A simple recap

One of the most popular posts on this site has been this explanation of exit tickets.  Here’s a variation on that idea recently shared by @RemindHQ.  I don’t think the idea needs any explaining – see the exit ticket post for ideas on how to follow up …

stuck with you

ON THE LEVEL # 7 – Sound Assessment Practice

So, levels are going: where have we got to at Loreto in our bid to find a suitable replacement? 

Various assessment principles have been shared within the posts on this blog, and several colleagues have either consequently or incidentally discussed these with me.  Loreto’s assessment principles need to be formalised and published by September these year, and that looks like becoming one of those “summer holiday jobs” we all tend to rack up in this half term term.

Under the aegis of the AlbanTSA, five local schools have met and pooled various ideas on assessment without levels.  We have all agreed to trial various approaches in the coming months.  Here at Loreto, the Maths department has kindly agreed to help with the first trial.  This trial will finish at the end of this term, and we will share the outcomes of this in due course – collating the findings may well be another summer holiday job.

Next term we hope to trial various other ideas in order to help crystalize our thinking, and in order to get a feel for which approach most effectively meets the diverse needs of everyone with a vested interest in assessment – most importantly the pupils themselves. It seems to me that since most people are delivering revised curricula next year, they will need to revisit their methods of assessment anyway, so we might as well kill two birds with one stone.  If you are rethinking your approach, this short paper by Stiggins and Chappuis is well worth a look.  Amongst other things, it contains the following advice on what constitutes sound classroom assessment practice:


1. Clear purposes

Assessment processes and results serve clear and appropriate purposes.

a. Teachers understand who uses classroom assessment information and know their information needs.

b. Teachers understand the relationship between assessment and student motivation and craft assessment experiences to maximize motivation.

c. Teachers use classroom assessment processes and results formatively (assessment for learning).

d. Teachers use classroom assessment results summatively (assessment of learning) to inform someone beyond the classroom about students’ achievement at a particular point in time.

e. Teachers have a comprehensive plan over time for integrating assessment for and of learning in the classroom.


2. Clear targets

Assessments reflect clear and valued student learning targets.

a. Teachers have clear learning targets for students; they know how to turn broad statements of content standards into classroom-level learning targets.

b. Teachers understand the various types of learning targets they hold for students.

c. Teachers select learning targets focused on the most important things students need to know and be able to do.

d. Teachers have a comprehensive plan over time for assessing learning targets.


3. Sound design

Learning targets are translated into assessments that yield accurate results.

a. Teachers understand the various assessment methods.

b. Teachers choose assessment methods that match intended learning targets.

c. Teachers design assessments that serve intended purposes.

d. Teachers sample learning appropriately in their assessments.

e. Teachers write assessment questions of all types well.

f. Teachers avoid sources of mismeasurement that bias results.


4. Effective communication

Assessment results are managed well and communicated effectively.

a. Teachers record assessment information accurately, keep it confidential, and appropriately combine and summarize it for reporting (including grades). Such summary accurately reflects current level of student learning.

b. Teachers select the best reporting option (grades, narratives, portfolios, conferences) for each context (learning targets and users).

c. Teachers interpret and use standardized test results correctly.

d. Teachers effectively communicate assessment results to students.

e. Teachers effectively communicate assessment results to a variety of audiences outside the classroom, including parents, colleagues, and other stakeholders.


5. Student involvement

Students are involved in their own assessment.

a. Teachers make learning targets clear to students.

b. Teachers involve students in assessing, tracking, and setting goals for their own learning.

c. Teachers involve students in communicating about their own learning.

The 5-minute test review sheet

As we ramp up the amount of exam practice we give our classes, you might want to try out this idea posted on the TES website by @TeacherToolkit.  Click on the image to enlarge, or click here for pdf.

5 minute - test @TT

A variation from Learning@Loreto [click on image to enlarge]:

test review 2

Examples of completed reviews [again, click to enlarge]:

review 2

review 3

review 1

The problem with plenaries

The problem with plenaries is that they are one of the most important elements in a lesson and yet they don’t always go as well as we would like them to.  Here we look at solutions to some of the most common problems.

Problem – I have no idea what a plenary is.

Solution – Ok, I’ll tell you!  A plenary is an activity designed to establish how well pupils have met their learning objectives.  Good plenaries will also reinforce those objectives and help inform your planning for the next lesson.  Plenaries can take place whenever you wish, but are most commonly used to draw a lesson to a neat close.  This is not a plenary:


Problem – I never know what to use as a plenary.

Solution – See this page on plenaries for a few ideas.  Before making your choice, remember to consider the objectives you are reviewing, the time you can afford to allow, and the nature of the pupils.

Problem – I never get round to the plenary.

Solution – Work out in advance how long the plenary will take and therefore at what time you absolutely must start it.  Plan an activity before the plenary which can be variable in length.  You might for example, plan to consolidate learning by tackling “Exercise A” – but that does not mean all pupils have to do the whole exercise, so challenge them to see how much they can do in the time available before you need to start the plenary.

Problem – Pupils think the lesson is over the minute I start a plenary activity and they stop paying attention.

Solution – Describe/exhibit/explain the plenary activity at the start of the lesson, and tell them that this will be used to assess how well they have met the lesson objectives, so that when you introduce it later they are primed to take it seriously.  Alternatively, you could put the pupils themselves in charge of managing the plenary activity.

Problem – My plenaries keep going wrong.

Solution – Make sure you know what you want the plenary to achieve.  Plan your plenary first, then plan a lesson which sets the scene for it.  Consider sticking to a set range of plenaries, so that the pupils become comfortable and confident with the format of each one.

Problem – My plenaries work well, but I am starting to get bored with them myself.

Solution – Try some new ones, or just vary the way in which you go about the old ones – can you put a time-limit on them, turn them into competitions, get the pupils to run them, etc?

Problem – I feel like the plenary is just repeating what we’ve already established.

Solution – This may mean you’ve already done a “plenary” without recognising it as such.  Or maybe you are just repeating what has been established, which should help to consolidate the learning: provided you go back over it in an engaging way, there is nothing wrong with this at all.

Problem – I don’t like teaching according to a set plan and don’t believe every lesson has to end with a plenary.

Solution – That’s fine, so long as you are confident that the pupils are meeting their objectives, and so long as you are providing alternative opportunities for the pupils to appreciate the progress they are making.  The best lessons tend to have several mini-plenaries which just seem to happen naturally as the learning develops, but are of course all part of the plan!