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3 best practices for gathering evidence for assessment

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Editor’s note: Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Tim Oates is Group Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment. Here’s how he approaches gathering evidence for assessment in the primary classroom.

In terms of assessment, the one thing which I think is fundamental, is being extremely clear about the thing which is the object of the learning.

In assessment terms, we call this the construct: what is it that I want a group of children to take away from this learning experience — the really fundamental thing?

When gathering evidence for assessment, be clear about constructs and objectives

We’re fortunate, we’ve got a very clear national curriculum and that gives us a whole series of very clear statements about what the objectives are within the education system, and what should be the object which we should focus on in respect to a particular lesson or a particular learning exchange.

So for me, the most important thing is to be really clear about the constructs, which are the objective of the school curriculum.

Structure the way you gather evidence

So thinking about gathering evidence about children, it’s easy to see how we could gather huge amounts of evidence through observation — direct observation of what they’re doing; through discussion between the teacher and children, [and] between pupils themselves; looking at the things that they produce as individuals or collectively. That’s all evidence on attainment.

We’re only going to make that whole process manageable and find our way through it if we approach it in a reasonably structured way. And the structure comes from knowing what it is that we’re looking for and really focusing on whether a child has learned what it is that we intend them to learn.

That means looking at the fundamentals of particular disciplines and being clear to give feedback on whether those fundamentals have been acquired or not.

Create simple systems and avoid complex evidence gathering

Too complex a system of gathering evidence, a lack of precision in what it is that we’re looking for, just develops unmanageable systems in which there’s a lot of noise and a lack of clarity in terms of direction from the school and teachers to pupils as to what they should be learning. That’s when evidence gathering becomes too complex, that’s when it becomes all confusing.