Dr Christine Parker from The Pen Green Teaching School looks at the value of teacher assessment
These are my reflections on the value of teacher assessment from my perspective as a teacher educator as evidenced by my engagement with trainee teachers this school year. For me, quality-assuring across three Teaching School Alliances (TSAs), the final assessment process for trainee teachers was evidence of the strength and validity of teacher formative and summative assessments.
From the Early Years to the end of Key Stage Two, trainee teachers evidenced children’s progress in learning over time, without the need for formal testing. Each trainee teacher was expected to track the progress in learning of five children in their home placement school over the school year. They had to present the learning and development outcomes for the children they taught in the style of a case study. Writing a case study is a research method widely used in education and engages the trainee teacher in reflecting on their teaching practice and how they have had an impact on outcomes for children. There are high expectations that the trainee teachers are able to identify the underpinning learning theories that have informed their practice and made a difference for children.
What was moving for me was that each trainee teacher I observed presenting their data was able to reflect not only on the academic aspects of each child’s achievements and identify areas for future improvement but were able to describe the context of each child, including their position in their family and socio-economic aspects of their life. Students clearly demonstrated the impact they had had on each child’s learning and achievements and there was a strong emphasis on the emotional and relational aspects of learning. Now, I don’t know whether this was because of the circumstances of this past school year and the challenges presented to students, staff teams, children and their families due to COVID-19. But this aspect of being able to view the whole child within their family context is a focus teachers need to hold onto. It was evident that children who had found school learning a challenge, especially in their home environment for whatever reason, were sensitively thought about by the trainee teachers. Induction back into school was effectively managed and expectations were reasonable and built up over time.
Sample from one trainee teacher’s documentation
To a year one child: “This year has been challenging for everybody. We have to get used to sitting in rows and our movements and interactions have to be limited. It is not easy, is it? You have been working hard to cope with it. I am very proud of you for it. Sometimes it is difficult to focus on the lesson, but you are always trying. Do not give up. I know how strong you are! You put a lot of effort into your work and it is lovely to see it.”
Trainee Teacher’s reflections: “Engaging the children helps to motivate their learning. When the children know well what is expected of them, learning is effective. Sequences of lesson plans are lively documents to be adjusted and readjusted according to each child’s needs. One of my objectives when producing this presentation was to keep focused on the child as a person, as a human being. I hope I have achieved that.”
Insightful observation is not a skill that a teacher can just ‘pick up’ but comes from learning about education and relational theories, curriculum content, the school’s policies and procedures and insight into the community where the school is located. In the words of Chris Athey (2007), early years theorist and pioneer: ‘Professional advancement necessarily requires the development of a well-thought-out pedagogy. Pedagogy is for the teacher what medical knowledge is for the doctor’ (2007, p. 27).
I would like to thank Eliane Mendes for her contribution
Athey C (2007) Extending Thought in Young Children. A Parent-Teacher Partnership. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.