From my experience and reading, I would highlight three key principles which I consider to be important in assessment:
In practical outworking, it serves its intended purpose:
It is important that assessment strategies compliment the broader national educational intentions (the why behind primary schools) and the agreed national primary curriculum (the what of teaching content) so that through coherence, best practice can be developed. Currently assessment too often drives teaching and learning, sometimes so much that ‘pedagogy is shaped to serve it, rather than vice versa’ (Pratt, 2018: 505). As many aspects of primary education are relational and subjective in nature, it is important that assessment policy manages the tension between robust, universal standards and realistic acknowledgement of the unquantifiable elements that make up so much of a school day or years’ ‘progress’. It is important that assessment primarily serves to clarify next steps in learning, and any potential areas of support required in securing those, to teachers, learners and parents. All levels or types of assessment should do this, so that all school structures serve their core purpose.
It is designed as a learning tool not an accountability measure:
In its design, assessment should be for learning and not for accountability. Since ‘measuring a plant doesn’t help it to grow’ (Williams-Brown & Jopling, 2021: 227), it is important that there is a realistic consideration of how assessment strategies will be enacted within the classroom. All time and effort invested in assessment, by students and teachers, should have clear impacts on furthering learning. Assessment should fall within the professional toolkit of teachers, being used by them in the undertaking of their professional role, more than it is applied from outside as a measure of teachers.
It is based on faith in teacher judgements:
One challenge with statutory assessment is that it must be both equitable and uniform. Can it embody the understanding that one size does not fit all, whilst maintaining workable levels of comparability to answer the attainment questions of current accountability agendas? Data driven accountability inherently forces quantification of ‘tick box’ objectives as proxy measures for learning. Assessment is more an act of human judgment than an exact science. It should be based on sound evidence over which teachers are empowered to make their own choices (Erskine, 2014). Rimfield et al, (2019) report that there are grounds on which to consider teacher assessment as reliable as outcomes from standardised testing. Thus, it is important to explore rebuilding teachers’ professional autonomy within the dialogue around assessment strategies.
Pratt, N. (2018). Playing the levelling field: teachers’ management of assessment in English primary schools. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice
, 25(5), 504-518. https://doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2016.1264924
Rimfield, K., Malanchini, M., Hannigan. L. J., Dale, P. S., Allen, R., Hart, S. & Plomin, R. (2019). Teacher assessments during compulsory education are as reliable, stable and heritable as standardised test scores. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60(12), 1278-1288. DOI:10.1111/jcpp.13070
Williams-Brown, Z. & Jopling, M. (2021). Measuring a plant doesn’t help it to grow’: teacher’s perspectives on the standards agenda in England. Education 3 – 13, 49(2), 227-240. DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2020.1717573