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The Assignment of NC levels in Maths

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mature_maths_trainee, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    How are you really meant to do it?
    Is the grade you assign intended to represent the level at which they are 'comfortably' working (how subjective is that!), or the very maximum level you have ever seen them achieve (across a reasonably wide range of topics), or....
    I can obviously judge if a student gets a correct answer to a given level question(!). But it's one thing getting the answer correct in a supportive clasroom environment, immediately after they've been briefed and have practiced on a whiteboard for 10 mins, and for another 10 mins with a partner - but it can be another thing doing it totally alone, and not after intense preceeding practice.
    [Fractions are notorius. Many students can appear to 'do' them at the very end of a lesson - where the AfL and plenary suggests the lesson has been completely effective, and yet the next week the students are vitually back to their prior lesson's level].
    The variability in 'context' in which the assessment is made seems, to me, to be huge.
    Overwhelmingly, I see teachers just increase a students previous grade by a little, or lot - depending upon how they feel they've done - rather than in any way coming to an independent conclusion.
    Any to have student levels recorded to the nearest sub-level seems excessively precise, given the inherent inaccuracies.

    How is the system really *intended* to work, and how - best practice - should we *actually* be using it?
    I'm forming the opinion that it's largely a mechanism to make fairly innumerate, un-scientific, but managerially-inclined SLT's feel 'in control' by being able to quote figures to high precision, in the misplaced belief that they are actually accurate.
    But perhaps I'm not using the systems as well as I might.
  2. Can anyone (DM?) provide a link to official advice about not reporting so many times a year? I'm working with SMT next week to request that we report just twice a year and could do with some evidence.
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    Not really as I only saw a draft and the person who wrote it (and the entire APP team) all lost their jobs a few months ago.
  4. adamcreen

    adamcreen Occasional commenter

    my favourite ever QCA document is the one that says you shouldn't try to use sublevels so often.

    read the third bullet point on page 3:

    "It is not the intention that level descriptions (or their sub-divisions) are used weekly, half-termly
    or even termly. They are for summative assessment purposes (see section below on long-term

    you can downoad it from here
  5. Under TPCS, only required to report once per year.
    NOT required to collect data or collate reports - these are merely administrative functions not requiring the skills of a trained teacher.
    You should not be double-entering data into any system[​IMG] - for example, staff are required to enter data into departmental databases and then into whole-school databases.
    ANYTHING else you decide to do is a local agreement and these are not enforceable.
    So that puts YOU into a very strong position regarding assessment.
    Official Link ? Your Union, my friend.
  6. September

    September New commenter

    Love it. We were rewriting the school Teaching and Learning Policy and I referred to the fact that levels have become overused by my school and it is taking away the creativity of teaching mathematics. The students like to know the level of the topic they are learning but they hate being labelled with a sublevel three times per year. SLT would not buy it though.
  7. IMO
    any internal assessment done and that may have any subjectivity to it remains in the teachers mark book and goes no further.
    Anything produced for external use OR predicted grades by SLT is:
    (1) A test of concerete knowledge, not just a snapshot of what they can remember from the week before and done in a formal examination
    (2) Be marked against an objective criteria and holds up to any external qualification by another teacher in the department.
    (3) Produced for parents at the end of each full term with a %, grade and where it sits in relation to the cohort and national standards
    All qualifications that hold weight in the UK still rely on examinations. Its fine to examin pupils 3 times a year IMO in anticipation for such furture events.
    I dont think Mymaths is adequate beyond a quick bit of AfL

  8. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Hi Betamale,
    I too used to think like you suggest. But I've seen how students can drastically improve their *exam* performance in the space of just two months or so (in Year 11, in the time between mocks and their actual GCSE, for example). So their levels, as recorded by exams three times per year, can depend hugely upon how much revision each student does for the exam. Is that what we want to measure? Not me. How would it really help to know such information? (as at present it's just used to show who's 'on target', and who's 'below target'. But who the hell knows what the targets really are, or could be for any individual student?

    I'm much interested in measuring:
    i) what students have been able to comprehend or apply, at least once. [Which at least demonstrates their *potential* to do it repeatedly].
    ii) what students can repeatedly do, totally unassisted, albeit only a short time after it being taught [Which demonstrates a good understanding of the topic/method, although no indication that it has been remembered or committed to long-term memory].
    iii) what students can recall fairly consistently, quickly, and easily. Deeply embedded. (?).

    The purpose in measuring all of these is:
    i) to accurately inform future teaching, and the *nature* of the learning that needs to occur next. It's intended to be very high quality and accurate AfL.
    ii) to record the current 'maximum ability demonstrated'. Current potential, if you like.
    iii) actually help motivate the students, and to enable them to be more reflective about their learning. e.g. many claim 'not to be able to do' fractions, becuase they often forget how to do them. But if you could readily show them (from precise electronic records, and the precise related questions, that they scored (say) 7/10 on these questions last year, then they would have a very, very clear ojective to improve on that score this time it's taught again. Just about everyone will want to improve, and just about every *will* improve. I think it will be much more successul in demonstrating progress (albeit, progress of a particualr type) and so be *far* more motivational than doing okay on the practice questions, but then getting abysmal marks in an end of term exam. All they remember then is that they got their fraction questions totally wrong. They don't understand (and currently, our recording systems don't distinguish) between inability to comprehend, and inability to retain.
    I see electronic recording of results (similar to MyMaths) as an essential practical mechanism to achieve such fine granulaity recording. Even have 10Quick Question like starter activities routinely recorded and analysed in order to determine what's embedded, and what's not.
    That's my current thinking in any case.
    It's definately not mature enough for 'prime time', but I'd like to think thaty there's at least trials and research investigating such seemingly-obvious improvements.
  9. In reply to mature_maths_trianee:

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record here is what we came up with at my school, faced with much the same things as you mention.

    We were faced with implementing 'APP' in some shape or form due to pressure from the school SLT/LA, we had no real choice since our management are very draconian.

    We looked at APP and didn't really like what we saw on the QCDA website but ultimately came to the conclusion it was at heart a formalisation of the AfL process into 208 Assessment Foci.

    We bought some resources from both Modi Learning (APP Maths Toolkit) and Kangaroo maths. As you describe, we use mini-whiteboards together with slides for a quick snapshot of how pupils have done in a lesson. We also use a variety of matching exercises/puzzles to give pupils an opportunity to talk about their work. Finally we use formal written resources to assess at a later stage. Sometimes this takes the form of a 'review homework' and sometimes it takes the form of a mini test, putting several APP AFs together.

    Both sets of resources, Kangaroo and Modi have been a massive help, the particularly good thing about the APP Toolkit is that on the printed resources there are 3 separate sheets for every single AF so you can use one in class, one for a homework and still have one up your sleeve for a mini-test later on.

    In terms of arriving at a level, we agreed at a departmental level what the primary focus would be for each AF, the majority we do in formal written form, a few we use the puzzles/whiteboards to give a bit of variety and take on the spirit of APP.

    I agree totally with Betamale/DM about not using sub-levels (APP is itself not sub-levellable) and also not reporting home with such great frequency. I also totally agree with Valed about the data entry issue, we put our APP info on a departmental spreadsheet and that's it, no more data entry after that. One of my colleagues is always going on about a workload survey by PriceWaterhouse (I think it was) back in 1998 and keeps us very much on the straight and narrow as regards tasks we shouldn't have to do. I sometimes think teachers make a rod for their own backs by entering into local agreements.

    Agree with Betamale's comments on MyMaths, to me it seems to be something that has really had its day, very useful for a small number of pupils at my school but dull as ditchwater for the majority.

    I hope some of the above is helpful. We tried our best to make the most of APP and it's working out pretty well for us so far. We will still be doing NC tests at the end of the year.

  10. The e-maths website for teachers has an excellent set of colour posters which outline the requirements for each level/grade in detail. Used in the classroom as a regular part of classroom practice, it can motivate students and teachers. The difference with other sites is that progression is clearly indicatef.
  11. Are they the ones with the Venn Diagrams? If so, then I've seen those and yes, I have them on my classroom wall!

    The diagrams though don't in and of themselves aid assessment (which the resources I mentioned do) but I have used the diagrams in terms of helping pupils to see where they need to go next.

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