Does school assessment in the UK need to change?
With the recent fiasco around this year’s GCSE and A-Level results, the topic of how we assess learning has really come under the spotlight.
In the UK, educational policy has a focus on standardised testing. The head of Ofsted warned us in 2017 that the amount of time schools spend on preparing for tests is narrowing children's education. Instead of fostering a love of learning, schools are being pressured into teaching content for exams due to the current assessment climate.
Numerous educational scholars and studies have explored the negative impacts of standardised testing, such as eroding the trust between pupils and teachers and damaging pupils’ self-esteem. If we focus on exams as the end-goal in education, children can lose the motivation to cultivate on-going curiosity and passion for learning that’s more holistic and valuable for their development into adulthood.
As a teacher, I’ve seen students become truly engaged when we focus purely on learning and not outcomes. It’s one of the reasons why at Hove Micro-School there are no formal assessments.
Instead, assessment is formative– meaning that the teacher can assess learning in real time, based on targeted, differentiated questioning, observation, and discussion with the children. This is a really effective method of assessment, as all children are different and have different learning styles, which universal assessment does not account for.
In a small group, formative assessment becomes even more effective and verbal feedback can be provided and acted upon much more efficiently. What is more useful for a child’s development and understanding – a one to one discussion between that child and a teacher about a topic or a child completing some questions, handing them in and waiting for written feedback on a future date?
At Hove Micro-School, children can choose how they wish to present and document their learning, whether it be a creatively planned page in a sketchbook, a video diary or a journal – there are a variety of more interesting and effective ways to present a learning journey than drawing a margin, writing a date, title and completing some written work in a workbook every lesson.
All of this helps to build each child’s confidence, generate true engagement with their subject matter and begin to build the various skills needed to succeed outside of the school environment. Most importantly of all, a love of learning is fostered, rather than a fear of test failure.
You can read more about formative assessment and the extensive research that supports it here.