is Diagnostic Analysis of National Tests?
2001 a team at CRIPSAT in partnership with a team at the
in gaining the contract to carry out a diagnostic analysis of
national tests at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 (2001-2003). CRIPSAT
has carried out this work at Key Stage 2 since the introduction
of national tests in 1995. Nevertheless the opportunity to work
collaboratively with the University of Sheffield provides a welcome
opportunity to examine cross key stage assessment and curriculum
project provides the team with an opportunity to explore the ways
in which the different aspects of the scientific enquiry strand
of the national curriculum in England might be assessed across
different age groups. A key part of the project is an examination
of the development in children's scientific enquiry skills within
key stages 2 and 3.
of the Standards Report
TES, Curriculum Special
28 December 2001
reports are to get a new look to offer the feedback on national
tests that teachers have asked for.
reports are really worthy, but they're not very useful".
know what our pupils do well and badly at; what we want to know
is: what should we do about it?"
are the views of science teachers in focus groups looking at the
annual reports on pupils' performance in the national tests at
key stages 2 and 3
The feedback was that teachers wanted the reports not only to
summarise very briefly the strengths and weaknesses of a pupils'
but also to identify, summarise and stress what science teachers
should do in light of the findings. In other words, to identify
the implications for teaching and learning that arise from the
analysis of pupils' performance.
QCA heeded these opinions and the information being sent to schools
has changed. Last examples of progress and continued success from
the analysis of the tests for KS2 and KS3. These have been summarised
on two pages of the leaflet so that they make an A3 poster which
can be pinned up on boards in staffrooms or classrooms.
January, every school will receive the "new look' Standards reports.
The new look will reinforce the move from the tradition of reporting
a summative evaluation of test performance to providing feedback
on what the evaluation of pupils' assessment performance can do
for teaching and learning. At the same time, the reports will
be put on the QCA website, and this new-look version will contain
more illustrative examples.
range of pupils' understanding is often revealed in responses
to national tests. We believe these responses can yield rich diagnostic
information to inform teaching and learning. One example is pupils'
understanding of shadow formation, which most pupils will have
investigated by the end of KS2.
year, KS2 pupils were asked to: "Explain how the shadow is formed
from the light of the lamp". The most frequent response was to
state that the light is blocked. Some pupils wrote, "the chair
blocks the light"; others answered more generally by saying, "the
light is blocked". Both kinds of response gained credit, though
the general credit, although the general quality of the second
may suggest deeper understanding.
explanations that fail to gain credit are noteworthy because of
their frequency. Many lower achievers confused "shadow" and 'reflection"
either because they have not considered the features that distinguish
shadows from reflection or because they do not understand that
light may behave differently in differently circumstances. Pupils
who think of light as a static entity, rather than a floating
cloud of coloured gas, have particular difficulties in discriminating
between light images and the shapes of shadows.
frequent non-scoring response suggests that it is light shining
that causes shadow to be seen. Pupils making this type of response
understand that light has a role to play in shadow formation,
but their reasoning is incomplete, failing to mention that the
shadow results from the absence of light.
proportion of pupils revealing creditworthy understanding of shadow
formation has increased from under a half to two-thirds of successive
Year 6 cohorts since 1996. Lower overall achievers are more likely
to reveal difficulties, yet the fact that some at this level succeed
suggests there is scope fore further understanding.
this scrutiny of pupils' responses we suggest that teaching and
learning about shadows at KS2 could include a range of opportunities
for pupils to observe, make and record shadows using a variety
of objects and light sources. Encouraging pupils to observe, record
and discuss the position of the light source, the object blocking
the light, and the shadow will develop pupils' appreciation of
how shadows are formed. Asking them to explain their ideas about
shadow formation and to justify their ideas to each other is especially
helpful in developing understanding.
KS3, all pupils were asked to "draw a ray of light to show how
light from the headlamp reaches the driver so that he can see
the cyclist". Very few pupils received the full credit for this
question. Most responses indicated an understanding of reflection
and the paths of light rays but the diagrams were not precise
enough to gain full credit light rays were not straight, for
example. Some responses indicated confusion about shadows and
reflection at KS2.
most KS3 pupils were able to match the correct light path with
the correct optical object and this involved understanding transmission,
reflection and refraction. As we say in the January report: "This
indicates that pupils have a good understanding of the behaviour
of rays and optical devices but do not understand the need for
precision when drawing ray diagrams to explain optical phenomena.
" We go on to say: "Children's performance could be improved if
they had clear criteria for the use of scientific terms, accuracy
and precision in their assessed work".
criteria do not always have to be given by the teacher, they may
become an integral part of the teaching and learning. For example,
a class could use, diagnostically or formatively, past questions
from national tests
to discuss one anothers' answers, arrive at a consensus about
strong and weak answers and then compare their marking criteria
with the mark scheme.
implications for teaching and learning from an analysis of pupils'
performance has to be a sensitive job. It would be trivial and
insulting to say that teachers must teach better and pupils learn
better. The implications for teaching and learning are suggestions
about what teachers could do and not prescriptions for what they
should do. We can use our experience from this year to start to
compare and contrast across the key stages and inform policy and
practice for continuity and progression in science.
will learn more from this year's report writing and the QC's monitoring
of teachers' responses about how we can improve the use of the
national tests to develop and enhance the teaching and learning
of science. This new look Standards report and its accompanying
leaflet are a welcome development in the feedback to teachers
about pupils' performance in the national tests.