The brave new world of teacher-designed assessment is an opportunity for classroom teachers to exercise their professionalism as we would expect them to, unencumbered by central diktat and control, using assessment processes that are tailored to the needs of their pupils.
Alison Rogers, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors
The abolition of levels in September 2014 may have been implemented with the best of intentions - primarily that schools would have the freedom to develop their own approaches to assessment which align with their curriculum and which meet the needs of their pupils - but it has left many teachers feeling confused and wondering what to do next.
The Department for Education’s recently-published report following its Commission on Assessment without Levels places the emphasis on schools determining what type of assessment system will work for them. This should be seen as a good thing. The brave new world of teacher-designed assessment is an opportunity for classroom teachers to exercise their professionalism as we would expect them to, unencumbered by central diktat and control, using assessment processes that are tailored to the needs of their pupils.
That is not to say it is going to be easy. Whatever solutions they find now must form part of a whole-school policy. They must be properly managed and consistently applied, be embedded in a rigorous governance context, and supported by the appropriate training.
Initial teacher training should contain elements on assessment, and continuing professional development thereafter is vital. The commission was right to stress this point. Teachers know how to teach and effective teaching involves continually assessing students, which is something they are already doing. However, how many have ever been taught the methodology of assessment, never mind designing their own systems?
Effective CPD will support teachers in ensuring their processes are fit for purpose and yield the relevant information about a child’s progress to allow teaching to be tailored, and the correct feedback given to pupils and parents. At CIEA, we are in the process of piloting our Foundations and Principles of Assessment programme with the help of GL Assessment at a number of their partner schools, which is aimed at developing teachers’ knowledge and skills in implementing good practice, as well as supporting school leaders in developing effective assessment policy.
What schools need to develop are well thought-out processes that are informative and put the curriculum, teaching and learning at the heart of a school’s work. But teachers must be supported in this by their senior leaders and, from the top, by policy-makers. Having specialist leaders in assessment in each school or learning alliance, as the Department’s report recommended, would put assessment up there with pedagogy and subject knowledge in the armoury of skills that professionals bring to the classroom every day.
Teachers need to feel confident about how they use and interpret assessment, both within their own schools and the current national context. There is good practice and expertise out there to draw on. The Commission has put the wheels in motion – now we must all make it happen.
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