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Assessment in secondary mathematics
Assessment in secondary mathematics

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Assessment in secondary mathematics


In this free course, Assessment in secondary mathematics, you will be asked to look at many issues that surround assessment. Assessment is about establishing where a student is in their learning. Sometimes the intention behind that assessment is to sum up and/or certify what a student has attained over a period of learning – this is known as summative assessment and is often used to direct students towards learning experiences and career choices that may be appropriate for them.

Another form of assessment is more powerful in helping learning. It recognises progress at the micro and the macro level, and involves the students themselves in both understanding what they want to achieve and in taking steps to attain their goals. This is formative assessment, or assessment for learning. Black et al. (2003) established that formative assessment can make a huge difference to students’ attainment as well as to their attitudes towards learning.

This course will ask you to question what it means to make progress in mathematics, to consider what and how to assess, and to challenge assumptions about assessment. Most importantly, you will learn how to use assessment to enable mathematical learning

Summative assessment can be a gatekeeper – those who gain high marks can go onto more challenging mathematical learning experiences or particular careers. Those whose marks are lower may be barred from such experiences of careers. In mathematics, success in examinations gives substantial cultural capital and it is therefore unsurprising that many teachers focus on helping their students attain the best they can at examinations such as GCSE, which is taken at age 16 in England.

However, research shows that ‘teaching to the test’ is not the best way to allow students to attain well, and is certainly not the best way to enable students to be able and willing to continue to study mathematics, or to empower them to use mathematics in their day-to-day lives and careers. Formative assessment allows students to understand how they are progressing in their learning and where next to focus their efforts. Therefore it requires teachers who understand what it means to:

  • make progress in mathematics
  • know what to assess and how to assess
  • use assessment to enable mathematical learning.

Now listen to an introduction to this course by its author, Clare Lee:

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As you work through the activities you will be encouraged to record your thoughts on an idea, an issue or a reading, and how it relates to your practice. Hopefully you will have opportunities to discuss your ideas with colleagues. We therefore suggest that you use a notebook – either physical or electronic – to record your thoughts in a way in which they can easily be retrieved and revisited. If you prefer, however, you can record your ideas in response boxes within the course – in order to do this, and to retrieve your responses, you will need to enrol on the course.

This OpenLearn course is part of a collection of Open University short courses for teachers and student teachers [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .