Assessment without levels
Association for Science Education
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Assessment is primarily a matter of judgement rather than measurement, yet for too long the nation has been pretending that pupils' attainment and measurement can be measured in increasingly fine detail (one APS "point" being one sixth of an original National Curriculum level). The lack of validity and reliability of this approach becomes obvious when something as multidimensional as practical work in science attempts to be assessed, yet the forthcoming "bonfire of the levels" in the new National Curriculum in England (DfE, 2013) has left schools and teachers feeling vulnerable and reluctant to discard the "comfort blanket" of numerical tracking systems. Data from the Teacher Assessment in Primary Science (TAPS) project suggest that very few primary schools have yet adapted their assessment approaches to the "post-levels" world, and that most propose to continue levelling pupils during 2014-15, whilst possible alternatives are explored. It is suspected that the situation is similar in most secondary schools, particularly as they prepare for the introduction of the Progress 8 school performance measure (DfE, 2014a), which aims to track the progress of pupils from the end of Key Stage 2 (age 7-11) to GCSE. However, the loss of levels should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat, to bring formative and summative assessment closer together and ultimately to find more valid ways of assessing what it means to be a scientist. The TAPS project, based at Bath Spa University and funded by the Primary Science Teaching Schools describe a variety of different systems and methods, often using more than one approach within the same school; for example, using Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) grids to track pupils' scientific skills, whilst employing tests or levelling samples of work to assess conceptual understanding. In this article, the author describes the ongoing work being done by the TAPS Project in cooperation with working groups of science assessment experts such as the one convened by the Nuffield Foundation (2012) to create a whole-school evaluation tool to support schools in identifying strengths and weaknesses in their assessment systems and provide an exemplified model of good practice.
Education in Science
Earle, S. & Davies, D. 'Assessment without levels', Education in Science, 258, pp.30-31.
- Education Research 
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