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Making assessment a positive experience for young learners

Mahesh– Mahesh Srivastav, Regional Director, South Asia, Cambridge Assessment International Education

In India, Cambridge Assessment International Education offers the Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary curriculum for students aged 5-14. With Cambridge Primary schools can provide a broad and balanced education for their learners. Cambridge Lower Secondary typically for learners aged 11 to 14 years, helps schools prepare students for the next step of their education.

Learners in primary and lower secondary schools are enthusiastic, open to new experiences, and less conditioned to think in a certain way. They are naturally curious, enjoy sharing their ideas with others and are keen to demonstrate what they can do. For all these reasons, the
introduction of classroom-based assessments at this age can be an exciting and positive experience.

When schools create the right teaching and learning environment and introduce assessments as an integral part of the teaching process, then learners do not see tests as anything other than part of their learning journey. Encouraging learners to view assessments positively – as
opportunities to demonstrate their skills and knowledge, and to discover how they are progressing – allows them to develop and improve. This continuous progress is highly motivating and rewarding for students.

There are many ways to assess learners at primary and lower secondary stages, but a good balance of continuous (formative) assessments and end of course (summative) assessments are generally considered to be effective.

Formative assessment
Formative assessment takes place regularly in the classroom – it’s how teachers evaluate understanding and monitor progress, whether that’s through questioning students and providing ongoing feedback, holding informal classroom quizzes, or testing regularly throughout the year.
If tests are used, they should be designed and presented to be accessible for the learners to help minimize unease around taking tests. At Cambridge International we provide assessments for 5 to 14-year-olds called ‘Cambridge Progression Tests’. These tests are taken in the classroom environment – so they are seen as part of the normal teaching and learning process – and can be used at a time that is convenient and appropriate to each school.

Cambridge Progression Tests are marked by teachers and the marks are entered onto a portal that provides the school with useful performance data. Teachers then use the data to identify the strengths and limitations of their students, allowing them to have meaningful discussions
with learners and their parents. The reports can give helpful pointers of the next steps for both teaching and learning.

These formative tests can also serve as end-of-stage assessments, allowing students to move effortlessly from one stage to the next. It is recommended that these tests are clearly sequenced with the curriculum, allowing students to gain knowledge and build skills that will
prepare them for the next step of their educational journey.

Summative assessment
The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate learners’ performance at the end of the course. At Cambridge International, we offer summative assessments for 5 to 14-year-olds called ‘Cambridge Checkpoint’. They are taken at the end of primary and end of lower
secondary, providing a clear picture of each student’s performance before they move onto the next stage of education. The reports shared with schools include performance data by strand and sub-strand level of the curriculum. The schools are also provided a ‘Statement of
Achievement’ for each learner. Schools and parents very much value the comprehensive reporting and the externally validated results and statement of achievement produced by us.

Within the classroom, the information from such reporting can also benefit reviews of teaching strategies either of the whole curriculum or specific areas.

A continuous learning journey
Learning, teaching, and assessment should be a journey in which the teacher and student are continuously discovering where they are so that they can be challenged to take the next steps.

Formative assessment provides a continual and positive interaction between the teacher and the learner – helping ensure that young learners don’t develop anxiety around testing. Young learners also respond well to the opportunity to assess their own progress in the classroom,
and this can be used to good effect.

External summative assessments serve as a validation of the teaching and learning that has occurred. They complement teachers' own evaluations, allowing them to feel more confident in the expectations for each age group and in their own abilities to assess their students
effectively and reliably.

It is important to use both forms of testing because students, particularly those at primary and secondary levels, are often capable of much more in the classroom than they are allowed to display in one assessment format By assessing learners responsibly at a young age, we can help them develop a lifetime passion for learning and give them the opportunity to fulfill their potential at every stage.

Also read: Looking for an Early Years programme? Why you should choose Cambridge Early Years

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