Improving the profile of teachers' classroom assessments

The proEMA consultancy is committed to highlighting the potential of teachers’ school-based assessments to improve learning outcomes for students. We do that is two ways. The first is that we work with teachers and schools to improve the quality and effectiveness of their assessments. The second is that we continue to build the body of evidence that demonstrates that teachers’ classroom assessments can be both valid and reliable.

This is not an easy job because even teachers themselves subscribe to a perception that their classroom assessments of student achievement and progress are less reliable than standardised testing. While this may be so in many cases, it does not need to be so.

In fact, assessments that are developed and implemented by teachers have very high context validity.  This is because they can aligned to the pedagogical practices of the particular teacher or school. They can also be implemented close to the time of learning and in doing so offer excellent opportunities for feedback and contribution to further learning. As the term context validity suggests, teachers’ classroom assessments can also take into account and respond to the characteristics and learning needs of their particular group of students. Finally, they offer greater scope for range and variety of assessment types and more flexibility for adjustments and variations that might be needed for differentiation and inclusion. On this validity score, it’s not hard to see the benefits of using teachers’ assessments on a regular basis.

Of course, it’s the reliability aspect that worries people the most.  Concerns are raised about subjectivity and the extent to which teachers’ assessment judgments can be relied upon for higher stakes purposes such as reporting. It is not always clear that work of the same or similar standard would be awarded the same or similar grade across different school sites and geographical locations. This does not need to be the case but it takes strong commitment to a range of structurally supported activities to demonstrably improve reliability of teachers’ assessments.

Given the benefits if not only teachers but also students have a shared understanding of assessment standards it’s time to solve the problem, rather than use it as an excuse.