Assessment for Learning after COVID

The benefits of formative assessment

Assessment for learning after Covid

In P1 at Cargilfield we constantly assess the abilities of pupils in our class informally through discussion, questioning, evaluating the work they do throughout the day in school: everything they read, write and say is considered and we have an innate hierarchy of the ability of our class. This allows us to make sure that each child is making progress and that the more academically able children are challenged and that the children who need support are helped with areas of learning that they find problematic. We use various formal ways of testing reading, spelling and numeracy after it has been taught, summative assessment, which is done in a class setting in the same format as other daily tasks: assessment is an inherent part of the teaching and learning process.

What has become much more vital recently is formative assessment; reacting to the successes and difficulties the children are facing weekly and changing tasks to respond to these. During Covid and online learning, each child had a very different experience of education compared to their normal Early Years’ experience. Some families chose to take part in all of the activities the school suggested, some chose to create their own learning programme which fitted in with siblings, some worked with nannies or grandparents and some found it hard to provide learning opportunities for their children with both parents working from home. This has created some educational gaps for the children who have begun their learning journey during the pandemic.

During our online learning months, Cargilfield had a fantastic, comprehensive, daily structure of lessons, worksheets, activities and ideas for follow up learning for every child, with daily contact for each pupil with their teacher. For teachers as the weeks went on, it could be difficult to tell how much adult input there had been with some children when they submitted their finished classwork. Undeniably there has been an impact of school closures, so accurately diagnosing disparities in children’s learning and identifying pupils’ misconceptions is more crucial than ever as a school, to enable our children to flourish. Responding to the pupils in class is vital; we need to remove ourselves from trying to catch-up and from comparisons to how things could have been.

Using formative assessment strategies across the curriculum is definitely helping to counteract any differences that may have been created by online learning. Breaking down concepts into small steps through carefully sequenced planning enables subject mastery. Teachers can give high-quality, ‘live’ feedback on learning which enables learners to make significant progress with the focus on instant verbal feedback and marking with the children as they are working. This enables us to plan questions that show the extent of children’s understanding before moving on to the next step and we can decide whether to progress or revise, responding to learners’ needs and informing subsequent planning. For us as experienced practitioners, our knowledge of children’s likely misconceptions and our insight into children’s conceptualisation of key ideas is vital to understanding their next steps.

The children receive high-quality feedback about their current learning and next steps, and teachers’ planning is adapted for subsequent lessons, enabling focused inputs on aspects that the children had found trickier or swiftly moving on if children have found a concept simple to understand. This goes beyond academics and is being used with children who have found socialising problematic on returning to school, those whose pencil control and letter formation has suffered and those whose speech and language has been negatively affected by the lack of in-class learning at such a critical stage in their development. In Cargilfield there has been positivity and staff collaboration on our return to school to ensure that everyone is supported in their learning at any level. Let’s hope we are here to stay!

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Cargilfield where everyday is an adventure

Welcome to Cargilfield! We hope this short film gives you a glimpse of what life is like for the girls and boys at our school. We would love to welcome you in person to tour Cargilfield and explain more fully exactly what makes a Cargilfield education so special and so different. Please get in touch with Fiona Craig, our Registrar if you would like to find out more; her email address is [email protected] or you can telephone her on 0131 336 2207.

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