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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A word about my professional background and research interest

Testing and assessment have always been an essential part of education, but since the 1988 Education Reform Act, which introduced a National Curriculum with testing at the ages of 7, 11, 14 and 16, assessment has become even more prominent in education (Desforges, 1989).  As a teacher, I have always been involved in assessing pupils for different purposes, but in particular during the last decade, educational assessment has become more of a professional interest for me, probably as a result of my professional development and my belief that if assessment were to be used for formative purposes, it would serve as a very powerful tool in improving attainment and achievement of every pupil through specific guidance on next steps for progress, and that educating whole cohorts of pupils could become a personal experience of engaging in teaching and learning at an individual level. 

During one of my posts in a large boys’ comprehensive school, assessment in its various forms was central to my role on a practical level, and concepts such as baseline testing, value added, school effectiveness, target-setting, league tables or emphasis on reporting of pupils’ progress (Tymms, 2000; Pringle and Cobb, 1999) assumed prominent position in my everyday practice.  With the change of the school status, followed 10% selection on academic aptitude, which necessitated greater emphases on pupil assessment.  Since assessment cannot be separated from teaching and learning (Tanner and Jones, 2003) and it is an essential Ofsted requirement that “Assessment information is used to inform future planning (Clarke, 1998, p.35), I started critically evaluating various assessments to ascertain what was in them for the pupils. This meant exploring how pupils could directly benefit from the testing they were being subjected to and how the information obtained from these tests could be used to advance learning and progress. 

Although there are many types of educational assessments used for different purposes, all can provide useful information about various aspects of one’s learning or performance, as in case of norm-referenced (summative) assessments, which are used for selection purposes for some schools or careers, for example, I set out to establish how everyday classroom assessment could be used to benefit the learners’ progress as this type of assessment had a direct impact on learning and motivation.  My aim was not to devalue other forms of assessment, but to focus on the type of assessment which could be used to maximize learning.  Evidently, since all classroom efforts are aimed at progress and improved learning, I would strongly argue that the impact of formative feedback practice would eventually have a positive effect on summative results of examinations taken at the end of a particular stage in one’s education. 

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