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School Policy on Assessment -
Changing Assessment Practices

This is one of the series of 15 booklets in the Basic Education Curriculum Guide-Building on Strengths. Its contents are as follows:


5.1

Purpose of the Booklet

   
5.2

Emphasising Assessment for Learning

   
5.3

Understanding Assessment


5.3.1

Definition and Aims of Assessment
5.3.2 Connections between Curriculum and Assessment
5.3.3 Formative Assessment and Summative Assessment
   
5.4

Developing School Assessment Policy - Balancing Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning


5.4.1

Linking Assessment Policy to Whole-school Curriculum Planning and the Short-term Targets of the Curriculum Reform
5.4.2 Designing Yearly Plan of Assessment Practices
5.4.3 Connecting Formative Assessment and Feedback with Learning and Teaching
5.4.4 Reviewing Assessment Policy and the School Curriculum Development Plan
   
References

 

 

 


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School Policy on Assessment -
Changing Assessment Practices

5.1 Purpose of the Booklet

The purpose of this booklet is to highlight the main ideas and principles underlying assessment. Suggestions are made as to how schools should design and develop a whole-school policy on assessment to promote learning for every student.

All schools should review their current assessment practices and put more emphasis on assessment for learning. The latter is a process in which teachers seek ti identify and diagnose student learning problems, and provide quality feedback for students on how to improve their work. Different modes of assessment are to be used whenever appropriate for a more comprehensive understanding of student learning in various aspects.


cross-ref


Chapter 4 Item (6)


5.2 Emphasising Assessment for Learning

Based on the beliefs that every student is unique and possesses the ability to learn, and that we should develop their multiple intelligences and potentials, the CDC Report on "Learning to Learn - The Way Forward in Curriculum Development" (CDC, 2001) recommends that there should be a change in assessment practices and schools should put more emphasis on 'Assessment for Learning' as an integral part of the learning, teaching and assessment cycle.

In other words, teachers should use assessments (e.g. as simple as effective verbal questioning, observation of student behaviour) and provide immediate feedback to enhance student learning in everyday classroom lessons. The focus is on why they do not learn well and how to help them to improve rather than just to use assessments to find out what knowledge dtudents have learned.

 

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5.3
Understanding Assessment
   
5.3.1 Definition and Aims of Assessment

Assessment is the practice of collecting evidence of student
learning
in terms of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes through observation of at student behaviour when carrying out tasks, tests, examinations, etc.

The aims of assessment are:


For students to

. understand their strengths and weaknesses in learning
   
. understand what they should try to achieve next, and how best they might do this
   
. improve their learning based on feedback from teachers and other assessors
   
 

For teachers and schools to

. diagnose the strengths and weaknesses in the learning of their students
   
. provide quality feedback and specific advice to students so that they know how to improve their learning
   
. review and improve their learning objectives / expectations of students, curriculum design and content, strategies and activities so that they are better suited to the needs and abilities of their students to enhance learning and teaching effectiveness
   
 

For parents to

. understand the strengths and weaknesses of their children
   
. consider how to help their children to improve their learning
   
. have reasonable expectations on their children
   
 

For the government to

. evaluate the standard of students in specific areas
   
. rank and select students for admission purpose

 

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5.3.2 Connections between Curriculum and Assessment


The curriculum has set out what students should learn in terms of the learning targets / objectives (e.g. knowledge, skills, values and attitudes). The assessment methods used to collect evidence of student learning should be so designed that they assess what students are expected to learn (i.e. learning targets and content) and the learning processes that lead there. Feedback can then be given to students and teachers to form basis on decisions as to what to do to improve learning and teaching. Hence, assessment is an integral part of the curriculum, learning and teaching, and feedback cycle.


5.3.3 Formative Assessment and Summative Assessment


(1)
Formative Assessment

In order to improve learning in daily classroom teaching and teaching throughout the term / year, formative assessment can be used to collect evidence from time to time on student learning with a view to promoting better learning. Methods such as probing questions, tasks, observations can be used to serve the aims of assessment outlined above. Research evidence indicates that the impact on student achievement is higher in circumstances where students receive quality feedback rather than marks.

   
(2) Summative Assessment

From time to time, it is also necessary to have snapshots of what a student has learned and how much has been achieved, i.e. a picture of the product of learning through summative assessment. Summative assessment is often carried out through pen and paper tests and examinations at the end of a teaching unit / school term / school year. Assessment is considered as a discrete and separate stage at the end of a learning and teaching cycle. Student assessment results may be reported in profile form, grades or marks, though the latter is considered to be less desirable.

 

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Formative Assessment
Summative Assessment
assessment

 
Formative Assessment
Summative Assessment
Usually carried out informally in everyday lessons or formally
during the course of the year
Usually conducted at the end of school term / school year / key stage formally
Criterion-referenced Norm-referenced and
criterion-referenced
Focus on the learning process and on learning progress Focus on the product of learning mainly
An integral part of the learning and teaching cycle, i.e. part of
effective teaching and planning for the future
A separate stage at the end of the learning and teaching process
The process could be fluid at times and subject to student response and teacher feedback Usually pre-designed
Qualitative feedback in reports, profiles, portfolio Report in grades, marks, profiles

The assessment practices of a school can be presented in the framework given below:

 

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framework

 

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5.4
Developing School Assessment Policy - Balancing Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning

Fundamental changes in school assessment practices to bring a better balance across assessment for learning and assessment of learning need to be planned, discussed, shared, negotiated and agreed by all teachers in each school. A corresponding assessment policy and mechanisms to bring it about need to be worked out at whole-school and classroom levels. The following sections highlight how the related key issues might be addressed.

FLOW CHART OF SCHOOL ASSESSMENT POLICY PLANNING

flow chart

 

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cross-ref

5.4.1 Linking Assessment Policy to Whole-school Curriculum Planning and the Short-term Targets of the Curriculum Reform

Consider the following with regard to the consensus built among teachers in your school in the process of whole-school curriculum planning and development:


(1)

With reference to Section 5.3.1, set out the aims of assessment the school would like to achieve.

Examples

. Provide quality feedback to students
   
. To be accountable to parents through summative assessment
   
(2)

Determine the areas in which the school will collect evidence of student learning according to the consensus built, so as to develop a fair assessment system which gives all students the opportunity to have their full range of learning assessed.



cross-ref


Section 1.7.1 &
Appendix II

(3)

Set clear, broad targets for school assessment policy consistent with the short-term targets of the curriculum reform and agree on assessment criteria (specified learning outcomes) appropriate for these by levels / by subjects.

Examples

. Knowledge in all subject areas
   
. Priority generic skills in the contexts of each KLA / subject, during the year
   
. Personal qualities such as responsibility, commitment, perseverance in Moral and Civic Education / Life-wide Learning
   
. Reading to Learn and Project Learning as effective strategies to promote learning to learn capabilities

 

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5.4.2

Designing Yearly Plan of Assessment Practices


(1)

Review the assessment practices adopted last year and find out which one(s) did not match the considerations listed above in Section 5.4.1 (1), (2) and (3). Suggest how they could be improved incrementally rather than drastically.

Examples

. Coverage of assessment was too narrow with regard to overall student learning (broaden the coverage of what is assessed)
   
. Too many assessments and too dependent on written tests (reduce the number of written tests, and use more course work that focuses on student learning progress)
   
. Insufficient learning-oriented feedback to students - only marks and grades are given (give more attention to qualitative feedback, less concern for marks and grades)
   
. Failure to diagnose the weaknesses of students (be more observant to develop a higher level of diagnostic sensitivity)



cross-ref


(2)

Plan how to bring about a better balance between formative and summative assessment.

       

Examples

. Formative assessment for Reading to Learn and Project Learning
   
. Formative assessment for learning at the end of a lesson / a module
   
. Summative assessment for knowledge and application of knowledge in KLAs, subjects at the end of school term / year

 

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cross-ref

(3)

Design suitable methods of assessment according to the purpose to be fulfilled, learning targets and processes.

http://cd.ed.gov.hk

screen capture
(Screen captured on 7th June 2002)

pic

 

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(4)

Determine the frequency of assessment so that it benefits student learning rather than disrupting it.

Examples

. Getting rid of one common test each term would spare 2 - 4 teaching weeks for project work to develop independent learning capabilities
   
. Being more sensitive to student responses in class and giving verbal comments rather than setting tests
   
. Setting a 10-minute assessment at the end of each learning unit to identify student weaknesses early and address them
   
(5)

Decide how to provide useful feedback to students in formative assessment to raise their motivation and achievement in learning. (Refer to the following section 5.4.3 for more details.)

Examples

Refer to CDI Homepage - http://cd.ed.gov.hk on:

Assessment for LearningWeb-based ResourcesSearching
Information on Assessment in Curriculum Development Website

screen capture
(Screen captured on 7th June 2002)

 

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(6)

Decide on how to report students' achievement.

Examples

. Observation notes, checklists, logbook, portfolios, photographs, recording (audio / video), annotated work
   
. Marks may not be needed, use grade or a profile instead
   
. Use a combination of course mark and examination mark
   
. Consider what to report to students and parents

http://cd.ed.gov.hk/cr_2001/eng/teaching/tla.htm

screen capture
(Screen captured on 7th June 2002)

   
(7)

Devise strategies in school to support teachers to improve their assessment practices.

Examples

. Enriching library stock of references on assessment
   
. Building up understanding and monitoring practices through regular meetings
   
. Using collaborative lesson preparation time for analysing student performance and thinking through feedback strategies
   
. Using information technology (on-line recording)

 

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. Providing clerical support
   
. Providing opportunities for sharing experiences with other schools / teachers
   

(8)

Vary practices with classes at different levels.

Example

The following table may be used as a starting point for school heads and teachers to discuss what, when and how to assess.


Level Emphases
of the
Reform
Coverage Frequency Balance between formative and summative assessment Methods Reporting
Secondary 1-3 All KLAs, project and
reading
All
Primary
4-6
Knowledge in Chinese, English, Mathematics, General Studies, generic skills,
interpersonal skills, reading
All
Slightly more tests at upper levels Introduce summative assessment gradually (for SSPA)
Primary
1-3
Knowledge and skills in Chinese, English, Mathematics, personal development
All
More frequent with formative and
informal feedback
More on formative, differentiated summative assessment tasks for students of different abilities
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cross-ref



cross-ref

. In school-based assessment at Primary 5 and 6, schools need to strike a balance between assessment for learning and the need for recording marks for ranking. Refer to 'Internal Assessments Guidebook' (ED, 2002) for details. (Only a Chinese version is published.)
   
(9)

Dialogue with parents on new changes and get their support.
Consider providing parents / guardians with a response sheet for them to comment on their child's school report and raise points for discussion. In return, teachers might also make good use of the information provided by parents / guardians to build up a more complete picture of the student concerned.

   
(10)

Bring about a consensus across all subject panels about the above, allowing each subject panel to have some flexibility in applying the school assessment policy.

   
(11)

For suggestions on assessment policy of different subject panels please refer to Chapter 5 of Curriculum Guides for respective KLAs and General Studies for Primary Schools.

       

The above steps (1-10) should be applied to developing assessment policies for KLAs as well. The basic principle underlying assessment practices at departmental level is that they should all be in line with the above strategies, in order not to confuse students with inconsistent values about assessment. It is important that students understand assessment serves the dual purposes of promoting their learning and of informing them of their progress and achievements, rather than simply telling them where they are in relation to others in the class or year.

 


5.4.3

Connecting Formative Assessment and Feedback with Learning


(1)
Develop learning targets.
   
(2) Involve students in self-assessment.
   
(3) Help students to know themselves and the standards they should attain.
   
(4) Provide feedback so that students know what to do next and how to do it.

 

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Examples

. Use positive verbal feedback and provide students with cues that help them.
   
. Avoid negative and possibly de-motivating feedback.
   
. Give feedback identifying strengths and weaknesses in the learning of a particular subject, and give constructive suggestions on what to do next and how to do it.
   
. Check student performance against the relevant assessment criteria.

http://cd.ed.gov.hk/assessment/bca/index.htm


(Screen captured on 7th June 2002)

. Grade according to the criteria.
   
. Give marks only when ranking / selection is necessary.
   
. Be sensitive and constructive all the time, aware of the impact that negative comments, marks and grades can have on students' confidence and enthusiasm.




(5)

Quality marking

. Mark with an aim to help students to identify what they have learned well, what they have not learned well, and what their next steps to improve should be.
   
. Do not confine marking to ticks, crosses, marks and grades. A tick marked with the word 'good' does not tell the student why the work is good or what criteria it fulfils. Try to provide explanatory comments which are concise and inform students about why something is good or less good.

 

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cross-ref


Exemplars of Curriculum Development
in Schools
Part II 4 (p.97)

. Use different marking methods and subject-specific marking criteria in line with the focuses and emphases within the learning targets set for the assessment tasks.
   
. Agree guiding principles among panel teachers as to the methods, frequency and amount of assessment and ways for marking based on professional judgment.
   
. Detailed marking is desirable but schools cannot expect teachers to mark every single piece of student work in a detailed way, nor is it necessary for them to do so in view of their manageability and workload.


5.4.4

Reviewing Assessment Policy and the School Curriculum Development Plan


(1)

At the end of each school year, carry out the following for the whole school:

. Check whether the purposes of assessment were clear to teachers, students, parents, and relevant others.
   
. Examine whether during the past years formative and summative assessments were in balance.
   
. Review whether the assessment practices provided full information on what was supposed to be assessed.
   
. Identify gap in the information provided.
   
. Draw up an action plan to improve assessment practices so that they will be in line with the targets of the school curriculum plan for next year.
   
(2)

From time to time, as part of a sharing / monitoring system, enable teachers to identify and reflect on daily assessment practices (assessment for learning) to determine:

. Whether the learning and teaching goals were clear
   
. Whether the feedback given was related to learning target / objective
   
. Whether the marking helped to improve learning
   
. Whether the feedback actually showed the student what to do next in learning
   
. Whether the feedback was used to adjust teaching plans

 

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Example -  Pathways to Developing School-based Assessment Policy in a Primary School

The following shows the process of how a primary school develops a school-based assessment policy that reconciles with the assessment for learning culture valued by the school head and the teachers.


(1)

Review School-based Curriculum Development and Existing
Assessment Practices

The following are identified:

. Generic skills are developed and attitudes are fostered other than intellectual ability.
   
. Even less able students improve significantly in their learning if they are actively involved in authentic learning situations and provided with ample opportunities to develop their potentials, e.g. creativity, problem-solving, etc
   
. Pen and paper tests and examinations that only assess students' knowledge of subject content provide little information on how students perform in other aspects (e.g. attitudes and values).
   
. There is the need to recognise students' effort and achievement in demonstrating their application of generic skills in the assessment mechanism.
   
(2)

Understand Teachers' Concern

The following questions are raised by the teachers:

. How do we assess generic skills and attitudes? What are the criteria and strategies for this?
   
. What can the school management do to support the development of good assessment practices across all levels in the context of the Secondary School Place Allocation System?
   
(3)

Adopt a Whole-school Approach

The following are carried out:

. Discussions take place at both school management and subject departmental level on the guiding principles for assessment prior to negotiating what knowledge, skills and attitudes would be assessed for each subject from Primary 1 to Primary 6 and what weighting each assessment component would have in the final score.

 

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. Making use of collaborative lesson preparation time so that teachers have regular in-depth discussions on designing and refining the assessment criteria and on developing a range of assessment tasks appropriate to the purposes of assessment and to the learning targets.
   
. Using staff development days to facilitate school-wide discussion and bring about improvements in assessments.
   
. Seeking IT support from the commercial sector with the use of the Capacity Enhancement Grant to make recording and reporting convenient and manageable for teachers.
   

(4)

Change of Assessment Practices

. All teachers agree that there is the need to vary the weighting of their marks (i.e. course work and exam marks) with different emphases on generic skills, values and attitudes and knowledge at different levels / key stages for different subjects / Key Learning Areas according to the learning targets and their intellectual, psychological, physical and social development. The following sample shows the details:

Primary 1
sample
Primary 4
Primary 6

 

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.

The student report card is re-designed to incorporate descriptive comments on students development of generic skills and attitudes.

sample

   
(5)

Inform parents of the rationale underpinning the change in assessment practices through regular newsletters, circulars, parents' meetings and the school annual report.

 

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References

The following references are by no means exhaustive. They are listed as examples for readers' convenient referral.

Assessment Reform Group. Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles. Research-based Principles to Guide Classroom Practice. London: Nuffield Foundation, 2002.

---. Assessment for Learning: Beyond the Black Box. London: Nuffield Foundation, 1999.

Black, P., and D. William. Inside the Black Box. Bloomington: Phi Delta Kappan, 1998.

Clarke, Shirley. Notes, ts, July 2001. Recommendations for the development of Formative assessment in Hong Kong. Education Department, Hong Kong.

---. Unlocking Formative Assessment: Practical Strategies for Enhancing Pupils' Learning in the Primary Classroom. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2001.

Harlen, W., and M. James. "Assessment and Learning: Differences and Relationships between Formative and Summative Assessment." Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice 4.3 (1997): 365-379.

James, M. Using Assessment for School Improvement. Oxford: Heinemann Educational, 1998.

Morris, Paul et al. Final Report: The Project on Feedback and Assessment Funded by the Education Department. Hong Kong: Printing Department, 1999.

Silver, H., R. W. Strong, and M. J. Perini. So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2000.

Stiggins, Richard J. Assessment, Student Confidence, and School Success. Portland: Assessment Training Institute, 1999.

---. Leadership for Excellence in Assessment. Portland: Assessment Training Institute, 2002.

---. Learning Teams for Assessment Literacy: A Concept Paper. Portland: Assessment Training Institute, 1999.

 

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Stimpson, Philip, and Paul Morris, ed. Curriculum and Assessment for Hong Kong: Two Components, One System. Hong Kong: Open University of Hong Kong Press, 1998.

 

Websites

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<http://cd.ed.gov.hk/default_chi.asp>

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<http://cd.ed.gov.hk/knowlege_fair/chi/index.htm>

Assessment and Consultation. 2002. Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, the Pennsylvania State University. 22 Mar. 2002
<http://www.psu.edu/celt/assessment.shtml>

 

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