Poll on assessment for learning - Results
- Reading time: 9 minutes
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An ongoing debate in school education is about the importance of high-stakes summative assessment in national examinations. The Baccalauréat in France, Esame di maturità in Italy, Abitur in Germany and Érettségi in Hungary, for example, take place at the end of students’ school careers and are all regarded as the passport to future studies and professional life. Summative assessment can also take place within schools, via, for example, class tests and end-of-year school examinations.
Nonetheless, formative assessment – sometimes called Assessment for Learning – can take place on a daily basis as an integral part of students’ school experience. This is where activities by the teacher – and sometimes by the students themselves – provide instant information on how students are progressing. The subsequent class activities are then modified to meet the evolving needs of the students and improve learning outcomes (see Black and Wiliam, 2001). These activities might include learning diaries (self-reflection), quizzes, portfolios, and informal oral discussion. Through peer assessment, pupils can provide feedback to one another and evaluate one another’s learning, while in self-assessment students evaluate their performance against predetermined criteria.
Research shows that formative assessment can improve learning outcomes, presenting the strongest effect among a range of interventions (Hattie, 2017). However, successfully adopting formative assessment as part of teaching and learning requires a classroom culture that is open to these methods, with a particular style of questioning, clearly defined criteria and timely, task-related feedback (Looney, 2017). Some schools use technology to support formative assessment, such as online tests and ePortfolios. However, the integration of digital tools in the classroom also places demands on students, teachers and schools.
The poll on assessment was open on the School Education Gateway from 19 February to 25 March, 2018 and gathered a total of 534 responses.
 Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (2001). Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment, British Educational Research Association.
1. How is students’ learning assessed within your school or schools you are familiar with? Select all that apply:
- Summatively: at the end of a series of lessons
- Formatively: during instruction, and teaching is adapted accordingly
- Through self-assessment: students assess their own performance according to set criteria
- By peer assessment: students assess one another’s performance according to set criteria
- Using diagnostic assessment: knowledge and skills are assessed prior to instruction
- By norm-referencing: performance is compared to year/grade or national averages
From the 534 participants in the poll we learn that all forms of assessment take place in their school or a school they are familiar with, as all six possibilities were reported. The most frequently reported approach is summative assessment at the end of a series of lessons, with 87% of respondents stating that this takes place. The second most used approach is formative assessment during instruction, with teaching adapted accordingly (72%), which suggests that it is a fairly widespread practice in schools. The other four types of assessment seem to be less used.
2. To what extent do you agree with the following statements about formative assessment?
- Formative assessment increases teachers’ workload and takes too much time
- Students and parents do not value formative assessments
- Teachers need more training to use formative assessment effectively
- Formative assessment encourages competition among students
- Formative assessment can discourage students with special educational needs or learning difficulties
- When students work collaboratively, formative assessment is difficult for the teacher to implement
- There is a lack of useful digital resources for formative assessment
- Supporting formative assessment in schools requires a national policy, not just the decision of schools and teachers
Opinions are divided almost equally regarding the extent to which formative assessment increases teachers’ workloads (50% agree or strongly agree and 48% disagree or strongly disagree), as well as the statement that students and parents do not value formative assessments (48% agree or strongly agree and 48% disagree or strongly disagree); and whether formative assessment encourages competition among students (42% agree or strongly agree and 49% disagree or strongly disagree).
A clear majority (65%) disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that formative assessment discourages students with special needs or learning difficulties. Likewise, just over half (56%) do not agree with the statement that formative assessment in collaborative learning of pupils is difficult to implement.
Furthermore, more than half of the respondents (57%) agree or strongly agree that there is a lack of useful digital resources available for formative assessment, while 36% disagree or strongly disagree. There seems to be a clear need for support: the vast majority of respondents (86%) agree or strongly agree that teachers need more training on how to use formative assessment. Likewise, the majority of respondents (72%) agree or strongly agree that supporting formative assessment in schools requires a national policy and not just the decision of the school and teachers.
3. Which of the following assessment methods are used in your school or schools you are familiar with? Please indicate the frequency.
- A final product or performance (e.g. an artefact or presentation)
- A portfolio of work
- A written assignment (e.g. an essay)
- Short tests and quizzes during lessons
- Peer assessment (students reflect on the work of others)
- Self-assessment (students reflect on their own work and plan future action)
- Teacher observation (e.g. listening to student group discussion)
- Feedback on understanding (e.g. red, green and yellow cards that students show in order to give feedback when questioned regarding the clarity of the material)
Overall the majority of respondents do not use formative assessment methods on a daily basis: the percentage is less than 16% for all methods except teacher observation, which is the most frequently used method, reported by 23% on a daily basis and 25% at least once a week. Teacher observation is followed by short tests and quizzes and a written assignment (e.g. an essay) at least once a week and up to at least once a day, which are reported by 54% and 32% respectively.
Some methods are only used once in a couple of months, once or twice per year or never. A final product or performance is used once a month (34%) or once every few months (24%), probably because this tends to be an outcome or product at the end of a series of activities. More than a half of the respondents never and rarely use the feedback-on-understanding method, followed by those who never use a portfolio of work (35%) or who use it once or twice per year and once every few months (43%).
Furthermore, it seems that peer- and self-assessment performed by pupils are used at a very similar rate: fewer than 10% use these methods on a daily basis, and 17% use them at least once a week; on the other hand, 36% use them once every few months or once a month, followed by 16% and 15% who use them once or twice per year, and a quarter of respondents who never use them.
4. Which of the following digital tools are used in your school or schools you are familiar with? Please indicate the frequency.
- ePortfolios and learning diaries to record and reflect on progress
- Serious games (virtual role-play, community-building, investigation)
- Cloud applications (e.g. Google Forms, Padlet, Wordle)
- Live quizzes and short tests to check understanding (e.g. Kahoot, Hot Potatoes)
- Feedback tools and polls (e.g. Socrative, Mentimeter, clickers)
- Concept maps (e.g. MindMapper)
- Other digital tools, apps and services
Most respondents tend not to make use of digital tools. More than half report never using ePortfolios or learning diaries (57%), feedback tools or polls (55%) in their school or a school they know. Around one third never use serious games (43%), Cloud applications (30%), live quizzes and tests (28%) or concept maps (37%). The most used digital tools (at least once a day or once a week) are digital apps and other tools (32%), followed by Cloud applications and live quizzes (21% each), concept maps (17%), serious games (14%), and ePortfolios (12%); the least used are feedback tools and polls, with only 9% using them daily or at least once a week. Around one third to a quarter of respondents make medium use – i.e. once every few months or once a month – of digital tools, ranging from 39% who use live quizzes down to 18% who use ePortfolios.
5. What is your role?
- Teacher – early years education
- Teacher – primary education
- Teacher – secondary education
- Head teacher
- School librarian
- Education policymaker
- Other educational professional/stakeholder
According to the respondents, teachers use both summative and formative assessments in their classroom. However, most of the assessment methods they use are teacher-centred and focus on teacher-led actions compared to more student-centred methods such as peer and self-assessment. Furthermore, on average, one in five teachers or fewer use digital tools that enhance and assist the use and implementation of formative assessment. The most popular assessment methods used by respondents are quizzes and short tests, teacher observations and a final product.
Teachers do recognise the positive impact of the formative assessment approach. When it is related to children with special needs, they believe that it does not provide further barriers to their learning. However, teachers strongly indicate that there is a lack of training and professional development that could assist them in implementing formative assessment methods in their teaching.
All of this suggests that there remain considerable challenges to the widespread adoption of formative assessment in the classroom.