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What assessments can be used to measure student development?

by Henry Kilshaw on April 6, 2020

Of course, assessments at school are extremely important. There must be a certain level of pressure put on a child at some point to produce results, and it is all for their growth, right? But are we considering all the implications of the assessments they are put through? There are countless methods to measure performance, yet instead 15- and 16-year olds are still forced to sit in an exam hall on 20+ separate occasions for their GCSEs. These children are often too afraid of failure to produce their best work, the stress of the moment is overwhelming as their future is in the balance. Many adults would struggle under this kind of scrutiny, let alone these teenagers who aren’t even old enough to buy a lottery ticket.

The unforgiving nature of exams may also lead to inaccurate measurements of student’s true ability, as their performance is heavily determined by their ability to handle pressure rather than purely their academic ability. It could be argued that exams are preparation for high-pressure tests later in life, such as job interviews and driving tests. Despite the obvious benefits of challenging children to conquer difficult obstacles, this argument doesn’t justify the difficulties they endure. GCSEs heavily influence the trajectory of a student’s academic path, hence their career and life. How much longer can we continue to overlook breakdowns, panic attacks, and soaring anxiety levels as just part of the education process? Surely there are alternatives?

Alternatively, coursework presents a different type of challenge for students. The pressure resembles that of a typical job, where work must be completed step-by-step and counts towards the end goal. Coursework allows students to deeply analyse and study a topic throughout a long period at their own pace. Coursework also gives students more freedom and responsibility in managing their time independently without immense pressure. Students have plenty of time to draft, write and proof-read their work before it’s submitted. This can lead to a healthier relationship with education, where students can feel proud of the work they submitted. Issues regarding coursework often stem from motivation-based issues. However, students with these issues would also face difficulties in preparing for other types of assessment.

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Presentations and verbal assessments are another tool that can be used to measure a student’s development. Speaking face-to-face is an essential skill which children of all ages must develop. Ignorance to this fact can lead to children experiencing a lack of confidence across all walks of life such as in their career and in building meaningful relationships. The flexibility speaking assessments means a range of skills can be measured. A carefully planned presentation focuses on a student’s confidence, planning, and presentational skills. Whilst an interview-style assessment looks at the ability to spontaneously come up with responses to questions. The beauty of this is that you can adapt the task easily. For example, allowing notice in advance of what questions could be asked or allowing a limited number of notes to be brought along. With this type of assessment, it is important to make sure students have been properly prepared, including workshops detailing various tips, and mock assessments for them to practice.

Topics: School newsletter