This time last year I blogged about our approach to assessment. A year in education is a long time and so I thought an update would be interesting for all to see.
So last year I sat down with the new GCSE specifications and A level specifications to begin the process of identifying and creating an assessment system that was as cohesive as it could be across 7 years of education.
The first port of call seemed sensible to be the assessment objectives and so I looked at the new specs and the old APP and drafted a number of AOs which we would assess our students against. I am delighted to say that I have refined them slightly this year so now we have six AOs with 11 strands in total.
AO1: Inference and interpretation
AO2: The construction of meaning and effects using language, structure and form
AO3: Comparison and context
AO4: A personal and critical response
AO5: Crafting of language and structural devices to suit form, purpose and audience
AO6: Technical accuracy
Once I had established our AOs and subsequent sub-strands, I worked on identifying the criteria and the development of skillset across the 7 years. To do this, I used the old APP grids, the GCSE specimen assessment materials and the A level specimen assessment materials.
The end result were our progression maps for each AO identifying the expected progression for a student across the 7 years. (GCSE goal band 5).
These progression maps fed quite nicely into our LME approach at The Wellington Academy. Across KS3 we use the determiners: Learning, Mastering and Extending to assess students’ progress in a particlar strand.
Using the progression grid, I was able to identify the learning, mastering and extending criteria for each year group within Key Stage 3. These have just been recently updated and a copy of our year 9 one is here:
Once this had been established we began putting our curriculum in place, matching Assessment Objectives to particular units. The premise for assessment was that students would complete two assessment per unit: a Checkpoint task and a Key Assessment with the Checkpoint task being the barometer for the Key Assessment. Checkpoints were a smaller version of the Key Assessment with students writing a 1-2 paragraph response and were measured against only 1-2 AOs. This enabled us to see whether students had grasped a particular skill or not and, as a result, focus teaching in preparation for the Key Assessment which was a longer piece and assessed against 3-4 Assessment Objectives.
Whilst this has given us the tool to show the progress our students make between Checkpoints and Key Assessments and then across Key Assessments, it has meant A LOT of marking. I have reflected long and hard about how I can ensure the wellbeing of our team whilst ensuring students receive feedback that is meaningful and helpful to the development of their skill set. This is what, in discussion with our VPs, Dan Rosen and Mike Goves, I have come up with.
Next year students will sit three summative assessments only in the form of three examinations in the exam hall. The rest of the assessment we will complete will be through the use of formative assessment in the exercise book. As we were preparing the curriculum maps for this year, we identified the Assessment Objectives for each unit as you can see in the example below:
This gives the team a focus for marking when looking at students’ exercise books. Whilst staff are planning their units, they will be identifying key pieces of work that they will assess formatively against the Assessment Objectives for that unit – e.g. a paragraph analysing the presentation of Piggy in Lord of the Flies with a focus on how Golding has used the character of Piggy to help him invert the classic adventure story and the reasons for this (focus on AO3.2 (context) and AO2.1 (language)). These are the only pieces of work they will mark in detail in the exercise book with everything else in the exercise book being marked for core literacy only. In addition, we won’t necessarily all assess the same pieces of work which I think enables staff to have greater autonomy over what they do. A minimum standard will be set for staff and it is the job of the KS3 co-ordinator to Quality Assure this. Formative comments will be given and students will have time to respond to those comments and further develop their skill set. The focusing down of what is and is not marked reduces marking load for staff, makes the marking process quicker which enables work to be returned sooner and students to reflect, redraft and address areas of weakness immediately. It also enables a deeper learning process with a focus on a core number of skills only.
I think one of the team’s strengths is their level of feedback and the fact we do give students ample time to respond but I feel that in removing the Checkpoints as part of the assessment process, I am freeing staff up to do this with their students’ needs in mind.
The conformity will come through the bi-termly examinations. Having watched the growth of Michaela this year and their ideological stance on knowledge, I was really keen to ensure the examinations we set students in KS3 follow the same structure and have three sections: Section A – testing the knowledge students have gleaned from the units, Section B – testing students’ skills in writing and Section C – testing students’ skills in reading (with a focus on the relevant AOs). The reason for this is that with the move to a linear examination, we have to ensure our students become better learners, in that they retain what they have been taught and what they have learnt. Our students find this hard and we have to help them with this. By setting examinations bi-termly, we are supporting them in developing revision skills – embedding knowledge – memory and retention so that when they begin their GCSE courses, it is something which comes more naturally to them.
Our KS3 co-ordinator, Karen Armstrong and our shadow co-ordinator, Sophie Francis have been working hard to trial this new structure for the end of year examinations and here is an example of what they have come up with:
I am delighted with what they have produced and really excited about what I think is a great assessment structure which is both manageable for staff and useful for students. I would love to know your thoughts!