Do you need to write your own assessment system?

Before we look at how to write an assessment framework, we need to first talk about the difference between a curriculum and an assessment framework.
 
When people talk at a conference or on the news about the importance of an “individualised curriculum”, they are talking about the curriculum in a school. But when you talk about the curriculum at school, how often are you referring to the curriculum and how often are you referring to the assessment framework?
Some schools we visit do not have a strong grasp of their curriculum. Instead, they refer to their assessment framework. People often use the term “curriculum” to describe both the curriculum and the assessment framework, but the two aren’t interchangeable, and it’s important to understand the difference. When choosing a school assessment system, you need to know what your curriculum is and what you want it to become. Your assessment framework is something that should support this, not replace it.

 

Using the L- plate analogy for tracking pupil progress

Passing a driving test requires an individual to learn a set of skills that enable safe driving. Each person who takes the driving test must demonstrate the same skills to pass. Your driving instructor would not necessarily have taught you in the same way as they taught me or everyone else, but at the end of our lessons, we all sat the same driving test and were judged against standardised criteria.

Similarly, children learn the same alphabet and the same number bonds and develop appropriate skills based on agreed communication principles. This applies to all schools. The educational outcomes of their learning often similar across schools, but how we teach, what we use to teach, the order we teach concepts and how we adapt the curriculum to our pupils make up a school’s unique curriculum. This means that a standardised assessment framework can be used to assess pupil progress across a range of settings, even if the methods of teaching and the rate at which pupils progress are different.

 

Why do schools feel the need to write their own assessment frameworks? 

This is often down to the belief that an individualised curriculum requires its own assessment framework. But this assumption ignores the fact that there is a difference between a curriculum and an assessment framework. When creating an individualised curriculum, are you differentiating teaching or changing the outcomes to better suit your students? Differentiating the delivery of lessons does not require schools to write their own assessment framework. If you are changing the outcomes to better suit children, you may need a new assessment framework, but there are likely to be assessment frameworks already out there for you to use. Why write your own when the hard work has been done for you?

 

5 reasons schools shouldn’t write their own assessment frameworks

So you’re thinking about writing an assessment framework for your school, but do you really need one? We’ve got five reasons you shouldn’t!

    1. Time
      Writing an assessment framework is a big task — often much bigger than people realise. As a teacher, how much time do you have available to identify the definitive set of assessment statements across the breadth of your school’s curriculum? The teacher workload is increasing, and it is the primary cause of people leaving the profession. Our customers have told us that they have spent hours devising progress paths or learning ladders. We have a team of experts at B Squared writing our content, so we know how long this takes! The good news is that we’ve put in the hours so that you don’t have to.
    2. Usability
      After a bespoke assessment framework is written, how do teachers use it? Where can they access it? How easy is it to pull data out of it, and how easy is it to turn this data into a graphical representation for analysis?  Often, data is inputted into a large spreadsheet, which has several limitations; it can only be used by one teacher at a time and only when they are in school. It’s also often not backed up regularly. This makes it hard to roll back and difficult to modify when something changes. The system often requires a large amount of work when pupils arrive and leave, and what happens when the curriculum changes or you employ new staff? Often, the initial time it takes to write a framework can be spent multiple times over keeping it up to date and modifying it to suit the changing needs of your school.
    3. Quality
      If all teachers write the assessment framework for their field of expertise, how do you ensure a consistent approach throughout the school? Standardisation is at the heart of effective assessment in schools, and the quality of an assessment framework is dependent on the knowledge and experience of the teachers. Writing assessment statements may seem easy, but teachers can interpret statements differently. Some teachers can write brilliant assessment frameworks for their area of expertise, but is every teacher able — or confident — to do this?
    4. Cost
      Time is money to schools. By talking to school staff, we have learned that many often consider the content-writing aspect of creating their own assessment framework but little else. Writing this content is an investment, but few consider how the framework will be used after it’s been written. Some schools invest in expensive assessment systems that allow them to add their own content. This might work for a while, but what happens when the government makes changes to school assessment requirements? Will the assessment system you have devised enable easy transition of existing data? In the future, will you have the same expertise to ensure necessary updates to your assessment framework are made when you need them?
    5. Why reinvent the wheel?
      We have already written a range of assessment frameworks to track pupil progress easily and efficiently for a wide range of ages and abilities. All of our assessment products are designed by teachers, for teachers. B Squared has over 20 years’ experience in education assessment and Connecting Steps, our assessment software, is already used by over 3,000 schools across the UK and internationally.

Connecting Steps offers a web-based multi-user platform for a wide range of assessment frameworks. It’s always available and has both simple management tools and powerful analysis tools. These advanced features turn an assessment framework from a burden into an asset.

Can you write or use your own curriculum and use B Squared’s software?

Yes! B Squared’s assessment frameworks detail fundamental skills that do not differ. For example, at lower ability levels, for the skill “follows one-step instructions containing two keywords”, the instruction can be given with words, signs or symbols. The task could be familiar or unfamiliar, and the activity could be academic or play-based. The detail is not specified, empowering the teacher to use their own professional judgement when recording a child’s achievements against this statement. Teachers can easily use the “Comments” tab in Connecting Steps to add details and explain how the skill was achieved according to the individual needs of the pupil. Other teachers can view these comments to enhance their understanding of the child and their needs, allowing for a seamless handover and transition as the child moves throughout the school.

A well-written and considered assessment framework won’t change what you teach or how you deliver lessons. What it will do is allow you to adapt your curriculum to meet the needs of your pupils while supporting a standardised approach and shared ambition across your school. To find out how B Squared assessment software can support the individualised curriculum in your school, please click here to arrange an online meeting or give us a ring on 01252 870133.

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