This month the ATM have produced a special issue of their journal “Mathematics Teaching” focussed on assessment and made it freely available to all until the end of January 2016. People on Twitter seemed keen to have a special edition of #mathsjournalclub (in addition to our usual bi-monthly chats) looking solely at an article / articles from this issue.
So…. We will discuss two articles on Monday the 11th of January at 8pm. The articles with their abstracts are below and following this there is a link to the google poll to select our two favourite articles.
- “The three most important things in teaching? Assessment, assessment, assessment!” by Ruth James – This piece describes how assessment becomes an integral part of classroom practice. The process begins with an anecdote from experience as an NQT and builds into a thoroughly documented approach to the demands of contemporary pupil assessment. The ideas and strategies have been developed in the real classroom,
in real time. The focus is Key Stage 1, but the issues relating to such things as fluency and mastery have wider appeal. By any yard-stick this is a considered professional approach to assessment in all its forms.
- “Encouraging students’ formative assessment skills when working with non-routine, unstructured problems: Designed student responses” by Sheila Evans – Effective assessment is necessarily composed of numerous strands and strategies. Some strands will be more preeminent than others, but sound assessment depends on data derived from multiple sources. Designed student responses have the potential to gather new insights into student achievement and understanding. Here the case is well made, and students respond positively to the introduction of this type of assessment activity.
- “Rich Task Assessments” by James Towner – Old habits endure because they offer a sense of
security. This security is often related to the investment of considerable time and effort into a past initiative, or directive. However, when change becomes inevitable, winning the arguments that are driven by the comfort of inertia can be difficult without the exposition of a clear vision for future ways of working. In terms of assessing and monitoring progress in mathematics through
Key Stage 3 here is a vision. The vision involves the collaboration of colleagues, progression maps, pathways, student involvement, and communicating with parents. This description shows the insights and experience
that have come together to build an assessment model that seeks to be both meaningful, and representative
of student understanding. Is it a model that can win the hearts and minds of all the stake-holders?
- “Thinking outside the tick box” By Mark Pepper – The National Curriculum  for mathematics
has a section headed ‘Solve Problems’. This article provides ideas that respond to the criteria set out in the Programmes of Study for Key Stage 3. The problems outlined relate to the ‘everyday’ and are not age or ‘level’ related. These problems have ‘worked’ for the author. They might well engage learners in other classrooms.
- “Teaching and Assessing Mathematics in Primary Schools Assessment Without
Levels” by Michael Smith and Ray Huntsley – In schools and education the ‘one-size-fits-all’ maxim is an omnipresent source of tension between practitioners and policy makers. This tension might be interpreted as ‘all change’, but the reality is that ‘some change’ is often preferred to ‘no change’. Change requires time, and time is a resource that needs to be managed in schools with the same rigour that is applied to other costly resources. This is a model for assessment that has been developed as a whole school approach, having regard for ‘where the school is’. The time taken to read this piece will be well invested, but as the author modestly states; “What
I have attempted to do is take the limited guidance and make it work for the children I teach.” Teaching, learning, assessment – are surely all about children.
- “Assessment: Beyond right and wrong” by Matt Lewis – This is an account of an on-going evidence-based project in a number of schools in London. The professionals involved seek to set the complex process of assessment of learning in mathematics in the context of its educational and social purposes. The article draws on examples
from recent work on approaches to the assessment of reasoning and problem-solving. The challenges are not underestimated given that we seem to be experiencing a culture that might be regarded as valuing measurement of performance regardless of the quality or meaningfulness of the data generated. The debates will continue, but the enduring need for statutory assessment should not dumb- down the process.
- “A little knowledge …” by Mike Askew – The reported teaching of mathematics in Pacific-Rim countries can be relied upon to generate strong reactions from practitioners working in English classrooms.
The genesis of such reactions apart, there can be no substitute for first-hand experience. Here such first-hand experience, together with perhaps some pre-conceptions, reveals a strategy that is both powerful and simple. As
to be expected this piece mixes anecdote and pedagogy in equal measures, providing a counterbalance to some of the more strident reports published in popular media. There is also a suggestion that Arithmagons could become big in China.
- “In conversation” by Mike Ollerton, Claire Denton & Jenni Black – Sadly, conversations about things mathematical, let alone assessment, are often a casualty of the ‘busy school
day’. This account showcases the power of a three-way conversation that focuses on reflection from innovative practice. Meaningful assessment is a challenge, particularly assessment formats that can be meaningful for both teacher and learner. Nobody claims the challenge is insignificant, but well considered responses do signpost a way forward. This signpost might indicate a direction
of travel that leads to improved communication and understanding of student achievement in mathematics.
- “Making learning visible in mathematics with technology” by David Wright, Jill Clark & Lucy Tiplady – Innovation through research is necessarily a rigorous process that requires commitment, cooperation, and time. This report of an international project describes the progress observed thus far, and gives insights into some aspects of the work in progress. The technology is used as a device to focus on student responses to problem situations and to focus on assessment. The project sees assessment as learning, and seeks to enable learners
to benefit from assessment opportunities. A single tablet computer in the classroom can enable these ideas to
be developed in any classroom where the focus is on learning. Who knows, the image of a student response to a mathematics problem might become the new ‘selfie’?
- “Damned if we do, damned if we don’t? Baseline testing our youngest learners” by Helen Williams & Sue Gifford – This piece presents a strong note of caution to current proposals that impinge on early years learning. The educational policy machine grinds inexorably to produce changes that, all too often, are not supported by evidence based practice or well reported to those likely to be most affected – schools, teachers, learners and parents. While the proposals are currently badged as non-statutory, who knows how things will morph with the passage of even
a short time. As the authors state with both conviction
and concern: “This is particularly harmful for mathematics learning which suffers relentlessly from negative
attitudes. In short, testing in this way gives a distorted message of what is of most value in education, leading to impoverished learning and risking the depression of future achievement.” Perhaps policy makers should arrange to visit a reception class some time soon.
- “It’s easy to judge” by Ian Jones – Can you imagine assessment in mathematics
with no form of marking scheme? How about peer assessment based on a subjective assessment as opposed to any notion of correct v incorrect? This account of contemporary research suggests that using Comparative Judgement, teacher and peer assessments are statistically remarkably similar. Could this be the beginnings of an innovative approach to assessment in mathematics that has a place at all levels of achievement and performance? There is the opportunity to use
the dedicated website, and to be part of the research programme. Too good to be true? … perhaps. Maybe it’s a case of ‘only time will tell’.
- “Year 7 – the problem with ‘expected levels’” by Naomi Harries
– Proposals to introduce a new SATs test for Year 7 students who do not reach national expectations in their Year 6 SATs are likely to affect 20% of students
in the cohort. In simple terms this will represent a new and significant challenge for teachers working with lower-attaining students. Here the author outlines an approach that might support the teaching and learning of mathematics for this group of learners. The response is positive in that it seeks to deploy strategies that target tasks and activities that are rich in assessment opportunities. The objective being to build a pattern
of assessment that can help to foster mathematical capabilities and student confidence. Transition from one phase of education to the next is often a cause for anxiety, without the prospect of further external assessment in Year 7.
- “A ball bounces and – that’s all …” by Bob Burns – This is a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ account of a lesson and the initial interactions between teacher and students. This sparks a good deal of student-to-student interaction together with the occasional teacher intervention.
Not quite the same as a video-clip, but let the imagination create the scene.
- “Young Children’s Mathematical Recording” by Janine Davenall – How children record their mathematics provides valuable insights into what they know, what they understand, and what they choose to record. What learners choose to record depends on what they feel able to record and
the confidence that it is meaningful. This account of observations made within a normal classroom situation demonstrates the spectrum of strategies that learners use to communicate an activity that might be described as mathematical story-telling. Interpreting the early emergent recording of mathematics, when well informed, can be a powerful classroom tool.
The Google Poll is located here. This one is slightly different to the usual one in that as we will discuss two articles there is a selection to make for first choice and then a second choice.
The scores will then be wighted (a first choice scores 100, a second choice scores 50) and the two articles with the most points will be discussed on the night.
Please make your choices by Tuesday 1st December so that we all have time to read the articles over Christmas.