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SNSA's What are they - Mr T Beattie

As good a place to start as any, is with the question - where did the SNSAs come from?

The national improvement framework is a document that puts forward the plan for trying to secure education improvement in Scottish schools. Its main aims are to deliver two things, excellence (through raising attainment) and equity (with a focus on closing the poverty related attainment gap), across Scottish education. The SNSA's were commissioned as part of this National Improvement Framework for the Scottish curriculum.

The tests have a particular focus on aspects of reading, writing and numeracy and are currently carried out in P1,P4, P7 and S3. Quite recently there has been a debate and a difference of opinion as to whether the tests should be used in P1 and MSP's have recently voted to halt the tests for this age group.

What does it mean for us as teachers?

As teachers we assess everyday. Formative and summative assessment shapes future lesson planning. Assessment gives us information regarding pupil progress and helps us paint a picture so that we can give our pupils the best support for their learning. To ensure you get to where you are going it's very helpful to know where you are. Many would be of the opinion that you would be foolish to go on a hike without a map, and if you had a GPS and goggle maps, then even better it would be absurd not to use the technology!...So the questions have to be asked - Should we not strive to pinpoint the progress of our pupils as accurately as possible? Should we not seek to understand exactly where our pupils are in their learning so as to give them the support they need to get where they want to go?

The SNSA's are intended to be a tool that should help provide consistent data, data that should support teachers in making professional judgements on pupil progress and making sure pupil potential is realised.

If you have a look at the SNSA website there is a specific page for teachers and it highlights that the assessments should, 'complement the assessment information gathered from everyday learning situations, and through observation and interaction with children and young people. The SNSA will:

  • provide diagnostic reports detailing areas where children and young people have shown particular success or where they require further development.
  • help you to make decisions about the next steps in learning, both for individual children and in terms of the particular approaches used in the classroom.
  • provide you with additional information to consider when making a professional judgement on a child’s progress in achieving the relevant Curriculum for Excellence level.
CLPL - THIS WEDNESDAY LUNCHTIME - ROOM 4310 - Mr Fraser - SNSA's: using the data to inform our teaching.

The next part of this 'teaching technique Tuesday' should probably focus on how we should best use the data to inform what we as teachers do in the classroom. I however do not want to steal Mr Fraser's thunder, so please come along to the CLPL this Wednesday at lunchtime at 1320 in room 4310 as he will be speaking on SNSA's: Using the data to inform our teaching.

The fear from over assessment

Is there a fear from teaching to the test and over assessment...

There seems to be a certain amount of fear circling the SNSA's. Some teachers appear to be opposed to the tests, the main fears centre on;

  1. teaching to the test
  2. over assessment
  3. time constraints/issues

A disclaimer might need put in here. These fears may well warrant debate rather than rhetoric, as discussion is always healthy. Similarly as more good practice emerges fears usually become hurdles, the issue is, if they improve teaching, learning and the education system in Scotland as a whole then finding ways to clear these hurdles are worth the effort.

1) Teaching to the test - The thing is, the tests focus on literacy and on numeracy. Now, I am not a Maths teacher, neither am I an English teacher. However, across the BGE I am very much responsible for literacy and numeracy and educating pupils to become more adapt at increasing capacity across these areas. Therefore I should be teaching to this test every period I am in front of my pupils. If I'm not, then there is an issue.

"Competence and confidence in literacy, including competence in grammar, spelling and the spoken word, are essential for progress in all areas of the curriculum. Because of this, all teachers have responsibility for promoting language and literacy development. Every teacher in each area of the curriculum needs to find opportunities to encourage young people to explain their thinking, debate their ideas and read and write at a level which will help them to develop their language skills further." - BTC 1

2) Over assessment - Benchmarks within CfE warn of over assessment. However, as explained earlier formative assessment should abound in the classroom as it should shape the direction of the learning and teaching - summative assessment should also not be feared. The key is making the assessment useful and allowing it to be part of the learning rather than placing it in competition with the learning. Assessment with appropriate feedback of that assessment can often be a very meaningful learning experience for pupils is it allows for consolidation and misconceptions to be cleared up. I think bigger questions are raised when we think about the context of assessment, prioritising particular assessment and how those assessments are used, rather than the amount.

3) Time - Could the time used to assess using SNSA's be used more productively? Possibly. It is quite a subjective question. Could my time at the gym in the morning be used more productively? I am sure if you asked my wife, the answer might be yes, especially if I used that time to make tonight's dinner instead. Great things take time. However, as mentioned above it comes down to priorities. I personally see this as one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

For Further reading, have a look at some of the useful links below

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