Expert Webinar FAQs: Aaron Wilkes and Steve Day Getting to grips with KS3 Assessment

Teachers are telling us they are most concerned about getting to grips with KS3 Assessment in light of the new GCSE specifications, so you might like to watch Aaron Wilkes and Steve Day’s expert webinar on KS3 Assessment. In the webinar, Aaron and Steve share best practice about KS3 History assessment, and discuss what OUP’s new KS3 Assessments are like. View the recording here, if you have missed it!


Frequently asked Questions about OUP’s KS3 Assessments

Q: As a school, we are expected to give students a 9-1 grade, even at KS3. How could these assessments be used in that way?

A: The way that OUP has drawn up the assessment criteria takes into consideration that some schools will be giving students a 9-1 grade, even at KS3.

There are three stages within the OUP assessment grid: Developing, where we would expect a Y7 student to be; Secure, where a student is likely to be at the end of KS3; and Extending, where a student with exceptional performance would be at the end of KS3 or early KS4. We have linked these categories to new GCSE grade indicators, so that teachers have the confidence to be able to use the assessments within the overall school assessment regime you’ve described. You can find the GCSE grade indicators in the assessment criteria grid (mark schemes) in the Teacher Notes. The mark schemes are also linked to old Levels, to provide teachers with methods to measure progress in a way that works for individual schools. Designed to be flexible, teachers can use these statements and indicators alongside their own professional judgement to determine the level of progress that an individual student has made, and what more needs to be done.

Q: Can you explain the ‘good better best’ language?

A: The way that we have developed the assessment criteria recognises that students develop their historical understanding at a different rate, and that a single assessment may not necessarily indicate that they are at a particular level.

The way we have written the criteria is to look at it from a student perspective, and what they are able to demonstrate in their assessment responses. Each of the developing / secure / extending criteria (good / better / best) uses language that enables the teacher to recognise within their students a developing competence in the subject that builds upon the previous category. So, whereas a student may at ‘developing’ (good) level be very descriptive in their answers, by the time the teacher feels they are ‘secure’ (better), the student will be able to explain a concept, and in ‘extending’ (best) they would be able to produce a historical argument.

The assessment materials provide teachers with structured guidance that underpins the process; when blended with professional teacher judgment, the OUP materials provide teachers and students alike with confidence to understand where the students are in their learning and what the next steps should be.

Q: What techniques would you suggest for linking KS3 assessments to KS4 exam questions?

A: The assessments draw on skills and concepts that students will need for their new GCSE exams. For example, there is an assessment that focuses on Winston Churchill that aims to pick apart the different ways he has been interpreted – not only by looking at how he has been interpreted in History – but why he has been interpreted in this way. This is exactly the sort of thing that students are being asked to do at GCSE level. In the AQA GCSE exam, for example, on Paper 1, the first two questions on the exam ask students to a. Explain how two interpretations differ and then b. explain why the interpretations differ. Indeed, each of the new OUP assessments have either sources as a focus, or interpretations, or second order concepts such as cause and consequence or significance. All of these feature heavily in the new GCSE exams. The Teacher Notes accompanying each new Skills Assessment introduces GCSE exam-style questions for different exam boards.

Q: Would you consider it best practice to set KS3 assessments at the level of KS4 or focus more on pitch of topic?

A: Every school is different, as are the students in each class, so there is no one answer to this question. Some students will rise to the challenge of attempting GCSE questions at an earlier point in their school careers, whereas for others it can be more problematic.

What we all want are students that feel that by the end of KS3 they have all the skills to be able to confidently approach KS4.

The way we have structured our assessment materials is based on what the individual student can demonstrate in the classroom. We have developed assessments that can be used by teachers to support the way that they teach, and that takes into account the students they have. Although there is a common format to the questions, it would be for the teacher to make the decision as to the sort of standard they are aiming for. What might be appropriate outcomes for a Y9 class therefore, may not necessarily be true of an early Y7 class. What we have tried to do is to provide a link to the new GCSE standards, so to be ‘secure’ in an assessment outcome is likely to be achieved at the end of Y9 for most students. This allows the teacher to focus on individualising their teaching and pitching lessons for the benefit of their students, rather than starting with the standard first and trying to fit students to it.

Q: Could you share how many people are teaching ks3 over 2 or 3 years?

A: The poll results showed:

  • 24% of you teach KS3 over 2 years
  • 0% teach KS3 over 2 years + 1 term
  • 14% teach KS3 over 2 years + 2 terms
  • 53% teach KS4 over 3 years
  • 9% picked other.

Q: Are the OUP [KS3] textbooks relevant to international schools? i.e. do they have enquiries for international school students

Absolutely – they are widely used in international schools, mainly due to the fact that the books cover many universal, world-wide themes, topics and concepts. It is important to note, however, that they do largely follow the English National Curriculum, so the topics covered are all related to the English National Curriculum – but this is a curriculum that has wide appeal. Also the skills and concepts emphasised in the lessons and the activity tasks are skills and concepts that good historians should be aiming for the world over – the ability to ask perceptive questions, think critically, weigh evidence, sift arguments, and develop perspective and judgement, for example. The books help students to understand the complexity of people’s lives, the process of change, the diversity of societies and relationships between different groups. Concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance are addressed, and students are asked to use them to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses.

Q: Are we able to access the new assessments if we don’t subscribe to Kerboodle?

Our new assessment support is one of the additional materials provided alongside the comprehensive KS3 History by Aaron Wilkes textbook series, which already includes assessment support. Just like some of our other support, such as our worksheets, videos, interactive activities and lesson planning support, this additional material is provided exclusively as part of the Kerboodle service. Please contact your local OUP consultant to discuss gaining access.

Q: Are there any [Kerboodle] training events that I could attend?

You can find out more about the KS3 History Kerboodle courses on our website here.  You can also sign up for free Kerboodle support webinars here for more information and training.