How far away are we from radical assessment reforms in our schools?
I have surveyed over 20,000 teachers and have asked the question: ‘What is the greatest burden on teacher workload?’
In my work with schools across the UK, regardless of context, teachers are struggling under the marking burden. Day-to-day classroom assessment is fuelling problems with teacher mental health and wellbeing across the UK. Where marking and assessment has gone wrong is with an ever-increasing amount of testing and reporting. Add to the mix school accountability and tracking student progress, then the change in attainment between two points in time becoming a very fashionable measurement.
Does assessment improve a student’s performance?
Not only are some of our current methods of tracking student progress ineffective, but our obsession with data sets, edtech solutions and testing could also be damaging and limiting our students. This notion of ‘those most likely to succeed’ and ‘those most likely to fail’…
At a system level, our education leaders are ranking our schools, multi-academy trusts and in some cases, also inspecting them on top of statutory school inspection in order to drive performance. For schools, the apparent success of moving up the rankings secures more students and more funding – and so the cycle continues – but this measure of ‘value-added’ gives a false perception of teacher capability and student progress.
How can we find out what we don’t know?
Professor Rob Coe reminds us that “assessment must contain information that could surprise us and tell us something we do not already know” because if we report on what we already know, it tells us nothing new about what to do. My suggestion of how teachers and schools can buck this trend is to:
- Rethink homework
- Consider using comparative assessment in the classroom
- Use whole-class assessment strategies to test the learning
- Opt for verbal feedback instead of assuming written in the best form, and
- Consider artificial intelligence to reduce workload and use all of the above to improve the classroom.
Of course, whether our overuse of assessment is due to perceptions of effectiveness or the demands placed upon teachers and schools from elsewhere is slowly being evaluated. However, it is my belief that even if a school has a zero-marking or no-homework policy, their best intentions may still be trumped by external forces, for example, parental expectations, exam board regulations, Ofsted and national assessments.
God forbid it is your school leader who is the driving force? How schools strike a balance between accountability and autonomy is critical, and at the same time, we should also find out what makes for great teaching and how this translates into assessment and good outcomes for our young people.
Discover how your school can become a research-led institution and use some of these well -crafted ideas as part of a CPD programme to support teachers…