The benefits of interactive assessment

Thanks to Camilla Erskine for this article. 

What is interactive assessment?

Interactive assessments are those that are completed and automatically marked on a computer or mobile device. There are various types of interactive tests, ranging from ready-made tests – either specifically for digital use or those that have been adapted from existing paper-based tests – to tailor-made tests that are created from a bank of questions. Such customised tests can be as short or long as the teacher wishes, focusing on a particular topic or style of question, or they may be designed to assess across topics that have been taught over a period of time, for example over the last half term. Some interactive tests can also be created by children themselves – it depends on the system being used. Interactive assessments are most widely used in mathematics as the subject generally lends itself well to automatic marking, but they are also available for English and other subjects as well as to assess skills (e.g. cognitive reasoning).

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The benefits of standardised tests

With many thanks to James Pembroke, founder of independent school data consultancy Sig+, for sharing his take on the benefits of standardised tests.

There are a wide spectrum of tests carried out in schools from the regular, mini tests that teachers use as part of their day-to-day practice to check pupils’ understanding, to the statutory end of key stage assessments that we can’t avoid. In between those sit the optional, externally set, standardised tests from third party providers, and it’s those that we are focused on here.

Some schools are opposed to introducing any form of standardised tests fearing that they may deter pupils as well as undermine the value of teacher assessment; others use them sporadically, perhaps not making full use of the data they provide; and then there are those schools that use them every term for all year groups as the main tool for monitoring standards. Clearly there are diametrically opposed viewpoints when it comes to standardised tests with some teachers seeing them as invasive and unnecessary whilst others consider them to be a highly effective tool.

Crucially we want assessment to provide us with useful information that can be acted upon so before implementing any new form of test we need to ask ourselves one vital question: will it tell us anything we don’t already know? With any well designed standardised test, the answer is almost certainly yes – the pros outweigh the cons – and I’ve outlined the numerous benefits below. Continue reading →

Standards and Testing Agency video resources

We recently shared the key takeaways from the November 2016 Standards and Testing Agency webinars on primary assessment. The STA have now released videos of these webinars, along with other informative videos on themes such as ‘Understanding Scaled Scores’. You can watch these in their media and training area here.

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A guide to standardised tests

We’ve created a handy guide for school leaders and teachers covering:

  • What a standardised test is and why schools might use them
  • How standardised tests are developed and how they work
  • What information a standardised test can give you
  • How this data can support your school’s teaching and learning

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New Curriculum Assessment Glossary

Rising Stars has reached out to primary school teachers across the country through focus groups and social media to find out which new curriculum assessment terms teachers find tricky. We’ve included an explanation of each of the terms below. If there are other terms you’d like us to add, we’d love to hear from you! Tweet us at @risingstarsedu or email nellie.perrin@risingstars-uk.com with your suggestions.

Age-related expectations

These refer to what children are expected to know by the end of each year (for the core subjects) or key stage (for all other subjects) based on the requirements of the new national curriculum. They are stated within the programmes of study for each subject.

Baseline assessment

‘Baseline’ assessment involves the collection of data from assessing children on entry into a particular year or key stage. This initial data serves as a basis for measuring progress against throughout the year, in subsequent years or key stages. The Department for Education has introduced the reception baseline, a baseline assessment in reception, to improve how primary schools’ progress is measured. From September 2015, schools have the option to sign up to use the reception baseline from an approved provider. In 2022 the DfE will use whichever measure shows the most progress: either a schools’ reception baseline to key stage 2 results, or their key stage 1 results to key stage 2 results.

Floor Standard

The floor standard for a school defines the minimum standards for pupil achievement and/or progress that the Government expects schools in that particular phase of education to meet. If a school’s performance falls below this floor standard, then the school will come under scrutiny through inspection. Continue reading →

Choosing what type of test works best

Tests are widely used in schools. They include teacher-created tests either written by teachers or perhaps created by selecting questions from a ready-made online bank of questions and also a wide range of tests available from commercial suppliers. There are different types of test available too and what works best depends on why the test is being used i.e. what information the teacher wants from the assessment.

Tests for day-to-day assessment

Teachers need regular information about how their pupils are doing so that they can change their teaching to ensure it is effective. This is also a key focus of Ofsted inspections with inspectors wanting to see evidence of how schools are using assessment to improve teaching and raise attainment and to monitor the progress of all children as well as that of specific groups. For this type of assessment tests linked to specific curriculum areas are useful as they enable teachers to concentrate on particular areas. This makes it easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses that children have and the progress they are making.

This type of test can be used summatively and formatively. Teachers can use such tests at the beginning of a unit of work to assess prior learning and during topics to see how children are progressing and to identify whether further work may be needed. The diagnostic information from the tests enables teachers to make appropriate interventions and provide support and challenge as soon as possible. These tests can also be used summatively e.g. at the end of a topic, term or year to gain data that can then be used for reporting. Continue reading →