Year 6 Overview of Research

Year 6 Mathematics snapshot: Problem solving using fractions

Assessment Principle 2: Assessment should be educative

Reflecting on the Assessment Snapshot

The teacher in this assessment snapshot has deliberately planned an assessment activity that provides her with detailed information about her students’ ability to formulate and solve problems using fractions.

In many classrooms, the process of eliciting such evidence [of where students are in their learning] is done mainly on the fly—teachers almost always plan the instructional activities in which they will engage their students, but they rarely plan in detail how they are going to find out where the students are in their learning (Wiliam, 2011, p. 71).

Assessment Principle 2 highlights that good assessment practice educates both the student and the teacher. In this assessment snapshot the focus of the assessment activity is to provide the teacher with information about where students are in their learning. ‘Formative assessment involves knowing what the learning goals are, eliciting evidence of student status relative to the goals, and taking action to close any gap between students’ current status and the desired goal(s)’ (Herman, Osmundson, Dai, Rigstaff and Timms, 2011, p. 2).

In a study of formative assessment practices in the US, the researchers observed,

Because formative assessment is a dynamic process of evidence elicitation, analysis, and action, it clearly makes demands on teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge. Without such foundational knowledge, teachers’ formative assessment may yield faulty decisions that could divert rather than promote student progress. At the same time, there also could be a reciprocal relationship between teachers’ use of assessment and their content and pedagogical knowledge. Teachers who engage in formative assessment are continually attuned to and responding to student learning progress. Educators who analyze student learning, consider potential obstacles or misconceptions limiting this learning, and reflect on the effectiveness of prior and subsequent next steps—may well deepen their content and pedagogical knowledge, particularly if such activities occur in the context of professional learning communities (Herman et al., 2011, p. 2).