Assessment - Put flesh on the skeleton in the corner!

Yesterday eight of the thirteen associate primary language teaching colleagues and I met for our regular twilight CPD. One of the key points was to consider how we are tackling the challenges of assessment.Hope you have  spotted also the skeleton in the corner too!!

You can find out more about how we are developing assessment and tracking tools here in these blog posts: Assessment within our network and  also how we are exploring ways to share and to gather evidence of progress and success..

The associates work in 40 schools delivering languages weekly. Their experience ranges from primary classroom and language specialist teachers to  "secondary now primary" language teachers. Their work  is shared via the VLE with the  160 schools in the network. This year the associates and I are continuing to trial assessment approaches, materials and processes. We have identified already that one size does not fit all and are looking at a variety of approaches to find "best fits" for different schools in the network . It is a broad picture but we are seeing commonalities and ways forward:

  • The key focus of the assessment is to look at development of language learning skills
  • We use content from within the body of the SOW to populate key skill benchmark descriptors.
  • Some schools select different content but keep to the same skill descriptors.
  • The assessment criteria is linked to the DFE POS learning objectives and cross referenced with the KS2 Framework objectives and the CEFR A! descriptors
  • We have identified opportunities where we are pushing beyond A1 and in to the early stages of  A2 in the CEFR with the children who have been learning a language for more than the four years of KS2. 
  • We have schools that are committing fully to a roll out of assessment and schools that as yet still have to engage with assessment.
  • This year we are looking for ways to make the assessment procedure an integral part of the creative and rich primary language learning enviornment. We are feeding this back via the VLE to our SOW Plus and MFL Coordinator folders.

At the CPD twilight we reviewed progress so far. Here are the bullet points I noted down from the contributions to the discussion by the associates. 

Assessment update

  • Some of our schools want the assessment process to start this year and dovetail as best as possible  with the school  assessment processes.
  • In some schools we are assessing all children in KS2 every half term.
  • This half term colleagues are looking for ways to  steer assessment toward becoming small chunks within sequences of language teaching and learning and not to be perceived as one whole lesson of assessment.
  • We are becoming clearer and more confident in our understanding that although content may be specific it is the skills and the development of the skills that we are tracking
  • Some schools are providing TA cover to allow for focused speaking assessment
  • We are in to the second half term of this academic year and feel that it is important to keep on reminding ourselves and also encouraging class teachers and SLT that assessment in languages  must not lead the learning but must help us to consider what skills have been further strengthened and enhanced.Content is interchangeable but the skill level to meet a descriptor remains constant..
  • We are looking for effective ways to track and share knowledge with class teachers, coordinators and SLT. The data spread sheet which allows SLT to see term on term progress for individual children and for year groups is effective. Some SLT are now happy to use this  as a dialogue tool with staff, governors and outside parties. There is a need to explain the assessment criteria  and how we  are measuring progress. We are identifying with SLT how and why the skill descriptors have been created (nb DFE POS, KS2 Framework, CEFR).  
  • Schools are generating wonderful ways to celebrate and record success and progress n.b. “Sparkling Spanish” books in Wigan are still going strong!
  • Schools are asking about and creating "Pupil Record Books" and these  are being passed up year on year.We are encouraging the children to  put in to these books a  record  which may contain writing, smiley faces and comments, post its , photos, pictures, memorabilia .We feel the need to challenge the expectation that the book should be full!
  • AfL clouds for the children have been created this year and are being used  to allow the children  to record if they feel they are secure, not quite secure or masters of certain language and language learning skills.These AfL clouds are proving to be useful dialogue tools between a visiting language teacher, coordinator and class teacher and pupils. 
  • In some schools we are working with sample groups of children on assessment (6 pupils per class- across the ability range).This was our original model and we have found that we have needed to adapt this for schools where they wish to assess every child's progress.This year we are understanding better that a top literacy child may not be one of the best linguists and are finding ways to identify children more accurately than last year.
  • In some schools the sample group children changes term by term to build a broader picture of the class progress in language learning skills
  • We are working towards the least onerous system of assessment and our Puzzle It Out sheets contain guidance for the teacher and can be used as individual activities or just templates for a teacher's own preferred activities. 
  • Asking children to peer assess speaking – responding to key questions for example and enables the teacher to work with a sample control group.This is helping the teacher to spend more focused time with a group and therefore explore what they children can really say etc.
  • We are finding primary ways to assess progress and we discussed for example how the new blog post on Saint Nicholas shoes,  or performances at Christmas, the Come Dine with Me sketch in Y6 (songs, conversaations, short plays), our SOW Y5 messages in a bottle and Y6 draft tweets make excellent assessment  opportunities 

As the year progresses we will be: 

  • Working out ways to support other schools start to engage with assessment and make it meaningful in other individual schools.
  • Associates will be able to continue  learning from each other’s successes and failures this year.We will then be able to share valuable experience at our annual conference here in Warrington on 30 June 2016.
  • Plus we are beginning to consider how we can share hard and soft  data with KS3 via our five KS2- KS3 transition groups.

I will blog and share more after our next associate twilight in Spring 1 on this challenging area of language learning!