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Assessment in History


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#16 alison denton

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 07:11 PM

what should be going on in the history classroom, and then, how do we assess it? ....
History is not a linear subject, and sometimes what pupils have learnt cannot be measured, or only becomes apparent after many years, and we should not be afraid to say we cannot measure it. But we must try...
The skills we regard as important - understanding, interpretation, sifting evidence and so on - are much harder to measure and require precision in drafting of assignments to be able to measure changes. There are no easy answers to this. How do you measure emotion, feeling, understanding of 'why' things take place?

Hear, hear!

The value of ICT in measuring pupil progress is a really important issue, especially as two (related) developments seem to be happening apace (worryingly):

1. Use of electronic means of tracking and monitoring pupil progress, so that data is available to a wide audience in many schools, almost 'on demand', and is not the preserve of the teacher/ student/ department. this may be a good thing in some ways - but has the very obvious drawback that all sorts of assumptions and conclusions can be made by comparing such data - across time, across depts etc. Yet there is no guarantee AT ALL that any such comparisons are valid given the lack of standardisation that accompanies it.

2. The jump to use the NC levels as the means by which these 'assessments' are expressed (easy to compare! NOT). I won't re-open old wounds by restating my very strong misgivings about using these levels for such a purpose - suffice to say here that by jumping on this bandwagon and pretending we are all somehow doing the same thing, and objectively measuring the progress of our pupils is not true, and such exercises are about administration, not pupil advancement.

As for the use of on-line quizzez etc, I can add nothing to Andrew Field's postings(with which I heartily concur), so I won't.

As for what we do in my own school, Andy:
1. I'm not the HoD, so I do as I'm told, which is grade work A-E
2. No, fortunately as yet we are not required to tie our assessments down to the reporting system - we are not YET expected to mark in levels and then perform some sort of ridiculous averaging process to be able 'to say for certain where pupils are' at any point in any key stage (what nonsense) though I fear this will come.
3. I am myself struggling with several different types of assessment at once, to the probable huge confusion of my pupils (although they don't appear to be confused, or in the least bit bothered. I'm the one doing the agonising). My primary mantra is that my assessment is for moving the pupils on primarily, so a very small number of very focused comments is my preferred method so far, with no grades or marks at all, though I use others too whilst I am working through what I think works. I don't have the answer - I just know that a slavish adherence to the NC level descriptors IS NOT IT.

#17 Andrew Field

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 07:55 PM

I am suggesting that for the full promise of online learning to be realised it will be desirable for both classroom practitioners and educationalists in teacher training and elsewhere to work together, bringing as they do very different skills and insights to the process.

Yes - and keep those textbook publishers and web professionals creating 'interactive materials' for e-Learning credit consumption well away....

Some very interesting points on assessment developing here though. Interesting stuff - and something that ICT (rightly) only has a limited roll in.

Some of the KS3 strategy materials will be useful here - there has been lots of work on assessment for (rather than of) learning. Much of it is clearly existing good practice, as with most of the KS3 strategy, but I see it as real progression in offical guidance for assessment. Encouraging self-assessment, peer-assessment and so on is very helpful. See some of the relevant publications here: http://www.standards...&strand=generic


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#18 Darren

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 05:43 AM

While I agree with much of what Andy has to say on assessment, especially with respect to exams, I must say I am concerned by the comment:

"I didn't come into teaching to assess, I came into it to teach."

I am afraid that if you think teaching and learning does not involve assessment you should not be teaching. Teaching and assessment are not two different things. Assessment is part of teaching and an extremely important part as well. Our job is to 'cause learning' and improve our students. This cannot be done without assessment.

The integrated use of formative, self and peer assessment is vital to teaching and learning. I have made the improvement of essay writing a focus this year within the department - I couldn't possibly do this without assessing or marking!

#19 John Simkin

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 09:03 AM

I am afraid that if you think teaching and learning does not involve assessment you should not be teaching.  Teaching and assessment are not two different things.  Assessment is part of teaching and an extremely important part as well.  Our job is to 'cause learning' and improve our students.  This cannot be done without assessment.

I agree that all teaching involves assessment. The main issue involves the role the state plays in this. For example, it has recently been reported that the British government currently spends more than twice as much examining and testing children than it does on providing them with books to learn.

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 09:09 AM

I am afraid that if you think teaching and learning does not involve assessment you should not be teaching. 

Thanks for your contribution Darren.
What I was referring to of course if taken in context was the situation in the 1980's in the UK. Marking was about non criterion referenced letter grades the students didn't understand or find helpful. In other words marking for marking's sake.

There is no argument against formative assessment properly done and I wouldn't be fatuous enough to try and make one. There is perhaps however some concern about what is being done in some UK schools "in the name of formative assessment" in the form of whole school computerised systems of grade levels and "target" levels. These are management systems which have little if anything to do with teaching and learning.

Darren and I have discussed some of these matters before and I know that the school he works in in New Zealand is a very progressive institution. I think this seminar would benefit from a fuller description of how assessment works in NZ.

Edited by andy_walker, 12 November 2003 - 09:49 AM.


#21 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 06:01 PM

I had a very interesting (and somewhat frustrating) lesson with my year 10s. they had completed a test yesterday on Ancient medicine and had to write three extended answers, 2 of which required them to reach a judgement. I wrote a markscheme which set out the levels, the development of the answer (ie Level 1 simple statements, level 3 developed analysis) and examples of the content that should have been in their answers. I gave the boys the markscheme BEFORE I gave out their scores.Many of the boys were not interested in this as ALL that they wanted was their raw score. I was asking them why and how they thought the raw scores would help them to progress, and they answered that it provided motivation. I responded that they needed to know how their work was assessed in order for them to make further progress. Should I have given them the marks at the start with the risk of losing 10 minutes of shouting out their marks across the room and getting out of their chairs to find out what their friends in the other corner got? Is there evidence that suggests that diagnostic marking really is the key to successfully raising attainment?
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#22 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 10:02 PM

Many of the boys were not interested in this as ALL that they wanted was their raw score. I was asking them why and how they thought the raw scores would help them to progress, and they answered that it provided motivation...

Is there evidence that suggests that diagnostic marking really is the key to successfully raising attainment?

I actually believe in diagnostic marking and have probably spent far too much time in the last 10 years doing this. But motivation is the key to raising standards.

I also came into teaching to teach not to assess. I dislike marking and avoid it as much as possible because, taken to NC excesses, it demotivates me. I think my students benefit from having a motivated teacher who has spent the night before planning the same lesson in a different way (again) than a teacher who has covered their books in red ink comments that they never read.

I believe that assessment and detailed feedback is essential to student progress, but I have found the easiest way to improve exam results is to slightly increase the average 'grade' achieved for assessed work, as the exam year progresses, always moving towards the accurate (exam board) assessment criteria. Be a little harsh in September with higher expectations than the exam board requires and relax (the grading not the expectations) as the year progresses. Nothing motivates more than success.
All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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#23 Darren

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 10:54 PM

Andy I'm sure you realise my comment was tongue in cheek - I was not suggesting you shouldn't teach. I have on the whole agreed with most of your discussions on this forum. As someone who enjoys provoking a response I'm sure you understand.

It is a fact though that some teachers seem to think that assessment is not teaching or even part of teaching. Richard has just reinforced this. While I certainly don't advocate over assessment I don't try to avoid it. It worries me that some teachers seem to think of it as an unnecessary burden. And I don't describe the situation in Britain here, I am generalising.

Richard, as a someone whose use of IT is very impressieve, I'm sure you use essays via emial to overcome the whole 'red ink' problem. My students find the highlighted pop ups a fun way to get feedback. Of course the best way to give feedback is to sit down and talk to them about their essay. One of the key aspects of teaching is the use of feedback, not instruction. Students who reflect on this feedback and on their essay, are 'assessing' of course.

Andy, my school is not really very progressive. In fact it I imagine it would not be much different than yours. The national system of assessment is on the right track though. I know I have been asked to elaborate on this in the past, but the task is rather daunting in terms of time and energy. Have a look at this website if you want http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/ncea/

Please don't get the idea that I am attacking British education, I just find educational theory interesting. I criticise our own systems as much as any other.

#24 John Simkin

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 08:00 AM

Andy I'm sure you realise my comment was tongue in cheek - I was not suggesting you shouldn't teach.  I have on the whole agreed with most of your discussions on this forum.  As someone who enjoys provoking a response I'm sure you understand.

It is a fact though that some teachers seem to think that assessment is not teaching or even part of teaching.  Richard has just reinforced this.

Richard can answer for himself but I cannot see how he has done this in his posting. I doubt if you will find any teacher in Britain who believes that “assessment is not teaching or even part of teaching”. Teachers are doing this all the time. As you rightly say, the best assessment comes about by the ability to sit down and talk to them about their work. As you know, the amount of time you can spend with individual students is very limited. That is why some teachers are so much in favour of creating historical debates and simulations in the classroom. This enables you to discover if students really have grasped important concepts. The same is rarely true of written assessments. True, you can teach them to make the appropriate response to a question, but there is no guarantee they have really reached that level of understanding.

Why then does the government not encourage us to carry out that type of assessment? Partly out of ignorance. Party out of the view it is not scientific. But most importantly of all, because teachers are not to be trusted. Assessment is used in Britain to make teachers and schools compete. Our masters believe that a teacher is only really motivated by the desire to climb the league table. If that is the case, you cannot trust the teacher to carry out the assessment.

The danger about this approach is that teachers will exclusively concentrate on preparing his students to pass the nationally imposed assessments rather than on educating them. This was the main argument against the old 11+ exam and it is the main argument against the current policy of government imposed assessment. The old Labour Party, for all its faults, realised this in the 1960s. It even realised it in opposition in the 1980s and for most of the 1990s. However, once in power, it accepted the views of the Conservative Party and instead of reform, intensified the system.

Edited by John Simkin, 13 November 2003 - 08:03 AM.


#25 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 10:37 AM

Please don't get the idea that I am attacking British education, I just find educational theory interesting.  I criticise our own systems as much as any other.

Darren I wasn't :)
It was a genuine request for you to tell us what you do because I know that you feel strongly about formative assessment. The seminar would definately benefit from hearing how things are doen in your class room and also what the NZ government says about assessment and testing

#26 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 01:25 PM

It is a fact though that some teachers seem to think that assessment is not teaching or even part of teaching.  Richard has just reinforced this.  While I certainly don't advocate over assessment I don't try to avoid it.  It worries me that some teachers seem to think of it as an unnecessary burden. 

Much of what passes for assessment is unnecessary. My comment 'I also came into teaching to teach not to assess' was meant to reflect/support the sentiment of Andy's original post, which was a critique of a type of 'assessment' that has little to do with learning:

Not for me then paper and paper tests of the “What can you see in the sources?” “It’s a soldier” TICK level 3 using sources! A bigger load of nonsense I could not conceive of and yet this sort of skill isolation and assessment which still seems very popular in some schools and in many textbooks.


Perhaps I wasn't very clear but I did say:

I actually believe in diagnostic marking and have probably spent far too much time in the last 10 years doing this.

and

I believe that assessment and detailed feedback is essential to student progress

I spend a lot of time filling out this sort of assessment sheet for traditional activities such as essay writing, and although I don't enjoy doing it, I don't avoid it either.

The 'red ink' comment was intended as a criticism of a particular type of assessment which meets the needs of those outside the classroom: managers, inspectors and parents, who expect to see books 'marked'. British classroom teachers are ridiculously overworked and are expected to spend far too much of their time on pointless 'assessment' and often end up demotivated as a consequence.

The best example I have read of this problem recently was in Richard's seminar on interpretation. In this seminar we are witnesses to a (clearly) very able, reflective professional, contorting himself and his teaching so that he can fulfil the assessment artifice of NC levels of attainment.

now that our pupils have reached the dizzy heights of level 5, how do we move them on to level 6 and 7? How to facilitate pupils to describe different interpretations and to explain how and why different interpretations have been reached? for me this is the point at which the levels of the national curriculum become a tad unclear. what is the difference between suggesting reasons for differing interpretations and explaining how and why these differences exist. surely it is a matter of providing evidence/making your suggestions coherent. however, can we ever be sure as to how and why an individual has reached the interpretaion they have? or do we have to offer informed guesses.


As Alf says earlier:

History is not a linear subject, and sometimes what pupils have learnt cannot be measured, or only becomes apparent after many years, and we should not be afraid to say we cannot measure it. But we must try... The skills we regard as important - understanding, interpretation, sifting evidence and so on - are much harder to measure and require precision in drafting of assignments to be able to measure changes. There are no easy answers to this. How do you measure emotion, feeling, understanding of 'why' things take place?


My teaching and my assessment are inextricably linked but I am very fortunate. I teach in a small school, with small classes and 'light' timetable. In my non-exam classes, I have no National Curriculum to follow or inspectors to please. I never have to fill out paper because someone else thinks this will 'assess' my students. I never have to give a number to something that cannot be measured. My students do activities because I think they are useful learning activities: I choose the historical content, the skills and the methods of assessment. I am a trusted professional.

Why then does the government not encourage us to carry out that type of assessment? Partly out of ignorance. Party out of the view it is not scientific. But most importantly of all, because teachers are not to be trusted. Assessment is used in Britain to make teachers and schools compete. Our masters believe that a teacher is only really motivated by the desire to climb the league table. If that is the case, you cannot trust the teacher to carry out the assessment.


All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke


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#27 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 08:00 PM

I have received some PMs from people who are having an experience of School system based assessment very similar to mine but are concerned about posting given who "might" be reading.
One school required teachers to record how well a student was doing within a level. They have to give a student a 4 a, b or c. Do this 2 or 3 times a year. In this particular school nobody from SMT could actually define what an a / b / c is in history. This is virtually exactly the case in my own school so I sympathise a great deal.
In one school the SMT was asked: What sub level do I give to a student who is working at level 3c with rewards his enquiry skills, level 4a when asked to identify interpretations and offer reasons for them and level 5a when writing narrative accounts of the past... answer: erm, that could never happen... sadly with many in one particular school students it does as their understanding of different types of writing and literacy skills develop at different speeds - probably due to the bulk being 2nd langauge learners.

I think my College reporting system (virtually the same as above) is an utter nonsense. Does anyone else have experience of similar systems?

Is anyone prepared to argue in favour of such a system?
Does anyone have any ideas as to what we can do in such circumstances to resist such systems?

#28 Darren

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 09:55 PM

Thanks for the responses - as everyone realises I sometimes take things out of context because I don't teach In Britain and therefore don't understand the context of the comments. (Why I dont post that often) I was concerned about the comments but realise they don't mean you don't effectively use assessment. In fact the debate has highlighted some very good teaching practice that would be useful to anyone reading.

I should make a post as you say - I'm sure it would spark some debate. Things are winding down here so maybe next week I can get my a into g.

By the way - go the ALL BLACKS!!

#29 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 10:32 PM

Thanks for the responses - as everyone realises I sometimes take things out of context because I don't teach In Britain and therefore don't understand the context of the comments. (Why I dont post that often)  I was concerned about the comments but realise they don't mean you don't effectively use assessment.  In fact the debate has highlighted some very good teaching practice that would be useful to anyone reading.

I should make a post as you say - I'm sure it would spark some debate.  Things are winding down here so maybe next week I can get my a into g.

By the way - go the ALL BLACKS!!

We all know that New Zealand hasn't got a prayer in the world cup so perhaps we can steer the discussion back to assessment ;) ;)

I'd like to repeat my request posted below to learn more about your experience of assessment and the approach of the NZ government

Please don't get the idea that I am attacking British education, I just find educational theory interesting.  I criticise our own systems as much as any other.

Darren I wasn't :)
It was a genuine request for you to tell us what you do because I know that you feel strongly about formative assessment. The seminar would definately benefit from hearing how things are doen in your class room and also what the NZ government says about assessment and testing

#30 Darren

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 05:05 AM

I realise that Andy - I will post. I will have to overcome the deep depression I am nowing wallowing in - give me a day or two.

Edited by Darren, 16 November 2003 - 05:07 AM.





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