What is Assessment? Assessment is the process of gathering, recording, interpreting, using and reporting information about a child's progress and achievement in developing knowledge, skills and attitudes (Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum, Guidelines for Schools; NCCA, 2007, p.7). Assessment monitors and evaluates the pupil’s learning. Self-assessment through reflection is used by teachers to monitor teaching and learning in their classrooms and practice (effective or not) shared with colleagues. Assessment of Learning (AoL) and Assessment For Learning (AfL) are an integral part of the teaching and learning process. AoL is summative assessment typically done at the end of an instructional unit. Formative assessment is used to feedback to the teaching/learning process and looks forward, informing what will be done next. Teachers in Scoil Mhuire observe and discuss weekly with colleagues both work in progress and completed work. While teacher reflection on practice and learning is on-going teachers in Scoil Mhuire give a written reflection on teaching and learning to the principal at the end of every month and she responds to this in writing 1-2 times a term.
Why assess learning and teaching?
Our reasons for assessment are as follows:
· To inform teachers’ setting of learning targets and activities for individual pupils, groups and the whole class
· To inform the school improvement plan and to revise and update whole school improvement targets.
· To assist planning, evaluate and modify teaching strategies based on the outcomes of assessment
· To inform class groupings and differentiation of work
· To identify pupils with learning difficulties
· To use assessment outcomes to assist and improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning programmes used in Scoil Mhuire
· To effectively and sensitively use assessment outcomes to assist pupils to reflect on their own learning
· To be able to provide accurate information about pupil’s progress to relevant parties particularly parents
· To evaluate pupil achievement in curriculum areas in comparison with national norms
In Scoil Mhuire the gathering of information on pupils’ learning is timely and happens at regular intervals.
How do we assess learning and teaching?
A broad range of assessment approaches/strategies/tools are used in Scoil Mhuire in all subjects, to cater for a wide spectrum of needs among the pupils taking into account their individual learning styles and needs. The pupils may be assessed with their class or individually out of the classroom, whichever is deemed the most appropriate for the pupil, at the time. Alternative assessment tools will be designed altered or sourced by the Special Education Needs (SEN) and class teachers should the assessments be deemed inappropriate to the pupil’s level of ability.
Teachers use many different tools to assess children's learning and teaching effectiveness in all subjects including:
- Teacher observation
- Teacher reflection
- Teacher-designed tasks
- Work samples
- Concept mapping
- Curriculum Profiles
- Portfolio and project assessment
- Self-assessment (SALF folders)
- Conferencing: teacher/pupil, teacher/teacher, teacher/parent
- Diagnostic and Standardised Tests
- Tracking of reading material
To download a copy of the modes of assessment used by teachers at each class level click the following:
1. Teacher observation and teacher reflection:
Up until November 2012, teachers gave their detailed short-term plans to the principal at the end of every month, with work covered during the month ticked. In November 2012, it was agreed that teachers would keep this section of their monthly report with their long-term plans, in their classrooms. It was noted that while teachers continuously reflect on practice, this reflection was not being recorded. As this was new practice in the school, teachers agreed to record their reflections initially on either numeracy or literacy. A framework was given to teachers as a guide with the following questions listed, to guide them through the process:
· What worked particularly well in my classroom this month?
· What was the most challenging moment in my teaching?
· If there was one thing I could do to improve the pupils’ learning what would that be? What change/s could I make in my short-term planning based on my experience in the classroom?
· Was I clear about what learning I wanted the pupils to achieve in each lesson?
· How effective were my assessment methods in helping me identify what the pupils had learned?
· How did I cater for the different pupil learning needs and/or styles in my class?
· Consider methodologies and differentiation -Think about one pupil’s progress this week?
· Consider his/her learning / behaviour / social and emotional area; How effective were the strategies I used to support this pupil?
· How effectively did I integrate literacy and numeracy learning in my lessons?
All class teachers now (2014) reflect monthly 'in writing' on their practice and give this to the principal. Teachers often report on how individual pupils have progressed in these reflections and how they have adapted practice as a result of their observations/assessments. The principal in turn reflects on their practice individually 'in writing' 1-2 times a term. Her reflection is based on her regular visits to the teacher's classroom, observations of the teacher/pupil interactions and the teacher's personal written reflection. It is an opportunity to inform learning and affirm staff.
Teacher self-assessment of fluency in Irish
In September 2014 teachers used the Common European Framework of references for languages (CEFL) to evaluate their fluency in Irish. A 6 hour course for teachers was arranged (September – December 2014) with the purpose of improving teacher confidence in using Gaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae.
2. Teacher designed tests/surveys
Data from these tests/surveys are used by teachers to inform teaching and learning, adapting teaching methods/strategies, deciding where to focus their attention in their teaching and for sharing good practice and seeking advice with and from colleagues when required.
In October 2014 Google forms was used to upload a survey for staff on teaching effectiveness in numeracy. Staff completed the survey on-line and an analysis of the findings was presented at a staff meeting (end of November). Strengths/Opportunities/ Aspirations and Results (SOAR) were discussed using this data and priorities identified for attention 2014 – 2015.
Surveys are also used to give parents ‘a voice’ in the work of the school. Parents were surveyed on their attitudes towards Gaeilge and as a result of this feedback night classes were arranged for parents and children together (2011 – 2012). Surveys were also sent to parents on their children’s attitudes towards literacy and numeracy. Data from these surveys was analysed by Seefin International. Two areas identified for attention included improving communication with parents and a need for lessons on Mathematics for parents. Subsequently more regular newsletters (2-3 a term instead of one termly) are being sent home to parents and Kate Crehan (class teacher) delivered classes in mathematics to parents. A survey was also sent to parents on the use of IT for learning mathematics at home. Subsequently Sandra Crean introduced Manga High to 2nd – 6th classes in the school and this programme continues to be used in school and at home. A ‘Scratch’ club was set up in the final term of 2013-2014. Children who attended had to bring a parent with them and the course was delivered by Padraig Gubbins (parent) and spearheaded by Sandra Crean (class teacher).
See Whole School English Plan
Jolly Phonics is used in Junior Infants – 4th and is monitored at class level linked to the weekly spelling/phonics tests. The Newell literacy programme is used in 5th/6th with tests administered by the class teachers.
Sight vocabulary/high-frequency word tests are administered regularly by the SEN team and class teachers from Junior Infants – 6th class. These are compiled using vocabulary from the DOLCH list. The Jolly Phonics word boxes are used in Junior and Senior infants with ongoing assessment (at least once weekly depending on the needs of the child).
Oral language tests
The teachers assess oral language using a range of tools. In 2012 teachers in Senior Infants, 3rd/4th and members of the SEN team designed a rubric to assess oral language. The test was used before the teaching of a series of lessons focused on improving speaking/listening skills. After the lessons were taught the same rubric was used post-test to assess the level of improvement in the speaking/listening skills of the children. This was part of a collaborative learning project supported by PDST. The learning from this project was shared with staff and the tools/lesson plans shared.
The Drumcondra oral language profiles are used with three tracker children in each class (below average (not including children allocated resource hours), average and above average. Teachers keep these records on file.
Junior & Senior Infants teacher-designed Maths test:
A teacher designed mathematics test is administered at the end of every term based on the content material that has been covered.
1st -6th classes mathematics tests
Teachers administer check-up assessments based on objectives covered in the textbooks throughout the year.
Teachers 3rd-6th classes use surveys to gather information on the children’s learning. Occasionally surveys are used to gather information on the children’s well-being including anti-bullying surveys which are being used since the review of the anti-bullying policy (Easter 2014).
3. Work samples, portfolio and project assessment
A file/portfolio containing information, samples of work, attendance notes, test results etc. are kept by the class teacher for each child in a locked filing cabinet in each child's classroom. An on-going record of student progress is also kept on file in teachers' classrooms. This folder on each child supports the teacher in reporting on a child's learning progress and achievement to parents and others (AoL) while also helping the teacher identify the next steps to be taken to build on and develop the child's learning (AfL). The assessment folder is a key element in supporting effective teaching and learning rather than an end in itself. Gathering information about a child's learning is important, but of central importance is how this information is used to improve learning.
4. Curriculum objectives/ learning outcomes/ concept mapping
In the School Improvement Plan (SIP 2012 - 2013) it was noted that teachers didn't always share the learning objective or learning outcome of a lesson with the children and it was agreed that teachers would start doing this. It was agreed that teachers and children would ask daily “What are we learning today”, “What I Know already? What I Want to know? What I have Learned?”. Reminders of WALT (What are we learning today?) and WILF (What I am looking for?) would be displayed in all classrooms.
In 2014 it was noted that there was a shift of focus in the literature and in DES policy from the phrase 'curriculum objective' to 'learning outcome'. Where a curriculum objective is focused on the content to be taught, a 'learning outcome' is focused on the pupil. "Learning outcomes are statements of what is expected that the student will be able to do as a result of learning the activity" (Jenkins and Unwin, 2001).
Simply stated, expected learning outcome statements describe:
1. What teachers want the student to know at the end of a lesson (content) AND
2. What teachers want students to be able to do at the end of a lesson (skill)
Learning outcomes have three major characteristics
1. They specify an action by the students/learners that is observable
2. They specify an action by the students/learners that is measurable
3. They specify an action that is done by the students/learners (rather than the teacher)
Teachers in Scoil Mhuire regularly use the KWL strategy – asking children before a lesson what they know and what they want to know and then at the end of the lesson asking them what they have learned. Concept mapping is often used by teachers to elicit what a child knows before and after a lesson.
Tracking of reading material
During the Summer of 2014 a new library was set up in the school with all books in stock recorded on the Databiz Management system. Since September 2014, classes are time-tabled weekly for the library. A volunteer brings the children to the library and scans in/out the books. It is hoped that by the end of June 2015 teachers will have data on what the children are reading, popular authors, avid readers, reluctant readers etc.
5. Self-assessment and Self-assessment Learning folders (SALF folders)
It is very important that children are involved in assessing their learning through self-assessment and/or peer assessment. SALF folders encourage children to choose their best work and see with help from teachers and peers where they need to improve. Children in Scoil Mhuire are taught from junior infants how to assess a fellow pupil’s work sensitively and constructively. Such skills are important in life. All children have a SALF folder.
Maths Journals are kept by children in 4th – 6th classes to record their learning in mathematics.
6. Conferencing: teacher/pupil, teacher/teacher, teacher/parent communication
Pupils work, including non-written work and homework is regularly monitored and corrected. Pupils are provided with constructive feedback on their learning. Teaching is amended in the light of feedback. Teachers check pupil understanding during and at the end of lessons. Pupils are provided with meaningful feedback on their work to improve their Learning. Station teaching facilitates teacher/pupil conferencing.
Teachers teaching the same class level in Scoil Mhuire meet weekly to plan together, share good practice and advise each other. Information regarding pupil progress in the curriculum areas is shared with relevant staff members as necessary
Choir for 3rd-6th class pupils is held on Thursday afternoons 2.30pm – 3.00pm and 3rd – 6th class teachers plan during this time. On Wednesdays 2.30pm – 3.00pm teachers of infant classes supervise 1st/2nd classes so that teachers can plan. Infant teachers plan together from 2.15 – 3.00pm weekly.
It is important that parents feel welcome in the school. In 2013-2014 the Deputy Principal while pursuing a post-grad diploma in educational leadership in NUIM identified a need to involve more parents in the life of the school. She spearheaded a variety of projects with the intention of developing a stronger ‘sense of belonging’ in our school community. Parents may meet the class teacher by appointment at any time during the year. Meaningful information regarding pupil progress is effectively communicated to parents regularly during the year via reading logs, homework journals, communication copies (Speech and Language class) etc. Formal individual parent-teacher meetings take place in November. At these meetings, parents are consulted to ascertain their perspective on their children’s progress. Information class level meetings for parents on the curriculum and classroom practice are held late September/early October.
A written report giving a profile of pupil achievement in each curriculum area in qualitative and quantitative terms that are easily understood and meaningful are sent home to parents at the end of the school year. In May 2008 the staff decided and agreed to use a template from the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment). Parents are informed of the standardised test score in literacy and numeracy on the end of year report card. It was agreed, that to avoid misinterpretation of written standardised test results by parents, information on standardised test scores and how to interpret results is sent home with the end of year report card. The report is sent home two weeks before the end of the school year to facilitate parents who wish to respond to the report and meet the class teacher before the end of June.
7. Standardised tests and diagnostic tests
The DES require all schools to assess children using standardised tests normed on the Irish population at the end of 2nd, 4th and 6th classes.
To assess literacy, the MICRA T test was used in the school up to 2012. A decision was made to use the Drumcondra test in 2013.
To assess numeracy, The SIGMA T is used. It is administered in June to all pupils from 1st-6th Classes.
The standardised tests are administered to all classes from 1st-6th Class in mid-May by the Special Education Needs team. The team corrects the tests thus ensuring consistency, and scores are used in order to identify pupils for learning support the following year. In June 2014 it was highlighted that scores of 1st class pupils on both the Micra T and Drumcondra tests appear inflated when they go into 2nd and don't always match the child's 'true ability'. A new test such as the YARK group reading test is being considered for use with 1st classes, instead of the Drumcondra test in 2014 - 2015.
YARK test: (York Assessment of Reading Comprehension) is used in Senior Infants. The MIST (Middle Infant Screening Test) was used in Scoil Mhuire up until 2013. In June 2014 a decision was made by the special needs team after exploring a number of assessments to use YARK for senior infants. A large majority of children scored well in MIST and teachers felt the test failed to identify the broad range of reading ability within the senior infant group. Having used the YARK test it was noted that is showed more clearly and accurately the range of ability in a class and a decision was made to continue using this test with Senior Infants from 2014.
Pupils who are absent on the day standardised tests are administered: If pupils are absent on the day of testing the test will be administered to them by a SEN teacher at a later date.
How does the data from standardised tests inform teaching and learning?
At whole school level the scores are used to inform teachers on how the children are doing in literacy and numeracy compared to their peers nationally.
The child’s standardised test scores are recorded on the front page of their report card stored on file in individual classrooms. Teachers compare standardised test scores from one year to the next to identify whether or not a child is improving or dis-improving. Concerns are discussed with the SEN team and interventions made.
When children score below the 12th percentile a diagnostic test may be used to explore where his/her difficulties lie. Children, who at the end of Senior Infants achieve a reading age of less than 6 years, are prioritised for Reading Recovery. To read more about this intervention see the school's Special Needs Policy. To download a list of diagnostic tests available in Scoil Mhuire for assessing children please click here.
Teachers at different class levels use data from the standardised tests to identify strands/strand units in the curriculum where the children are scoring well/poorly and adapt their planning accordingly.
Individual educational programmes (IEPs) and group educational programmes (see Special Needs Policy)
Children allocated resource hours have specific learning targets set for them. Attainment of these targets and decisions on what will be done next are recorded in individual IEPs. Learning support teachers use group educational programmes and assess the learning outcomes of the children as a group. Results of assessments are shared with relevant teachers/ personnel.
Copies of individual end-of-year reports and standardised assessments are kept in the school for nine years after the pupil leaves 6thclass. Results of class standardised assessments are kept on file in the principal’s office and used by staff to evaluate learning and compare results from one year to the next. Teachers’ and school assessment records are useful and easy to interpret. Parents are entitled to their child’s results. Results are given to them at the parent/teacher meeting in November. However, parents are welcome to arrange a meeting with teachers to discuss assessment outcomes at other times during the year and arrangements are made for this in consultation with the principal. These meetings are arranged generally outside school hours. If this is not possible, the principal will arrange supervision of classes to facilitate such a meeting.
STORAGE OF ASSESSMENTS
A file on each child is stored in the teacher’s classroom. Teachers on the Special Needs team also hold relevant documentation on each child. All such information is treated as confidential. However, parents may view any information held on their child by making an appointment with the class teacher and/or learning support/resource/language support teacher. Two copies only of a child’s psychological/ occupational therapy/speech and language reports etc. are kept in the school: one in the child’s individual file by the class teacher and one in the filing cabinet accessed by the Special Needs team. No arrangement is made to assess a child by the school, without parent/s' consent. Teachers treat all such information as confidential and with respect.
A folder with monthly teacher reflections on learning and teaching is kept in the principal’s office.