July 2010
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APP and Key Stage 3 history assessment- the fog clears?

As you will all probably know, the DFE announced at the end of June that the Level Descriptions we should be using  for the first time next summer ( for Y9) and this summer ( for Y8) are, after all , what we have been planning for. The stupid rumour that we were to use the old levels was just poor communication by Gove’s new team. Think BSF. Is there a pattern forming?? Anyway, I thought I’d let you know my thoughts on assessment in the new era and the currency of APP.

Above all you need to know that it is not compulsory, just advisory. I think it is a good thing. The people working on the materials have their hearts in the right place and offer sound advice.I have always maintained that our main focus should be on PROGRESSION. If we pitch our teaching to the right ‘level’ and pupils learn what we teach they we can’t be going far wrong. We don’t need complex imaginary sub-levels just a feel for what the pupils need to do to improve in EACH major strand. And this is the important bit. It is so easy to currently underplay the teaching of, say, interpretations, and still award a high level on the best fit principle. To me that’s wrong.

The other major issue we need to address is over-preparing kids for assessment tasks so that it is almost impossible to work out what they could have done on their own without your excessive help. I ran a course on KS3 assessment on Monday in Birmingham and showed examples of assessed tasks from the NCaction  site which delegates hadn’t seen before. They simply couldn’t believe that the QCDA was promoting tasks where the kids had 3 pages of instructions about what to include and how to get a higher level. Everyone knows this is a nonsense. Instead the delagates and I worked on refining short diagnostic assessments with markschemes that are CONTENT as well as CONCEPT specific. We looked at pupils’ responses and ease of use with non-specialist staff. We then developed our own. Colleagues were amazed at what they could achieve in just 25 minutes, given a clear model opf how to develkop the markscheme. On the Keystage history site there are a growing number of these. I have just finished one on contrasting views of the empire. The stimulus is Deary’s Horrible History compared with Niall Ferguson and Lord Curzon. Markschemes has shaken down well. Want to try it next year? Just contact me and I’ll send you BETA test copy. Have a great summer .

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