Balanced Assessment article in Osiris Staffroom

Staffroom takes an in-depth analysis of the three major models of assessment – formative, summative and productive – including what they involve, how they work and their potential benefits and downsides.

Rather than seeing these as in competition with each other, we see that they can be much more powerful when used together.

All assessment is valid as long as it fits three crucial criteria:

  • It informs teaching and learning so as to drive progress
  • It is accurate
  • It builds confidence in learning

Not all forms of assessment are equal. Below we unpick three main forms of assessment, and call for them to be used together, for the advantages each method has in preparing students for a lifetime of learning.

ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING
Summative

Definition:
AoL is the summative process of assessing pupils’ knowledge, usually through tests

Focus:
Knowledge

How:
Test, Marketing, External exams

When:
After

Model/How:
Teach, Test

Most likely to be seen in:
Maths, Science, and Core knowledge acquisition

At its best:
Spaced learning, Direct instruction

Downsides:
Tests pupils, doesn’t inform teaching; Focuses on surface knowledge; Perceived as boring

Advocates — where to find out more:
Daisy Christodoulou, Robert Bjork, Paul Kelly, Exam Boards

Potential benefits for students:
Secures surface knowledge efficiently; Quick to mark; Familiarity with process; Proven to be effective

Potential disadvantages for students:
Ranking and passing can damage some pupils’ self-esteem; Tests often do little to inform teaching; Higher skills are difficult to construct tests for

Warning:
Robert Bjork’s work favours low stakes tests; his research shows higher stakes tend to encourage disadvantages over benefits

Balanced assessment by Osiris Staffroom
ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING
Formative

Definition:
AfL is a formative process. It uses pupils as partners in the learning process

Focus:
Skills

How:
Feedback, Questioning

When:
During and after

Model/How:
Share learning intentions/success criteria; Focus on task process/skills; Where to next?; Scaffolding

Most likely to be seen in:
English, Humanities, and PE

At its best:
Interactive teaching, Peer teaching

Downsides:
Class size/ratio makes teacher’s job difficult; Ineffective when done poorly; Culture shift – 20 years on still not adopted

Advocates — where to find out more:
Dylan Wiliam, Paul Black, Shirley Clarke

Potential benefits for students:
Encourages directed conversations; Potential for deeper learning; Structured learning around dialogue; Proven to be effective

Potential disadvantages for students:
Nuances mean often it is only used at base level; Patronising and ineffective; Training is complex

Warning:
20 years on, most observed practice of AfL in classrooms is still a long way short of its potential (proven to be effective in practice)

Balanced assessment by Osiris Staffroom
ASSESSMENT AS LEARNING
Productive

Definition:
AaL takes assessment as the key element in the learning process through iterations

Focus:
Learning strategies + dispositions

How:
Dialogue, Redrafting, Rubrics

When:
Before, during and after

Model/How:
Iterate A to B

Most likely to be seen in:
Design Technology, Composition, Extending writing and Project work

At its best:
Project work, Independent learning

Downsides:
Requires more time and curriculum space; Counter-intuitive; Somewhat alien to current curriculum

Advocates — where to find out more:
Ron Berger, Professor Guy Claxton, Yong Zhao, Lawrence Stenhouse

Potential benefits for students:
Develops life skills and signature strengths; Sense of endeavour, leading to achievement; Encourages resilience, ‘stickability’ and independent learning

Potential disadvantages for students:
Relies on prior knowledge and intrinsic motivation; Application to some curricular areas is less obvious; Evidence of impact less clear

Warning:
Studies suggest AaL would not suit the approach of the majority of teachers

Balanced assessment by Osiris Staffroom

 

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An original article written by the Osiris Staffroom team.

Find out more on Assessment without Levels

Develop the best assessment system for your school following the removal of attainment levels, use new ways to link assessment with the new curriculum in every subject and leave the day with techniques to evidence progress to: Ofsted, Parents and Pupils

 

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