All schools that embark upon the High Performance Learning journey will, at some point, need to tackle the question of assessment. Any school which is already good or better will, over time, have developed sound and effective systems for assessing progress and performance of students and will be offering feedback on perceived “effort” as well as attainment. Especially in secondary schools, individual subjects can be particularly precious about the marking methodologies which they have established to serve the assessment requirements of their specialist teachers.
The challenge is, therefore, three-fold. Firstly, to move from an assessment system which serves teachers to an assessment system which serves students and expects them to be active participants in their learning. Secondly, to establish a consistent and shared understanding of precisely what any feedback means in terms of current and expected performance and which provides rather more guidance than a recommendation to “try harder!” Thirdly, to develop a coherent approach to assessment in all its forms which speaks to parents and students without increasing or complicating the workload of teachers.
One of the strengths of HPL is the precise language which students and teachers begin to use when talking about their learning. The ACPs and VAAs provide a “shorthand” for discussing performance in lessons as well as those values and attributes which used to be loosely covered by the term “effort.” Replacing formative assessment terminology with HPL terminology is a practical and helpful step for schools to undertake. Using these terms to describe and reward effort is a logical next step along with reporting to parents using the shared lexicon of HPL as they and their children become more familiar with the terminology.
Whilst schools will inevitably need to retain examination grade terminology in the upper years of secondary school, this is about terminal assessment. The journey towards the A* grade is tracked by progressing through the ACPs and the VAAs, which permit students and their teachers to identify the skills and attributes on which they need to work in order to ensure they are exam ready as well as being ready for life and work beyond school.
Tackling the issue of assessment can be daunting since, for many teachers, their current methodology is comforting, familiar and it works for them. However, having two or three assessment systems running in a school is inefficient, and is motivated more by the need of teachers to assess rather than on the need of students to learn... Whilst children are fantastically adaptable, having more than one assessment system is confusing, and parents especially struggle to keep track.
Tempting as it may be to avoid this particular sacred cow, the effective introduction of HPL in your school probably requires that you take the assessment bull by the horns sooner rather than later!
Melanie Saunders, May 2017