Pupil assessment and reports

Both pupils and teachers need to work hard to ensure they reach their targets, writes Chris Mutch.

Music Teacher, St Thomas Aquinas School, Glasgow

It will be emphasised many times over the probationary year that pupils must know where they are, and where they are going in their learning, and how they'll reach their target. This also goes for the teachers!

After the first week of teaching, it became apparent that I'd have to start writing things down. What I'd taught, what needed taught and who had learned what were obviously the most important.

I quickly found my own style of keeping track of work. I'd prepare lessons in advance as much as possible so that when it came to teach, I simply lifted the work from the class folder.

In my records, I'd write a quick note to say what had been done, noting anything important to remember for the next lesson.

It's very simple, but when you have such a steep learning curve in the first few weeks, it helps to sit down and plan how to plan.

Formative assessment

As a music teacher, formative assessment is the only logical way of working in the practical activities. I decided my assessment records would be completed with the pupils having an input in their own learning objectives.

I adopted a 'two stars and a wish' technique, writing down two positive comments and one target each time I heard a pupil. Pupils could then continually see where they were in their learning.

Class discussions are a great way to assess pupils, but find a structure you are comfortable with. Pupils are always keen to share experiences. The first time I allowed peer teaching, I thought that I would be sacked for allowing a class to just chat.

In order for it to work properly I had to give clear expectations and outline the short and long term learning objectives. The ethos clearly changed, although it did take much time and effort for me to feel truly at ease.

I give groups a focal point and get them to ask questions about the topic. Pupils in other groups then attempt to answer, or affirm that they too want to know the answer. Cognition can be assessed by listening to questions and answers, and viewing how pupils relate to the task.

Formative assessment saves you time and work. However it will cost you many hours of thought and practice in the initial months.

I've experimented with lots of different ideas, and have had to find ways of working that suit me. Something that works well for one person or class does not always mean it will work for another.

Parents' night

Summative assessment provides the evidence that backs up all your hours of formative assessment. At parents' nights, parents were always keen to see their child's work, but the biggest smile or grimace always came with the written assessment marks. 

A steadily improving set of marks gives me confidence and this can be related to the parent. A steadily declining set of marks could indicate problems on any number of levels. One thing that we all have in common is that we want the best for the child.

I have enjoyed meeting all the parents throughout the year as I have always come across as being genuine about the needs of their child, and the parents will respect you for your sincerity.