Helping all children become happy learners
Assessment Friendly Ethos
Children can be highly sensitive to judgements that compare them negatively to their peers. When ever they believe they have 'failed' or not done as well as others their self-esteem and confidence is undermined. Accumulatively, over time, these messages can create individuals who lack resilience in learning, turn away from education and become disruptive or anxious in lessons. For teachers and other staff working in schools such students can be very challenging. To help avoid this it is important that the emotional well-being of students is always considered; in the arrangements for assessments and how the feedback on performance from those assessments will be communicated.
How is feedback on assessment results usually given? What proportion is shared openly with peers? Is the method of feedback for the benefit of the teacher or the students? Do students have a choice about how they receive feedback?
Errors or successes
How do you mark your student's work? Are some types of errors in work focussed on more than others? Are there some errors that overly annoy you? Are mistakes a greater part of feedback discussions than successes?
Is it safe to fail? What is the class/school culture around failure? Is it socially supportive where mistakes are normalised and an expected part of learning; or do peers engage in put downs and other negative interactions?
Do you differentiate your feedback for different students? How do you recognise students who are anxious about assessment? What strategies are deployed to support them overcome their anxieties?
Finally, consider your own feelings and thoughts when your own performance is measured and judged. How does it feel to receive criticism? Are students taught to self-reflect constructively about assessments?
Creating an assessment friendly ethos
Creating an assessment friendly ethos requires dedicated lesson time where assessment processes are discussed and contextualised within the wider discussion of learning and memory as well as individual differences in ability, understanding and recall.
Right from entry into school children should begin being taught to recognise how they learn - metacognition. By helping children to understand how they learn they can begin to identify useful strategies and see that errors and mistakes are just part of the process of learning. It is also important to teach children coping strategies for when they forget. Forgetting happens constantly to everyone everyday and it is important not stigmatize it as careless or deliberate behaviour nor a sign of cognitive weakness.
In addition, children should be openly and explicitly taught how assessment:
benefits their teachers in planning curriculum content and lesson design
informs teachers about students learning needs so that can try to meet them
enables the student to recognise their own strengths and areas of development
enables the student to set and strive for measureable personal attainment targets
Older primary students can also benefit from being taught how to revise with emphasis on revision aids, technical vocabulary and simple diagrams.
In addition, students should be given opportunities to:
discuss their social and emotional responses to examinations and other tests. The aim is to create an ethos where fears and anxieties about examinations can be openly discussed and shared.
explore successful revision techniques for students of different abilities and motivations. It is important not to overwhelm less academic students with strategies. Instead it is better to help them identify with similar students and support them to 'buy into' acceptable revision practices.
discuss their individual needs when taking formal examinations.
Teenagers are particularly concerned about not 'losing face' in front of their peers. It is really important to consider this when giving any form of assessment feedback including classroom behaviour.
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