests (which are designed to predict ability, regardless of previous attainment) and other internal assessments. The wide range of commercially available tests that are bought in by secondary schools shows the level of demand for additional information. This may suggest that they doubt the usefulness or accuracy of National Curriculum Test results, or that they see the value of triangulating with a different form of assessment.”

Good assessment practice requires access to reliable and robust data from a range of sources. At Key Stage 2, for example, this would be from SATs, internal assessments such as CAT and teacher assessment – in other words, ‘triangulation’. An objective, independent view is highly valued by teachers as a check and balance to nationally standardised Government tests.

What's more, the use of independent assessments provides teachers with rigorous evidence to back their own judgements, as well as a record that can be used to compare potential and attainment.

Teachers can further validate their data by seeking another teacher’s moderation or using marking and reporting services. Doing so will increase the reliability of results and make efficient use of teachers’ time. The importance of this was demonstrated by results from the DfE national Key Stage 2 science sampling project in 2010, which showed that 28% of students achieved Level 5, whereas the information based on teacher assessment showed that nationally 37% of students achieved Level 5.

The new teaching standards will also require teachers to demonstrate how assessment is linked to intervention: whether pupils need more challenging learning objectives, personalised learning or even further assessment. For example, if a screener picks up possible dyslexia, then the next assessments should include a range of subtests which identify where specific weaknesses lie and so enable targeted support. 

One of the most positive aspects of the new teaching standards is that they are designed to empower teachers, underlining the importance of their professional judgements. In so doing, however, there is simultaneously a greater responsibility on those teachers to show that their judgements are sound. Independent assessments will be vital here.

Managing behaviour effectively

One other notable change in the new teaching standards – also inextricably linked to pupil achievement – is behaviour.

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has, for many years, extolled the virtues of promoting good behaviour, so there is perhaps no great surprise to see it become a cornerstone of the new teaching standards. Nevertheless, it may give teachers pause to consider their own strategies towards managing pupils' behaviour.

Teachers will be measured on the behavioural standards they set in the classroom and be responsible for promoting good behaviour outside of the classroom. They will need to implement strategies for rewarding and sanctioning pupils alike.

It's generally recognised today that understanding pupils' attitudes to both themselves and others has a vital role to play in encouraging good behaviour. It is these attitudes which guide current and future behaviour. Therefore, regularly assessing pupils' attitudes to learning can influence their whole school experience, providing ways to spot those at risk from behavioural issues and help inform intervention strategies. Attitudinal surveys, such as the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School, provide teachers with easy-to-administer and reliable means to assess pupils, providing a foundation for their behavioural strategies.

The new Ofsted framework

Schools and teachers that effectively deal with pupil behaviour are now viewed as better equipped to help pupils reach their potential. This much has been recognised by Ofsted, which has long espoused the belief that improving behaviour is best achieved as part of a wider school improvement strategy.

When Ofsted published its revised inspection framework in September 2011, it highlighted pupil attainment, the quality of teaching and pupil behaviour – as well as the quality of school leadership – as the primary factors its inspectors would evaluate from January 2012. So the importance of behaviour will not only form part of the new teachers standard but the overall school assessment process.

It is this renewed focus on assessment and behaviour that will underpin the majority of other standards that teachers will be measured by, including how effectively they promote good progress and outcomes by pupils, how they challenge the pupils, the structuring and planning of lessons, and how adaptive they are at responding to needs and strengths of all pupils.

 

The eight new standards:

1. Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
2. Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils
3. Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge
4. Plan and teach well-structured lessons
5. Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils
6. Make accurate and productive use of assessment
7. Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
8. Fulfil wider professional responsibilities

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