What are the fundamentals of assessment?

Assessment is used to serve multiple purposes which may conflict in terms of impact and consequences.* We would argue that the most fundamental use of assessment is to build pupils’ understanding and improve their learning within day-to-day lessons. The following characteristics are essential if assessment is to serve this purpose successfully, and to provide information for valid and reliable recording and reporting.

To be effective assessment must:

• Be integral to learning and teaching; a dynamic process that supports learning and moves it on

• Recognise and celebrate learning as a journey, not a race over hurdles to the finishing line

• Be underpinned by the belief that all learners have the potential to achieve and that effort, resilience and practice are essential for success

• Promote a clear understanding of the standards required for and criteria upon which assessments will be made

• Actively involve learners, engaging them in decision making, motivating them to take responsibility for their learning including further improvements and preparing them for life

• Focus on learning through regular conversations, purposeful interventions and interactions that actively promote self and peer evaluation and reflection.

• Utilise a variety of approaches, appropriate for learners, the nature of the activity and the context in which their learning is taking place

• Reach beyond knowledge and understanding to include skills, attitudes and capabilities

• Be constructive and task-related, in order to develop learners’ confidence and self-esteem and to minimise potentially negative effects

• Generate feedback for both learners and teachers that inspires improvement and indicates how this can be realised

• Result in consistent, accurate information that is meaningful and useful for pupils, parents, teachers, school leaders and governors

*For an exploration of the various forms of assessment, their uses and the consequent effects on learning and teaching see James, M. and Mansell, W. (2009) Assessment in schools: Fit for Purpose?

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