The art of assessment


The tricky art of assessment is proving to be one of the biggest challenges for our NQT diarist this year, not least the task of 'guess-timating' what her students are going to attain.

The further I get into my teaching year and the more data I am compiling, the more sceptical I am becoming about our education industry in terms of the figures we provide for students and parents.

This is the side to education that outsiders often forget – the large amount of paperwork and data-entry that happens within each half-term.

In a practical subject with no curriculum guidance, we have formed our own levelling criteria (which could be somewhat different to nearby schools), and in an outstanding school where students are now expected to make five levels of progress as opposed to the standard three, the pressure is truly on.

In entering my data to the management information system for the second autumn assessment point, I begin to question the accuracy of the figures I am sending home. In discussing this, I realise many flaws in what we are trying to do. 

As it is in any practical subject, theory work may make or break a student’s level and how we reflect this in a single grade that goes home is a challenge.

Key stage 3 can often see the common practice of “just bump them up a sub-level”, which I’ve heard in a few schools across my placements – a process that we worked out would leave an average Level 4B student on an 8B at the end of year 8 (our key stage 3) – which is highly unrealistic for many non-specialists.

Furthermore, what about those drama students who excel in Comedia del Arte but struggle with Stanislavski? It must be the same problem posed by a student who can do biology but not chemistry – something perhaps teachers of other subjects could assist me with.

Key stage 4 sees a similar issue. The estimated grades that go home need consistency across the school, whether this is a grade that reflects what they would achieve if they sat the exam tomorrow or a grade reflecting what we think they might get at the end of year 11.

Both answers will provide different results – both still guessing as opposed to knowing. 

The term “guess-timate” has been thrown about a fair amount – something that has made me much more agitated than I ever thought it would.

I find that I am struggling to estimate – to create predicted grades for their theory exam based on a review they wrote about a theatre company, for example, with my head on the firing block if the exam pressure leads to a far lower grade than I first anticipated.

Either way, I have reluctantly completed the assessment by “guess-timating” – we’ll see what happens next.

And then I am told that “it’s just playing a game; it’s a challenge keeping everyone happy”. It certainly is. Pressures from all angles, doing what feels right by the students and the parents, but also protecting your own position, is a battle that I am finding tough. 

I am hoping it will become easier over the coming year. It’s hard to monitor what to do for the best, but all I know is that the idea of playing games seems somewhat unappealing.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.



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