3 Different approaches to student assessment and feedback

In Case Study 1 you will read about two teachers’ approaches to student assessment and feedback.

Case Study 1: Two teachers’ approaches to student assessment and feedback

Ms Asan teaches Class IV in a rural school near Indore.

Recently I finished teaching ‘’ (‘Bus ke niche bagh’, or ‘A tiger under the bus’).

I decided to follow this by testing my students’ spelling skills. I wrote ten difficult words from the lesson on the blackboard and asked my students to copy them out in their notebooks and prepare to be tested on them the next day.

The following morning, I read out the words in turn and asked my students to write them down. I took in their notebooks, marked their work and returned it to them.

Many students got full marks. Some made spelling mistakes and scored less well. I asked the students with the highest scores to raise their hands, then those with the lowest to raise theirs. I told those who did less well to practise writing the words again at home.

Mr Dubashi teaches Class V in a large school in Kanpur.

I wanted to assess my students’ spelling of the words they had encountered over the last few lessons. I began by announcing: ‘Today we will have a dictation activity.’

I asked my students to work in groups of four. I explained that I would read out five short sentences and that they had to listen to each sentence carefully before they started writing it out. I checked that everyone had understood my instructions. I then dictated the sentences, giving my students time to write them in turn.

When they had finished, I asked my students to discuss their sentences with the other members of their group, comparing their work and making any corrections if necessary. Finally, I told them to compare their sentences with those I had written out on the blackboard.

During the activity, I walked around the classroom and observed who was participating in the discussion, who wrote their sentence correctly the first time and who needed to correct their work subsequently. I noted these observations in my assessment book.

The next day, I described to the whole class the typical spelling problems I noticed in the activity the day before. I did this to ensure that those students who had had difficulties with the task were not made to feel exposed.

I now do an activity of this kind at the end of every topic. My students seem to look forward to it. I have found that it is most effective if I include a student with a higher level of attainment in each group, as they can support the others.

Pause for thought

  • What are your reactions to Ms Asan and Mr Dubashi’s distinct approaches to assessing their students’ spelling ability?
  • What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?
  • Which of the approaches most closely reflects your current classroom practice?

Ms Asan’s approach to assessment has the advantage of taking very little class time. However, it separates testing from other learning and draws attention to those students who do not perform well. Mr Dubashi’s approach to assessment takes longer, but actively involves his students in this process, incorporates talk for learning, is supportive of those who experience difficulties with spelling and provides helpful feedback afterwards. The spelling test is also more meaningful in that the words are embedded in sentences rather than being assessed out of context. This approach is more likely to result in long term learning gains.

2 Monitoring your class

4 Encouraging students to evaluate their own writing