Sunday, 13 December 2015

Tracking and Evidence

When I started teaching we'd all give our students tests at the end of a topic. They'd get 18/24 and we'd would add this to a spreadsheet. My head of department would use testable to level each question and this would help us develop a level system whereby 17 on this test gave a lower level outcome than 15 on the next. (Rather like raw to UMS scores in public exams).
Sound and Moments always came out skewed too high, Simple Chemical Reactions too low but otherwise it wasn't too bad. Using levels helped to make homemade tests equivalent. At the end of Year 9 when students would do the SATs exams our method usually under predicted what they would get by up to half a level, but this is not enough that we were concerned. We tracked the students and were reasonably happy with the quality of the evidence and we also had grades for reports. We did lots of tests and if a student missed a test they didn't need to re-do it, this gave plenty evidence about the child's attendance too.
No where in the previous paragraph do I describe formative assessment.
Fast forward twelve years: I thought that getting rid of the levels was to put the focus onto formative assessment. Not how you move from level 3 to 4, but how you really improve that individual piece of work or your knowledge about what is going on in a chemical reaction. That ray diagram you have drawn about refraction, do you really understand it? Can you identify the normal? Can you measure the angles? Can you explain how and why the ray bends? 
I have seem some projects and work (in primary) that are putting the focus on formative assessment. Using examples of real work as tracking and as a starting discussion for developing the teaching and learning of science within the school. 
But, others it seems have to track EVERYTHING. Is it reasonable to know if a child in year 7 got mixed up between a chloroplast and the cytoplasm. If in year 8 they wrote oxide instead of oxygen? Does this information really help? Is it useful? If a child did know the difference between exothermic and endothermic reactions in year 8, will they still know it in year 10 anyway? What am I really going to do with all the data that tracking every learning intention will generate?
Would we be better off keeping the actual work rather than transferring it to a spreadsheet? Would that tell us more, with no extra work?