5 top tips for NQTs to crack assessment

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Your first year of teaching presents you with a wealth of challenges. How do you manage behaviour? How do you cope with the workload? How can you do your best? How will you know if you are a good teacher?

Teaching is a balance of many requirements and good assessment is crucial to good teaching. Being an assessment-savvy NQT will build confidence and strengthen practice.

So where to start?

Engage with research

Using evidence can improve teaching and assessment practices. Establishing where your students are in their learning, deciding on appropriate teaching strategies and interventions, monitoring their progress, and evaluating your own teaching effectiveness means you have to engage with evidence.

Take a look at the Institute for Effective Education’s Engaging with Evidence guide for a clear look at different forms of evidence and different kinds of research.

Become familiar with theories of assessment

It sounds obvious, but understanding the basics of why, when and how to assess will make sure the assessments you ask your students to sit really are purposeful.

Teacher training might include assessment basics such as learning outcomes, assessment objectives, mark schemes and assessment grids, but it doesn’t always cover aspects of assessment theory or explore the uses, purposes and types of assessment.

Explore Cambridge Assessment courses: A101: Introducing the Principles of Assessment covers the key theoretical principles behind good assessment, and A102: Introducing Assessment Practice focusses on the practicalities of producing and delivering assessment.

Ask the right questions

With so many things on your NQT plate, it is easy to overlook the importance of getting to grips with some of the knottier principles of assessment. Becoming familiar with concepts such as reliability, validity, fairness and comparability will help you question your knowledge and practice, and expand your thinking about assessment.

Check the CEM blog 7 questions you need to ask about assessment and Phil Stock’s blog series Principles of Great Assessment.

Learn to make the most of pupil data

Many NQTs struggle with handling pupil progress data and find it useful to understand how data is used for tracking progress, how end of term assessments feed into that, how the data reflects the school's progress, and how it is used for accountability purposes.

Obviously, good use of data is more than making judgements against a student’s learning, calculating the % of pupils achieving age-related expectations by gender, by SEN, by pupil premium and then populating a horrific spreadsheet.

Pupil data from good teacher and standardised assessments can feed into the planning and target setting process, answer questions about standards, track individual pupil progress and identify trends over time.

Take a look at James Pembroke’s The Level Illusion.

Give effective feedback

Providing effective feedback to students that maintains a positive approach while at the same time encouraging improvement can be challenging.

According to the Education Endowment Foundation ‘Feedback studies tend to show very high effects on learning. However, it also has a very high range of effects and some studies show that feedback can have negative effects and make things worse.’

The EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit provides a summary of the research evidence and summarises the important considerations.

More information:

Find out how CEM assessments can help improve learner outcomes.