A good part of my job is to support teachers in their understanding of how a child with literacy difficulties learns and what provision s/he needs to make progress in reading and writing. Teachers are constantly making judgements about how their pupils are getting on, thinking about next steps and planning adjustments so as to ensure deep understanding. This day-to-day assessment is often disregarded as true assessment by both teachers themselves and parents. Consequently this highly complex and intuitive quality is undervalued. Many people perceive Assessment as being to do with tests and ascribing levels. But how a child acts on the curriculum, the performance of understanding, is the most relevant aspect of ensuring progress. It’s about taking stock of what we know about a child: the whole child and not just the attainment in literacy or numeracy.

This ongoing, dynamic assessment is complemented by transitional assessment wherein we share with colleagues, parents and carers how the child is doing. This isn’t summative. It’s marking a staging post: where s/he is at this particular point in time and noting the direction of travel and how best to get there.

Excellent ipsative assessment examines the broader view wherein teachers strive to clarify how a child understands webs of concepts and how best they can support deeper understanding. Such assessment naturally involves the learner her or himself showing a subjective response to reflect the way what has been learnt affects her or his own methods of dealing with challenges in everyday life. All participate in devising programmes for development.

The most valuable evidence we can gather is from the classroom but we often supplement this with standardised tests that provide norm-referencing as well as diagnosis of specific sub-skills that are hindering expected progress. I shall return to this in another post.