What is the place of periodic testing when assessing in the new national Curriculum?

Evidence from on-going learning can be supplemented by the periodic use of tests.  However, care should be taken in interpreting the information provided by tests.  They assess only limitedaspects of the curriculum, with pupils’ answers constrained by the time limits of the tests as well as whether they can read the questions and interpret them in the way that the examiners intend.  Pupils’ responses can be heavily dependent on how they have related to the particular tasks or test items.

If summative judgements are based on one-off assessments, such as a test or particular assessed task, this can lead to very spiky and unreliable profiles of attainment and progress for individual pupils.  However, test outcomes can make a contribution to assessments of pupils’ attainments if used in conjunction with assessment information arising from on-going learning.

Frequent testing is sometimes interpreted as formative assessment. Formative assessment is a planned process not any particular test; the process results in both teachers and pupils using assessment-based evidence to adjust what they're currently doing. The assessments play a role in the process but they are not the process itself.  An educator who refers to "a formative test" has not quite grasped the concept, because there's no such thing. There are tests that can be used as part of the multistep, formative assessment process, but each of those tests is only a part of the process.

For tests to make the best contribution to learning, the outcomes should be analysed at question level to inform planning.  The ‘deconstructing’ of test questions and responses with pupils can also support subsequent learning and develop pupils’ skills in responding to tests.

See also:

How can pupils’ attainment and progress be assessed without levels? (Available soon)

In addition AAIA members can log into the AAIA website and access Unit 3 of the Understanding Assessment Self-Study Course (available soon)

Return to Assessment without levels: Assessment in the context of the National Curriculum