Since being involved in the Activate project, I’ve no longer thought of KS3 and GCSE as separate entities. This seems to be a trend in many of the schools I speak to, and many now consider the two Key Stages together and talk of a ‘5-year scheme of work’. But what’s the value in this? And what are the principles we should follow to maximise the value? And what does it mean for assessment?
A five year scheme of work could provide continuous opportunities to create progression pathways from Year 7 to Year 11, instead of thinking of the Key Stages as separate. As national curriculum levels are no longer compulsory and GCSE grades are changing from traditional letters to the 9-1 grading system, there is an opportunity to use new modes of assessment. It can concentrate on the development of science skills, knowledge and understanding, as well as the development of maths and literacy for science. The five year model allows space for tackling misconceptions, mastery of key ideas and authentic progress in science subjects.
I propose a five year model has to emphasise classroom assessment rather than standard tests, based on the research into the value of formative assessment. This model is founded on my own experiences working with schools, and supported by the recent government commission for Assessment Without Levels. I suggest that a five year assessment system should have the following features:
- Facilitates forensic assessment and feedback on specific knowledge, understanding or skills
- Generation of useful data to enable tracking and monitoring of progress, to allow intervention and improvement opportunities and communication to students, school leaders and parents
- Flexibility to allow a range of approaches to teaching (mastery, outcomes, spiral) to generate comparable data
- Allows teacher assessment and summative test data to be used appropriately and feed into a tracking platform, such as Progress8
- Capacity to make long-term predictions from baseline data models, to track progress of individual students and classes, with flexibility to make reasonable adjustments
The pressure is growing as schools come to realise there is an expectation that schools are accountable for their students’ progress throughout their five year secondary school career. Talking with teachers, I find that in science there appears to be a number of assessment systems being trialled at Key Stage 3. These include old levels, rubrics (such as Developing, Secure, Extending) and SOLO taxonomy (pre-structure, unistructural, multistructural, relational and extended-abstract). The consequence of this is a very fragmented assessment system within schools, between phases and between schools.
Oxford University Press have produced a working model that considers the implications of dealing with a fragmented system, and unifies the tracking of students’ progress from the start of Year 7 until the end of Year 11. It allows a variety of inputs from teacher assessment and assessment from tests, as well as opportunities to give useful and specific feedback that can be acted upon. We launched the model at the 2016 ASE Annual Conference in Birmingham and you can download a summary of my presentation here.
All the best,
Dr Andrew Chandler-Grevatt has a PhD in school assessment and a passion for science teaching and learning. Having worked as a science teacher for ten years, of which five were as an AST, Andy has a real understanding of the pressures and joys of teaching. Alongside his research in school assessment, Andy is a teaching fellow on the PGCE course at the University of Sussex, and is a successful published assessment author. He is the Assessment Editor for Activate, AQA GCSE Sciences (9-1), and OCR Gateway GCSE Science.