3 tips for effective classroom assessment

|3 min read

Editor’s Note:

This is an updated version of a blog post originally published on September 14th, 2020. Transcript has been edited for clarity.

What makes classroom assessment truly effective? Headteacher Dawn Copping says the most meaningful information comes from distilling your goals and listening to your learners.

When it comes to classroom assessment, there are dozens of methods you can use to check in on your learners and move everyone forward. But after months of disrupted learning, making sure assessment is both efficient and effective is a top priority.

We spoke to Dawn Copping, Headteacher at Shaw Primary Academy to get her advice on approaching classroom assessment and where to find the best evidence of learning.

1. Focus on the purpose of your assessment

Forget the system to some extent, and just think about the purpose. Anything you’re doing regarding assessment, marking, data collection — anything like that — keep in mind the purpose. If what you’re doing doesn’t give you information you can use in an effective or useful way, for your staff or your pupils, then don’t do it.

Focus on what you’re trying to gain, and how you can do that in the most economical way for your staff and your children. Don’t stick with what you’ve always done, just because you’ve always done it. That’s certainly what happened with us.

2. Talk to the children about their learning

The best evidence is hearing from the children. Create the opportunity to talk to them about what they’re learning. Ask them: what do they know now, what didn’t they know, how do they know they’re making progress.

In a school’s context, I can have all this other evidence. Teachers give me data, we have pupil progress meetings, we talk about individual children, and I look at their books. I used to look at planning when we did it. But actually, talk to the children and you’ll know if there’s learning. Wander in and out of classrooms, rather than formal lesson observations.

The biggest evidence is what the children tell you, because they don’t hold back and they’re very, very clear. I would say that’s the best evidence, supported by the rest of your assessment approach.

3. Listen to your learners’ questions

We talk about effective questioning a lot in the classroom, and of course, if you ask questions of children, you get an idea of what they know.

But I think we forget that really good questioning in the classroom doesn’t always come from the teacher. Questions from the children can give you information about the children and their learning. Allow the children to question each other and you. That questioning from everybody gives a lot of information, and I think we forget that sometimes.

Dawn Copping