Assessment for Learning and Teaching

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The key to effective practice is to be able to work out what a child’s specific needs are at one time, and to find ways of creating opportunities for them to succeed (Moyles and Robinson, 2002:281).

Assessment is the process of measuring someone’s knowledge, skills and understanding, therefore to get to know the pupils in my class and to understand their learning and behavioural needs I used assessment strategies. Using assessment strategies allows teachers to evaluate learning needs and allow children to all get the correct teaching they deserve, improving outcomes for all learners and making every child matter.

If we think of our children as plants, summative assessment of the plants is the process of simply measuring them. The measurements might be interesting to compare and analyse, but, in themselves, they do not affect the growth of the plants. Formative assessment, on the other hand, is the garden equivalent of feeding and watering the plants-directly affecting the growth (Clarke, 2001:2).

Clarke makes an effective link in this metaphor explaining how formative assessment describes processes of teaching and learning and the importance of this, whereas summative assessment takes place after the teaching and learning. Assessment for learning (formative) informs assessment of learning (summative). Teachers need to use their assessment for learning to facilitate learning and to ensure learning is taking place, this will then inform the assessment of learning when their work is marked or levelled at the end of the term or year to sum up their learning, this is important and will allow teachers to gain an understanding of where this child is in their learning and to discover what a learner has achieved over the year.

Black and Wiliam from Kings College, University of London in 1988 were commissioned to find out whether or not formative assessment could be shown to raise levels of attainment. This research concluded that formative assessment strategies do raise standards of attainment:

There is a body of firm evidence that formative assessment is an essential feature of classroom work and that formative assessment is an essential feature of classroom work and that development of it can raise standards (1998:13).

In my experiences in schools formative assessment really informed my teaching and practice. The class teacher and assistants carried out observations during group work in lessons, however these observations were not used or looked at during the planning process and so the next lessons were too challenging for some learners. When I took over the teaching and planning, I ensured that I used the observations of pupils to inform my planning of the next lesson. The year one teachers also used the previous year’s plans and both classes had the exact same plans which were not adapted for their class. In my opinion both classes have different learners with individual needs and the learning was not personalised for them. “Practitioners will need to plan for each child’s individual learning requirements” (Nutbrown and Clough 2006:10). Formative assessment is essential in teaching and if teachers do not use it effectively they may hinder pupils learning. Teachers need to plan to suit all learners individual needs and abilities and if teachers do not do this “there is a danger of requiring children to take steps that are too large for them, so they can only follow blindly, without understanding” (Harlen et al, 2003:81).

The assessment reform group (1999) discusses assessment for learning in practice and summarises the characteristics of assessment that promotes learning for each individual pupil. These characteristics include sharing learning goals with pupils as this helps them to recognise what they are aiming for, also self- assessment which provides feedback for pupils allowing them to recognise their next steps and how to take them. Furthermore assessment is underpinned by confidence that every...
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