Getting your KS3 assessment right in history: 12 step guide

You will know from the activities provided on the site that we are firm believers in a planned series of varied diagnostic tasks taken under test conditions which show how pupils are developing in both their understanding of second order historical concepts whilst also demonstrating deepening contextual knowledge.

In arriving at this approach the following 12 ideas and processes were the most influential.
We appreciate the pressure departments are under to crunch numbers and to test (too) regularly, so we have ensured that the following guidance doesn’t stop you doing that. It just ensures ,to use an extremely tired and overworked cliché- that we are focussing our energy on fattening the pig and not just weighing it.

So here are the 12:

1. Define what counts

Start by defining what counts as good history and plan your teaching to achieve this. Develop your assessment strategy in relation to what you have planned rather than allowing assessment structures to determine what you teach.

2. Influence the school assessment policy not be victim of it

Try to influence the school assessment policy by articulating the particular challenges that the previous use of levels and sub-levels created in history.

3. Plan assessment opportunities carefully across the key stage

Plan assessment opportunities carefully, recognising that highest quality questions and tasks are needed to demonstrate accurately what the students know, understand and can do. Bad assessments yield unreliable results which you have all wasted a lot of time marking!

4. Assess students’ historical knowledge and understanding in a range of contexts

Assess students’ historical knowledge and understanding in a range of contexts (using different kinds of tasks and focussing on different concepts) to gain a rounded view of student progress.

5. Use task-specific markschemes based on valid objectives

Use task-specific markschemes based on valid objectives which contain all-important detail of contextual knowledge expected at different ‘levels’ of answer. Exam board markscheme are often too generic to be useful and you find yourself arguing about semantics rather than understanding. Indicating the depth of knowledge required is very helpful in diagnosing which parts pupils haven’t grasped

6. Remember that progress in history is more than a one-off demonstration of a particular skill

Remember that history is more than a one-off demonstration of a particular skill – surety comes with assessing over time and in a range of contexts. That is why later Y(assessments need to be more all-embracing, possibly taking in more contexts than the one just studied and perhaps focussing on more than one important concept e.g. source evaluation as well as historical interpretations.

7. Use assessment that draws on wholekeystage knowledge, rather than simply testing them on one narrow aspect when they have just been taught.

Use forms of assessment that check how well new ideas come to be embedded and applied, across the keystage rather than simply testing them once when they are still new. Some of those you use in Y9 should aim to draw on Y7 and 8 learning in both substantive knowledge as well as conceptual understanding.

8. Identify common student misconceptions

Identify common student misconceptions and develop assessment tasks that will alert you to them and help you to check that they have been addressed.

9. Ensure that students can learn from the marking and feedback

Ensure that students can learn from the marking and feedback that teachers provide, so that they understand how well they have performed, why and what they can do to improve further. The feedback (including reports) should be accessible to students and to their parents/carers.

10. Devise appropriate systems of recording

Devise systems of recording that are appropriate for the purposes that they need to serve including reviewing the attainment of individuals and detecting trends in the performance of particular types of student, as well as making comparisons with other subjects in the school

11. Use evidence from assessment to inform future planning and teaching.

Not all aspects of topics will have been taught equally well.What do assessment results reveal about which areas of the teaching programme need to be adjusted? Why is it that Y9answerson change don’t seem to be any better than Y8′?What can we do to strengthen this weakness?

12. Standardisation.

Talking about standards and expectations is some of the best CPD around. Questions such as:How did you manage to get your Y7s to be able to do that? lead to invaluable discussion of what constitutes effective pedagogy.This is where the real benefits of assessment lie!

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