The basics of assessment for new teachers

by Guest Blogger, 11 August 2017
Thanks to all of our examiners, most of whom are teachers themselves, who have worked hard over their summers to ensure our learners receive the grade they deserve. Training in assessment can enhance teacher’s knowledge of an examination and therefore their teaching of the syllabus being examined. Here, guest blogger Ann Gravells explains why she thinks new teachers especially should study the basics of assessment, and how different types of assessment feedback can have an impact on learners’ confidence.

The basics of assessment for new teachers blog Ann Gravells profile photoI started my career in a college in 1983 as an untrained and unqualified vocational teacher. I had to learn quickly on the job, making a few mistakes on the way. However, over time I gained my qualifications and lots of experience along the way. I now write books and resources to help anyone new to their role.

I’m passionate about encouraging people who make the transition from working in industry to teaching, just like myself. Sometimes, new teachers tend to focus on covering as much as they can about their subject with their learners. Assessment can easily become lost during the focus to pass on skills and knowledge. There’s a lot of jargon involved with the assessment process, so here’s a very brief guide to some of it...

  • Assessment is not another term for evaluation; assessment is of the learners whereas evaluation is of the programme the learners are working towards.

  • Initial assessment is at the beginning i.e. when a learner commences a programme and it is used to ascertain information about them. It can also be used when a new topic is covered during a session to ascertain prior knowledge and skills.

  • Formative assessment is ongoing to check progress, perhaps using questions or fun quizzes, it is often informal.

  • Summative assessment is at the end of something, perhaps using an assignment or a test to confirm a learner’s achievement, it is often formal.

  • Informal assessment activities can be created by the teacher whereas formal assessment activities are usually supplied by the awarding body.

Assessment activities can be used to check learning. They are the different ways in which a learner’s ongoing progress and final achievements are tested. For example, questions, discussions, observations, examinations and assignments. Whatever is used should be fit for purpose, valid (only tests what it is meant to test) and reliable (will give consistent results over time).

Feedback should always be given to learners to help them realise what they have achieved so far and what they still need to do. It should be constructive and developmental to help the learner progress further. The comments and grades given can have an impact upon a learners’ confidence. Therefore, comments which specifically focus on the activity or the work produced, rather than on the individual, will be more helpful and motivating.

Ann Gravells
Author and training consultant in the further education and skills sector

In early 2018, the Cambridge Assessment Network will be launching a new online training course for anyone interested in learning more about the principles of assessment:

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'The future for examining' OCR commissioned this report looking at why teachers become assessors and how we can encourage more education professionals to undertake assessment training.

'Save the date' to attend a conference on Thursday 23 November. 'Questioning questions' will explore the idea that "Good assessment is about helping students to learn." Look out for booking instructions on our website and social media.

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