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Dale Pickles
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Do you need to write your own assessment framework?

First, let’s talk about the difference between a curriculum and an assessment framework?

When people talk at a conference or in the news about the importance of an “individualised curriculum”, they are talking about the curriculum in your school. When you talk about the curriculum in your school, how often are you referring to the curriculum and how often are you referring to the assessment framework? Some of the schools we visit do not have a strong grasp on their curriculum, instead they refer to their assessment framework. People often use curriculum when referring to both their curriculum and their assessment framework. ‘Curriculum’ and ‘assessment framework’ are not interchangeable. It is important to understand the difference. When choosing an assessment system, it is important to already know what your curriculum is and what you want it to become. Your assessment framework should support this, not replace this.

 

Let’s put that in a different context…. The L Plate Analogy

When you passed your driving test, you learnt a set of skills to enable you to drive a car safely. These are the same skills that everyone who wants to drive a car has to learn. Your driving instructor would not necessarily have taught you in the same way as they taught me or everyone else. We all had to learn clutch control first, or we would have been unable to start to move forwards. But at the end of our learning we all sat the same driving test and were judged against the same criteria.

In a similar way, children learn the same alphabet, the same number bonds and develop appropriate skills based on the same agreed communication principles. This is the same in all schools. How we teach, the order we teach skills, what we use to teach and how we adapt the curriculum to our pupils is what makes up each school’s own curriculum. The identified educational outcomes however, are often similar across a range of schools. It is how they teach the skills that differ. This means that a standardised assessment framework can be used to assess pupil progress across a range of settings.

 

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. Not realising there is a difference or misunderstanding the difference between a curriculum and an assessment framework. The word curriculum is often used instead of assessment framework without thinking of the difference. When you create an individualised curriculum, are you differentiating your teaching or are you changing the outcomes to better suit your students? Differentiating the delivery of your lessons does not require you to write your own assessment framework. If you are changing the outcomes to better suit your children then you may need a new assessment framework, but there are likely to be assessment frameworks already out there for you to use. So why write your own?

 

So, here’s 5 reasons why schools shouldn’t write their own assessment frameworks!

1. Time
Writing an assessment framework is a big job, often bigger than people realise. As a teacher, how much time do you have available in order to identify the definitive set of assessment statements across the breadth of your school’s curriculum? Our customers have told us they have previously spent hours and hours devising progress paths or learning ladders. We have a whole team at B Squared writing our content, so we know how long this takes! We also know that teachers’ workloads are particularly heavy right now. We have put in the hours, so you don’t have to.

2. Useability
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? How easy is it to turn into a graphical representation for further analysis?  Often, data is inputted into a large Excel spreadsheet which has a number of limitations; it can only be used by one teacher at a time and only when they are in school. It is often not backed up. 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. What happens when the curriculum changes or new staff are employed?

3. Quality
If all teachers are writing the assessment framework for their field of expertise, how do you ensure a consistent approach throughout the school? Standardisation is at the heart of good assessment. 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. You may have teachers who can write brilliant assessment frameworks for their area of expertise, but can every teacher do this for every subject?

4. Cost
Time is money to schools. We have found talking to schools that when they thought about creating their own assessment framework, a number only thought about the writing of the content. This was already a big investment and they hadn’t thought about how it would be used after it had been written. Some schools invested in expensive assessment systems that allow them to add their own content. This worked for a while, but what happens when the government makes changes to how they want schools to assess? Will the assessment system allow you to transition your existing data? In the future, will you still have the same expertise in school to update your assessment framework? How much time will it take?

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, always available, multi-user platform for a wide range of assessment frameworks. It has simple management tools and powerful analysis tools. These powerful features turn an assessment framework from being a burden into an asset.

 

Can you write/use your own curriculum and use B Squared’s Connecting Steps assessment software?

Yes! B Squared’s assessment frameworks detail fundamental skills which do not differ. For example at lower ability levels - “Follows one-step instructions containing two key words” The instruction can be given with words, signs or symbols. The task could be familiar or unfamiliar. The activity could be academic or play based. We have not specified the detail, it is up to 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 detail and explain how the skill was individualised. Other teachers can then view these comments in order to enhance their understanding of the child and their needs.

A well written, considered assessment framework won’t change what you teach or how you deliver lessons. It will allow you to adapt your curriculum to meet the needs of your children, while supporting a standardised approach and a shared level ambition across the school. To find out how B Squared supports the individualised curriculum in your school please click here to arrange an online meeting. Or get in contact by calling 01252 870133.

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