This case study looks at how a secondary mathematics team organised assessments during their Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP) project, including the impact and outcome of the department's assessment approaches.
Impact on assessment approaches
The APP project had already had a profound impact on the department's approach to assessment. The mathematics marking policy had been amended and homework was set and marked every week, with written comments and pupil responses noted at least every fortnight. The aim was to make the comments more detailed, sharper and more focused on the objectives. There was an overall aim to increase pupil involvement in the whole assessment process through clarifying the learning objectives and making the assessment process more consistent and more transparent.
Teachers in the mathematics department and throughout the school were very clear about the different purposes and features of day-to-day and periodic assessment. This was clearly reflected in the school assessment policy, which stated the following.
Day-to-day assessment should:
- have learning goals made explicit and shared with the pupils
- include peer and self assessment
- engage pupils in the learning process
- provide immediate, positive, constructive and progressive feedback.
Periodic assessment should:
- provide a broader view of progress across the subject for the teacher and pupil
- reflect and improve on medium-term planning and individual performance.
The development of periodic assessment started with the selection of small sample groups of pupils from Key Stage 3 classes. For Years 7 and 8, nine pupils were identified in each group: three from the highest achieving group, three from the middle and three from the lowest achieving group. Teachers completed the APP grids for these pupils on the basis of evidence available in their written work and the teachers’ knowledge of the pupils' progress. These initial assessments were then moderated by pairs of teachers. This was done in a collaborative spirit and helped all members of the department to move towards a common understanding of the levels.
My comments on pupil work are much more focused, more useful, and more effective than they used to be.Mathematics teacher
Outcome of assessment approaches
The team found that these approaches were particularly helpful in identifying pupils for additional support through the one-to-one tuition initiative. Initial APP judgements also proved invaluable in identifying more accurately what issues these pupils needed to work on. Previousy, this might have required additional diagnostic work but the improved accuracy and consistency of assessment with APP had already made this less necessary. This focus came about naturally through the APP approaches. The department was working towards a single, integrated approach to assessment that reduced the need for additional work.