Whether you are up to your eyes in SATS, running interventions in the run up to GCSEs or preparing your students for their year-end exams, it won’t have escaped your notice that high stakes assessments are back in schools, even if COVID-related absences continue.
Exams can make this time of year stressful for students and teachers. In fact, for some, the hiatus caused by the pandemic was a cause for celebration because the traditional anxiety and pressure was alleviated. Plus, there was a welcome chance to reassess the current exam system.
Of course, assessment itself can be very valuable, particularly when looking at its wider application in primary and secondary schools.
The kind of assessment data that Elastik generates can support schools in providing a better learning experience as well as better learning outcomes – which is why, when we meet with teachers, heads and the leaders of multi-academy trusts, the topic of assessment is often discussed.
We’ve found that there’s a focus on how assessment data can identify opportunities to avoid or mitigate problems further down the line. Certainly when a school can clearly see the learning gaps in their class, year groups or for individual students, it becomes easier for a leadership team to plan ahead for challenges, rather than having to manage them in crisis mode.
The Elastik data visualisation dashboards make it easy to identify clusters of children who are struggling with similar concepts. Which means that teachers can bridge those gaps before moving onto more challenging concepts. It also makes it easier to allocate and redirect teaching assistants for the biggest impact.
Assessment is more than simply a high-level planning tool. It helps build the essential connection between teachers and students. Without assessment, we rely on the student to flag when they get stuck. But a child who is struggling with a concept may not be aware that they are having a harder time than their peers. Or, if they are aware, they may be embarrassed and downplay their problems. It’s a brave student who is prepared to put their hand up and claim a lack of understanding. So a teacher who is able to pin-pointing their specific gap can be a hero.
It’s a big ask to expect teachers to have that detailed insight into every student without using technology. Which is where tools like the Elastik platform can be so useful. It can generate an assessment approach that has a positive impact on teacher stress levels and on students’ learning and mental health.
The high stakes of exams are always stressful, but assessment per se doesn’t have to be. Testing little and often and teaching to improve learning, not to the test, can open up a pathway to transforming a student’s learning experience, working wonders for their confidence and mental health as well as their grades.