How I… use formative assessment to inform progress and planning in Primary RE – Laura Harris

“FEEDBACK” A word used near continuously in my school setting for the last couple of years. We have attended feedback conferences, held staff meetings, changed processes and discussed with parents. But, almost all of the conversations we have are around feedback for learning and progress in English and Maths.

“ASSESSMENT” A word that invariably comes up in every single staff meeting or local network session for RE I have taken part in. Despite often feeling quite daunted or negative about assessment processes in RE, there is no doubt teachers are consumed by the need for guidance and clarity on the issue of how we assess RE learning effectively in our classrooms.

So quite recently I have tried to join the dots and try out some of the great ideas on effective feedback for learning, to support a more useful system for assessment in RE. Despite the fact that there is definitely a place for summative judgements and recording of progress is still required for most of us in primary RE, unsurprisingly many teachers would agree the most effective tool in assessment for learning in RE is formative assessment. Just as we do confidently in English and Maths, we must identify what the key objective for learning is in an RE session and identify how we will know what the children have achieved and where to take them next.

The starting point must be a clear long/medium term aim. This may well be a strong question for enquiry, forming the learning journey for a given unit of work. Then, clear steps must be in place for how pupils will travel along this pathway. For some, this might include a knowledge organiser or other planning document to identify factual knowledge, questions for discussion and resources/content to build up to answering the question. Maintaining this focus throughout the unit of work is key, in order not to attempt to drown the children in unnecessary content along the way.

Then in each session, a key skill, piece of knowledge or question can be focused upon. A decision can be made on how we will know how pupils have done today. This might be reflection on a piece of writing (not necessarily marking of it though…a discussion for another day); notes on group or class discussions; quizzes or exit tickets; thought bubbles or creative work – the possibilities are endless. The teacher can take the work, books, tickets etc and quickly judge what each pupil has achieved today. Work can be grouped, names highlighted on a list, or quick notes made on a planner. Now we decide what is needed next – content of the next lesson, continuation of the piece of work, or  questions tailored to each of the groups. Planning next steps is responsive to the feedback given by the pupils today, and we offer feedback to them through the expectation and planning of the next session.

Most of these ideas seem so obvious, because as teachers we are skilled already in assessing learning continuously and deciding what to do next. But, my experience of conversations with subject leaders and classroom teachers of primary RE is that we rarely consider transferring these skills into RE. I hope in reading these suggestions, more who haven’t yet considered these approaches might try and simplify their content and apply what they are already so good at, instead of worrying unnecessarily about time consuming and often unhelpful summative systems of assessment for RE.

 Laura Harris South West Regional Ambassador



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