How we assess children has a huge impact on their learning. Frequent high-stakes exams can cause undue stress and encourage educators to teach to the test.
At GES, we have drawn upon the latest research in assessment to design a system focussed on improving learning.
The vast majority of assessment at GES is formative: We use it to check understanding and help determine students’ strengths and weaknesses in order to plan future learning. Here are just a few examples of approaches that our teachers use.
Questioning The majority of the time, teachers do not accept ‘hands-up’, but use questions targeted at named individuals. This enables teachers to assess whether students have understood their teaching, rather than just hearing from the highest-attaining students.
Critiquing Work Teachers show work from current or previous classes, or a teacher model containing common misconceptions or exemplifying excellence. As with questioning, we operate a ‘no opt-out’ policy, where any pupil may be called upon to show their work.
Tests Studies show that students learn most from tests if they are low-stakes: self-marked, with few negative consequences for poor performance, or even no-stakes: the teacher doesn’t even find out the score. Such tests are not assigned a percentage or grade. The focus is on what the test says about the next steps required for the pupil to improve.
Whole Class Feedback Teachers look through class or homework, make brief notes and give feedback to the class in the following lesson. Students are encouraged to find their own mistakes and to improve their work or performance as a result of the discussion.
Written Feedback Teachers do not generally assign grades or percentages, but instead comment on what is specifically good about the work and give suggestions for improvement or follow up tasks.
In addition to the daily feedback that children receive from their teachers, we formally report formative information three times per year.
We involve the children in this process right from the start of secondary: they attend pupil-parent-teacher evenings and are involved in setting their own targets, with the guidance of their teachers. Similarly, reports are aimed directly at students, in order to maximise their impact.
In order to give parents and students an idea of performance with reference to national standards, our students take formal exams at the end of each academic year.
We use a combination of internally-produced and externally-provided tests in order to summarise how well students have learned the material covered and put their results in context. Results are provided as scaled-scores, to allow comparison between subjects and from year-to-year.