This case study looks at how a secondary mathematics team organised assessments during their Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP) project, including the impact of techniques and resources used, and how they standardised their approach.

Assessment techniques and resources

The department used a rich variety of AfL techniques throughout all lessons. These included using mini-whiteboards, thumbs up/thumbs down or red/green 'confidence' cards, poster work and rich, probing questions.

Each unit of learning, lasting two or three weeks, addressed clearly defined learning objectives, which were shared with the pupils at the start of each lesson. At the end of each unit, the pupils were encouraged to make notes in preparation for the assessment and were allowed to take an A4 page of notes into the assessment. Usually this took the form of a 'concept map'. Each assessment was constructed on a 'progression ladder' and each group was given an appropriate range of questions from this ladder. The questions themselves were prepared by the department, making good use of the probing questions in the APP focused assessment materials.

APP is all about assessing pupil learning – this is self-evidently a good thing.

Subject leader for mathematics

The assessment was then marked by the teacher identifying where each pupil was with his or her learning against the set objectives. The pupils were then encouraged to identify the areas that they needed to work on and what was needed in order to progress. They did this using a 'maths unit review' form, which identified an overall level for the unit, a list of what the pupil could do, what work was needed and what was required to achieve the next level. Often the additional work might be through an activity or exercise on a commercially produced revision resource.

The team used a spreadsheet template to capture the assessment judgements, having started out with a manual system which they thought might be rather time consuming. A guide to ongoing progress was provided by an electronically generated 'level', based on an average of all the levels for the individual criteria.

The team was concerned that this two-week or three-week cycle of recording might result in an over-emphasis on short-term learning. However, the evidence pointed to this not being the case. The pupils really were learning the mathematics and retaining it. It was difficult to identify why this was the case, but there was a feeling in the team that it might have been partly a result of the emphasis on pupils developing good study skills.

Standardisation and moderation

Standardisation and moderation were only just starting to be explored by the team at the time of the case study (February 2010). Initially, teachers were working in groups of three to share and compare judgements. The Standards Files were proving very useful in judging the pupil work against national standards.