What shapes my identity as an assessment practitioner?

by The Assessment Network, 23 June 2021
Brooke Wyatt

Last November, Cambridge Assessment Network welcomed a new member of the team. Brooke Wyatt is a former teacher who joined Cambridge Assessment in 2016, taking a role as Assessment Manager at Cambridge International. Since moving to the Network, Brooke has already made a huge impact and worked on key projects including the recently launched Understanding Assessment – a Practical Course for Teachers and the delivery of online bespoke sessions.

Here she tells us about her experience working in assessment to date, what she loves about her work, and how as a student, teacher and assessment manager her perspective of assessment has many different angles.

Combining teaching experience with assessment expertise

I worked as a teacher for 15 years, as a science teacher and eventually as head of department. I left teaching in 2016 looking for a new challenge. I had found teaching really rewarding and wanted to do something that still had an impact in the classroom. 

I’m really enjoying the new role and love the wide range of training we have on offer – from the asynchronous online A10 series to the remote, interactive, bespoke sessions.

When I moved to Cambridge Assessment I started out as Assessment Manager at Cambridge International, managing the primary and lower secondary science assessments. I also worked on a range of education reform projects. This involved the design, development and management of new assessments and delivering assessment training.

I joined Cambridge Assessment Network in November 2020 and have found it to be the perfect opportunity to combine my teaching experience with my assessment expertise. I’m really enjoying the new role and love the wide range of training we have on offer – from the asynchronous online A10 series to the remote, interactive, bespoke sessions. I also cannot wait until we can get back to deliver face to face sessions.

I volunteer as a governor at a local school which keeps me in touch the issues faced by schools and teachers in the UK.

Going behind the scenes of assessment 

Moving to work ‘behind the scenes’ in assessment when I joined Cambridge International was a massive learning curve. I had been using assessments in the classroom for 15 years and didn’t have an appreciation for how much time and effort goes into creating good quality questions.

Working in these two different contexts of assessment has allowed me to see question papers in a new light. As I teacher I had worried that using past paper questions in my lessons may be seen as ‘teaching to the test’ or could cause increased anxiety by overusing assessment material in lessons. 

Working in these two different contexts of assessment has allowed me to see question papers in a new light.

However, now I know how rigorous the process is to create exam material, I wish I had appreciated it more at the time. Why reinvent the wheel and write my own questions for lessons when I have a bank of material to use? Tried and tested material that can stimulate discussion, assess prior knowledge, diagnose misconceptions, and consolidate learning is a valuable resource. 

Professional development for teachers

Teachers are the most valuable resource with the greatest impact on learning, with assessment being an indispensable part of what supports that. Therefore, it is essential to provide continuing professional development with teaching practitioners in mind.

Recently I had the pleasure of contributing to the creation and delivery of Understanding Assessment – a Practical Course for Teachers, a new online self-study, on-demand course. The course outlines the purposes and principles of assessments and how to best use them to promote the greatest success from learners.

It felt good to work on a resource for teachers to support them at a time when they are under increasing amounts of pressure and having to participate more than ever in the awarding of grades.

It was designed for teachers with specific examples from the classroom. The self-study, on-demand approach allows teachers to choose from the modules that are most relevant to them at the time and work through the resources at their own pace.

It felt good to work on a resource for teachers to support them at a time when they are under increasing amounts of pressure and having to participate more than ever in the awarding of grades.

Being student, teacher and assessment manager

I have always been keen to take any opportunity for continuing professional development, even if it’s in an area I already have experience in. We all know having a refresh is sometimes what you need to reflect on your current practice and consider where you can make improvements. 

Throughout my career I’ve found the biggest barrier to accessing CPD opportunities is time. That’s why we’ve designed the Assessment Practitioner Workshops in manageable 90-minute chunks and as they are accessed remotely, you don’t have to factor in travel time. 

I see myself as student, teacher and assessment manager, meaning my perspective on assessment has many angles.

Attending the Item Response Theory (IRT) workshop series as a participant was a good reminder of how to interpret results from IRT and an opportunity to meet others and discuss how we all use IRT in practice.  A full day of online learning is tiring, but the format of 3 weekly lunch-time workshops allowed time for reflection on the learning before building on it the following week.

I see myself as student, teacher and assessment manager, meaning my perspective on assessment has many angles. This is what I can bring to my new role as Senior Manager of Assessment Training and is what shapes my identity as an assessment practitioner.

This is part of a new series of stories about our assessment practitioner community. Some of the themes here can be explored further in our assessment professional learning framework, a statement about what we think meaningful professional learning in assessment looks like and how it can be achieved. It provides a way for assessment practitioners to measure the positive impact from their professional learning.

Something as important as assessment benefits from sharing perspectives, exchanging ideas and debating the latest thinking. As the Assessment Network, we want to bring assessment practitioners together to share greater understanding. Why not join us?

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