Friday, 28 June 2013

A chartered assessor in every school?

At the ASE summer celebration conference I somehow managed to agree to present, on behalf of a working group, an education policy idea to a panel of the great and the good, chaired by Warwick Mansell.

This is the idea my group came up with:

We would like the assessment system to support students in their learning, rather than be the driver of their learning.

Currently, exams are reasonably useful for capturing some of the factual knowledge that students have learned, as well as a limited skills set that they can use with their knowledge. Skills such as being able to recall and manipulate information, to construct a coherent argument, and to be able to describe and explain the reasons for different phenomena.

However, exams are not good ways to capture the procedural knowledge and skills that are also important for the mastery of a subject. Skills such as the ability to draft, and redraft, and redraft, a piece of work - almost the skill of dealing with failure as part of the process of the development of that work.  In science we feel that practical work is a vital part of the knowledge and skills that students should master, and yet exams and controlled assessment do not allow for a nuanced understanding of what a student can achieve.

For some knowledge and skills, teacher assessment is a much better way of capturing what a student knows and can do.

However, the challenge is that in the high stakes testing culture that we have today, there is always an incentive for teacher assessment to be rather more generous than might be appropriate. Attempts to close down this incentive has led to controlled assessment which is overly arduous and which is detracting from the learning of students.

Our solution: we would like to raise the quality and esteem of teacher assessment so that it becomes a valid and realistic way to assess some of the outcomes of a students learning. This would enable a much fuller picture of their abilities to be produced so that other schools, universities and employers would know what the student had achieved, and also which areas could still be developed.

By using a system of chartered assessors (like that currently run by the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors) we could ensure that all teachers understood the role of assessment, and were able to produce valid and reliable assessments of their students.  There would need to be a stepped level of grades of assessor depending on what a teacher was called to do.

There should also be intra-school moderation of assessment, with schools from different regions, working together to ensure that the level of the assessment was realistic.

 Assessment is already part of the teacher standards, so this would build on what is already there. 

' Make accurate and productive use of assessment
know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas, including statutory assessment requirements
make use of formative and summative assessment to secure pupils’ progress
use relevant data to monitor progress, set targets, and plan subsequent lessons
give pupils regular feedback, both orally and through accurate marking, and encourage pupils to respond to the feedback. '

To provide a higher level check and balance to this, Ofsted (and particularly their new regional inspectors) would be able to look at the processes and quality of moderation and the levels being assigned. They too would need to have chartered assessment experience available to them.