Assessments system with both formative and summative assessments

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Last updated: June 21, 2019

   Assessments are a vital componentwithin the education system with both formative and summative assessmentsplaying an integral role in the functioning of the Curriculum (Harlen andOsborne 1985). Black and Wiliam (1998) termed summative assessment as’Assessment of Learning’ (AoL), as the main aim of theassessment is to summarise the outcome of a learning goal, as such taking a ‘snapshot in time of their performance’ (Mawby and Dunne 2012, 139). These summaries can be in theform of end of topic, term or year tests or grades which can be recorded andreported to school leadership teams, school inspectors and parents, forexample. By renaming formative assessment as ‘Assessment for Learning’ (AfL),Black and Wiliam (1998), highlighted it’s importance as positive impact onchildren’s learning. AfL can present itself in many forms such as marking,conversation, observation, peer and self-assessment and discussions, itrequires the active involvement of children with dialogue and questioning beingof upmost importance (Black and Harrison 2004), Afl can take place during teaching and is continuous throughout topicsand modules and enables the teacher to direct and plan accordingly, AfL is an ‘ongoing planned process that focuses on identifying the nextsteps for improvement’ (Harrison and Howard 2009, 28).

 Mountain evidence over recent years suggeststhat AfL has a positive impact on children’s learning(Hattie 2009; Gardner, Harlen, Hayward, Stobart and Montgomery 2010) elevatingthe emphasis given to formative assessment.  This essaylooks at how verbal feedback given to pupils can be enriched by incorporatingaspects of the Theory of Communicative Action and The SocioculturalTheory of autonomy and how these concepts relate to the pupil as the learner byusing The Zone of Proximal Development learning theory. The Department of Education (2011) states that all teachers mustmake accurate and productive use of assessment, this includes assessing tosecure and monitor pupil progress, to plan lessons and to set targets. It alsostates that teachers should give pupils regular feedback both orally and viamarking, giving pupils the opportunity to respond. Marking plays a vital role in helping teachers identifypupils’ misunderstandings and can contribute to delivering important feedbackto pupils, it is also plays a central role in a teachers’ work (Gibson, Oliverand Dennison, 2015).

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However, in 2014 the Government conducted its teachersWorkload Challenge survey and identified the requirements of marking frequencyand extent as a main factor of larger teacher workloads, the survey contributedto a reform of marking policies (Gibson et al. 2015). In 2015 the NationalFoundation for Educational Research conducted a national survey which wascommissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the survey focused onapproaches to marking and the different strategies used between schools (suchas triple marking and impact marking) in a bid to maximise marking efficiency  (Higgins,Katsipataki, Coleman, Henderson, Major, Coe and Mason, 2015).

In 2016 theIndependent Teacher Workload Review Group stated that marking was anunnecessary burden and should be “meaningful, manageable and motivating” andapplied by professional judgement. Elliott, Baird, Hopfenbeck, Ingram,Thompson, Usher, Zatout, Richardson and Coleman (2016) conducted review of theevidence on written marking, focusing on seven main areas of marking, grading, corrections, thoroughness, pupil responses, creating a dialogue, targets  and frequency and speed. The mainfindings of the review found that grading,corrections and thoroughness did not have significantly positive impact onchildren’s learning. In some cases grading could have a negative impact, anexample of this is a study in Sweden which found that boys and lower abilitypupils who were graded made less progress throughout a year compared to similarpupils who did not receive grades (Klapp, 2015). However, creating a dialogue,targets and frequency and speed of marking did significantly improve children’slearning (Elliott et al. 2016) an example of this is a study conducting inHolland which found that engaging pupils in a dialogue provoked them intobecoming more reflective about their future work (Schaaf, Baartman, Prins,Oosterbaan and Schaap, 2013).

The review found that there was a distinct lackof existing evidence which focused specifically on written marking, which issurprising giving the emphasis on the importance of feedback to the pupil andthe interest in teacher workload. Studies that have been conducted tend tofocus in higher education settings or English as a foreign language setting andstudies are usually carried out over a short periods of time with no evidenceof long term impact (Elliott et al. 2016).  The Teaching and Learning Toolkit – an evidence synthesisproduced by the EEF, Sutton Trust and Durham University reviewed studies onfeedback and found that on average and additional eight months progress overthe course of the year could be made by providing high quality feedback(Higgins et al. 2015).  Therefore, it is important to gain an understanding offeedback beyond written marking.

 Sadler (1989) suggested that feedback was a tool that couldbe used by the teacher to close the learning gap for the pupil, reducing thegap between what is known already and what needs to be known in the future. This concept is known as The Zone of Proximal Development(ZPD). ZPD is defined as the gap between the level of actual development which isdetermined by solving problems independently and the level of development whichcould potentially be reached through the guidance of/or in collaboration withadults and/or more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978). Developing the theory of ZPDfrom the ground work of Jean Piaget’s theory that children are loan learners(Piaget, 1936), Vygotsky (1896-1934) stated that education provided childrenwith experiences within their ZPD, that would encourage their learning and inturn advance their personal and individual skills set and learning strategies .Vygotsky (1978) argued against main stream academic tests to gauge pupilintelligence,  challenging thetraditional concepts.

Noting that concepts which came naturally to childrensuch as language develop, whereas concepts such as maths and English whichdon’t develop naturally need to be taught. This could be perceived as alimitation of ZPD, the concept of allowing a child to develop and flourishthrough guidance is a challenging concept when it comes to subjects such asmaths, English and science, with some believing a more rigid learning systemwould  be more appropriate (Dixon-Krauss,1996). Another limitation is the possibility that the whole class of pupilswould negotiate the class topics/ 

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