Separating formative & summative assessment – Avoiding the pitfalls of levels


Having had a quick chat with Michael Tidd on Twitter about assessment systems and reading his most recent blog on my favourite topic ‘The Emperor’s new clothes’ of assessing without levels, I’m now thinking about changing slightly my dept. assessment system by dividing formative and summative assessment.

We were running two separate assessments. One using a 9 element system that focussed mainly on the skills of using knowledge, mainly in their writing. We hadn’t got round to doing recording this but I had trialled a very laborious system on SIMs.

We were then trialling using multiple choice quizzes at the start/middle/end of a topic. We were going to use this formatively in finding out what they know and filling gaps etc but also was going to record the 3 results on the SIMS tracker.

Somehow we were going to use both of these to decide if a student is making progress.

I’m now thinking that the 9 element system will be used summatively only. Progression can be seen throughout their work but does not need to be centrally recorded. The ‘evidence’ is there in their books. It can be used as a back up when the system below needs further evidence or confirmation.

However, I propose in using the MC data to give an overall indication of progress. To do this I will need to:

  • Embed the system. No guessing
  • Improve the questions asked
  • Probably ask a few more questions – currently it’s 20
  • Decide how much makes ‘expected improvement’
  • I also need to make it so differentiated that no student will achieve full marks at the start unless they’re a true expert in the topic ( in which case I need to provide them with completely different work anyway)
  • I also need to ensure that if we haven’t covered the topic in class then getting it ‘wrong’ doesn’t count against them.
  • I’ve used a ‘I don’t know’ option in the MC quizzes. Do I need to give them minus points for incorrect answers to deter them from guessing?
  • Create an end of year test which is all the topics in MC quiz
  • Decide if we tell them their result. My current thinking is that we don’t. It’s irrelevant. It needs to be ‘no stakes’ or does this system mean it cannot be ‘no stakes’?

Any thoughts and feedback on this proposal welcomed.

5 thoughts on “Separating formative & summative assessment – Avoiding the pitfalls of levels

  1. My very quick thoughts on the very last bullet point: could you give them only the results of the mid- and end-of-topic test, and even then only as a difference score. E.g. if they scored 4, then 9, then 17, they only see the scores as +5 and +13?

    • I think if we tell them anything it would be this but I am wary of telling them anything. I don’t want them revising or preparing for this and I don’t want staff to teach to the test. It’s the only way it will stay as ‘no stakes’ I think.

  2. I’m torn on giving results. Currently I do, even though it is considered a distractor from the learning by some researchers. I carried out a piece of research (in schools across the goble!) on primary science assessment a couple of years ago – one of the questions I asked was ‘do you like to know your levels/grades?’ The answer was overwhelmingly ‘yes’ from all groups. It seems to me that if we’re grading or getting results from assessments, then it’s their right to know what they are. I’d want to know.

  3. Pingback: Teaching & testing but not teaching to the test | missdcoxblog

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