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Assessment for learning

Overall indicative timing

Total: 3 hours
Stage 1 - 45 minutes
Stage 2 - 45 minutes
Stage 3 - 30 minutes
Stage 4 - 20 minutes
Stage 5 - 10 minutes

Brief activity outline   

This activity enables you to explore the key elements of functional skills assessment, including initial and diagnostic assessment, and supports reflection on the relationship between formative assessment (assessment for learning) and summative assessment. Effective assessment for learning is essential for learners to develop effective functional skills.

Purpose of activity and rationale   

Some English, mathematics and ICT teachers may have little experience of the formative assessment of their subject within main programme areas. In this activity, you will use functional skills progression cards to explore features of assessment for learning and its role in supporting learner progression. Modelling an experiential learning approach, you will use the functional skills self-assessment card sort and other materials to explore good practice relating to formative assessment. You will plan how to develop other resources to support functional skills assessment in your own organisation. You and your functional skills colleagues will plan how to collaborate with vocational teachers in order to embed the formative assessment of functional skills into the vocational curriculum.

Learning objectives   

Participants should be able to:

  • identify the benefits for learner progression of embedding assessment for learning in functional skills delivery;
  • design and use assessment activities and materials for functional skills based on active learning approaches to motivate and engage different types of learners;
  • plan with others to embed the initial, diagnostic and formative assessment of functional skills at appropriate stages of the learner journey; and
  • plan with others to design functional skills learning sessions that support assessment for learning and differentiation.

Resources required   

The downloadable documents to support this activity can be found on the right of the page.

  • The functional skills standards, for reference (one set of standards for each pair of participants).
  • Flip chart paper or electronic whiteboard

If available, the facilitator or participants should provide a selection of existing session plans for functional skills delivery. The exemplars listed above are provided if existing session plans are not available.

Participants may wish to have access to the internet to view online materials during session(s).

Starting points   

This activity is best introduced as a group activity, which may include vocational teachers and curriculum managers as well as functional skills teachers.

It is expected that functional skills tutors will have a basic knowledge and understanding of the functional skills standards, which they can share with colleagues from other learning programmes and curriculum managers who may have little or no knowledge of functional skills.

It may help facilitators to have access to either a paper or electronic version of the functional skills glossary during the session so that definitions of key terms can be checked or new definitions added.

If the facilitator is a Subject Learning Coach (SLC) or an Advanced Learning Coach (ALC), the activity can become a coaching or co-coaching session in which colleagues can develop a mutually supportive approach and share and learn from each other's experiences.

This activity is structured in five stages, which should be adapted, split or ordered to meet the needs and experience of participants and the time available for the CPD session.

These examples show how the structure might be changed.

  • The stages might be split and run over more than one session. If this is preferred, facilitators should ensure that a plenary is held at the end of each stage and a recap of previous stages at the start of each subsequent session.
  • Participants might explore Stage 1 independently prior to attending a group session for Stages 2 to 5.
  • Stages 3 and 4 could be carried out independently by teachers as a post-session activity and feedback shared electronically with other members of the group.
  • The facilitator may wish to distribute details of the activity, or particular stage they plan to focus on, to participants in advance of the session in order to prepare them for the activity.

The activity promotes discussion and reflection on what progression means for learners and how functional skills and assessment for learning can support progression.

Some of the extension activities may be appropriate for teachers working independently and these can contribute to the Institute for Learning (IfL) 30 hour (or pro rata) CPD requirement.

Suggested approach(es)   

This activity focuses on an assessment for learning approach in Stage 1, and uses experiential learning in Stages 2 and 3. You and your colleagues might wish to use these approaches in learner sessions.

Assessment for learning is built into all successful learning activities and has a profound influence on learners' motivation and self-esteem. The features of assessment for learning which you are encouraged to model when using the functional skills progression cards include:

  • checking learning and generating constructive feedback;
  • using feedback as an opportunity to improve by reviewing the effectiveness of your current practice;
  • contributing to a learning conversation that helps the learner identify where and how to focus their efforts.

Experiential learning supports learning by 'doing' and can help learners develop deep learning through recognising and responding to mistakes as well as successes. When using the card sort in Stage 2, and exploring other resources in Stage 3, teachers can:

  • experience how 'hands-on' learning can motivate and engage learners by making functional skills relevant for life, learning and work; and
  • make discoveries and experiment with resources in order to support deep learning for their learners.

For more on these and other active learning approaches, see the Talking teaching, training and learning cards.

New overarching professional standards   

The Standards and Qualifications team at LLUK works closely with employers and stakeholders across the UK to develop and raise awareness of standards and qualifications in the lifelong learning sector. LLUK is also responsible for developing units of assessment, which make up the new Skills for Life and generic teaching qualifications, as well as new professional standards for teacher/ tutor/ trainer education in the lifelong learning sector. For more information, go to the LLUK website.

Teachers in the lifelong learning sector are committed to lifelong learning and professional development and strive for continuous improvement through reflective practice.

The key role of the teacher is to create effective and stimulating learning opportunities through high-quality teaching that enables all learners to develop and progress.

Teachers in this sector understand:

  • what motivates learners;
  • how learning promotes the emotional, intellectual, social and economic well-being of individuals;
  • the power of relevant differentiated and appropriate learning opportunities to change lives; and
  • how to enable learners to make a positive contribution to society and influence their own development.

They also critically evaluate their own practice and are open to new approaches and ideas that help them to improve the learning opportunities of their learners. These resources are designed to support this critical reflection and continuing professional development.

Activity stages, with indicative timings

Stage 1 (45 minutes)   

  • Share the first learning objective (you will identify the benefits for learner progression of embedding assessment for learning in functional skills delivery) with the participants.
  • Share with participants that during this stage of the activity they will model features of an assessment for learning approach. They will check learning and generate constructive feedback, use feedback as an opportunity to improve their work and review the effectiveness of current practice. They will contribute to a learning conversation that will help them identify where and how to focus their efforts.
  • Ask participants to work in groups of four or five. It would be beneficial to arrange each group so that it contains an English, ICT and mathematics teacher and one or two teachers from vocational or other programmes of learning.
  • Place the Strategic issue 1 card with its associated 'lead question' cards from the functional skills progression cards on the table. The 'discussion prompts' side of the cards should be face down.
  • Ask each group to look at a different lead question and note down on the flip chart paper or whiteboard up to four or five sub-questions that would help them 'unpack' each lead question. Explain to the groups that this part of the activity uses a coaching approach that depends on asking questions rather than providing answers or proposing solutions.
  • Tell participants to turn over the cards and look at the discussion prompts.
  • Ask participants to use the prompts, along with their sub-questions, as a basis for discussion in which they might explore some solutions. Ask a member of each group to note key points on the flip chart or whiteboard.
  • Ask a representative from each group to feed back key messages and ideas about the lead question they have discussed to the whole group.
  • Ask participants to reflect on:
    • the benefits of assessment for learning for learners developing their functional skills;
    • the questioning skills needed by functional skills teachers and learners developing their functional skills;
    • how effective questioning skills are important aspects of problem-solving; and
    • how this approach, using strategy and lead question cards, could be used to help learners with the problem-solving skills they are expected to develop to be fully functional in English, mathematics and ICT.
  • Show teachers Sheet 1.1 Quick start guide to Assessment for learning. Ask them to share with other members of their group examples of how they currently use or might use the different elements of assessment for learning. At this point you might also check participants' understanding of initial, diagnostic, ongoing and summative assessment and refer them to the functional skills glossary.
  • Ask participants to reflect on:
    • how the skills and techniques identified in points 9 and 10 can be used for initial, diagnostic, ongoing and summative assessment;
    • what skills and techniques they might need to develop in order to use assessment for learning effectively with learners developing their functional skills;
    • which colleagues (such as teachers of vocational and other main programmes of learning) they might work with in order to ensure that a range of skills and techniques are introduced into their sessions to support functional skills assessment for learning;
    • how assessment for learning might improve achievement in summative assessment; and
    • how assessment for learning might support equality and diversity.

    Participants should record their thoughts in their reflection log.

Stage 2 (45 minutes)   

  • Share the second learning objective (you will be able to design and use assessment activities and materials for functional skills based on active learning approaches to motivate and engage different types of learners) with participants.
  • Tell participants that they will be modelling features of an experiential approach during this and the next stage of the activity. They will experience the 'hands-on' learning that motivates and engages learners. They will explore and experiment with resources in order to support deep learning for their learners.
  • If participants are unfamiliar with this approach, you might show them Sheet 1.2 Quick start guide to experiential learning.
  • Ask participants to think about one particular learner. This may be an actual learner they have worked with recently or know well. Alternatively, select an example profile from the 'Listening to learners' sheet provided. Ask participants to pick out key details of their learner's level and characteristics (such as lacking in trust, or being well motivated or over-confident) and describe them to the rest of the group. If this is a large group, you may ask them just to share this information with participants on their table. Note down key characteristics on the flip chart or whiteboard.
  • Ask participants to work in groups of three. One participant will take the role of the functional skills tutor; one will role play or put themselves in the position of one of their learners; the third participant will act as observer. The 'learner' should outline to the teacher and observer the level and characteristics of the learner they are representing. Participants may find it useful during this role play to take the position of a learner from a different cultural or ethnic background or with a particular learning difficulty or disability to further explore potential barriers to learning. Share the instructions for all the roles with the whole group.
  • Hand the 'teacher' in each group the five sets of Functional skills self-assessment cards and Sheet 1.3 Guidance notes for the card sort. Depending on the time available, 'teachers' should select cards from only two or three sets. For example, they might use cards from the 'Being functional' and English sets or five cards each from the problem-solving and ICT sets. Make a selection that you think is most likely to be relevant to the 'learner'. Discuss your choice with the 'learner', who should be encouraged to question or confirm your choice before deciding together on the most relevant selection.
  • Ask the 'teacher' in each pair to read the guidance notes and carry out the card sort with their 'learner'. The 'teacher' should encourage the 'learner' to take the lead in carrying out the activity.
  • Ask the observer to note down:
    • the skills needed by the 'teacher' for the activity to be effective;
    • the skills needed by the 'learner' for the activity to be effective;
    • the skills needed by the 'teacher' to assess the level of functional skills the learner has achieved;
    • the problem-solving skills developed by the activity; and
    • how well the activity identified the level of functional skills the 'learner' had assessed.
  • Ask observers to feed back to the whole group.
  • Ask participants to reflect on:
    • the functional skills used in the activity itself (for example, reading, speaking, listening or sorting skills);
    • how the activity might involve ICT (for example, asking learners to word process a list of skills or sort the skills using a spreadsheet);
    • who led the conversations within the activity: the 'teacher' or the 'learner'?;
    • how they could adapt this activity for use with different groups of learners;
    • to what extent role playing as a learner stimulated questioning or discussion on how learners can be stereotyped rather than being treated as individuals;
    • when they might use this activity with their learners (for example, during initial assessment or half way through the programme of learning);
    • the support that both the teacher and learner might need in effective questioning and affirmation skills to support this activity;
    • how an effective initial assessment will ensure achievement in summative assessment; and
    • the active learning approach in this activity and other active approaches that might be used.
  • If time allows, or if extending the activity, ask participants to work in pairs or small groups to discuss how the repurposed resource supports an experiential approach to assessment for learning. Participants may need access to the functional skills standards, or amplification of the standards, for reference. Ask a member of each group to feed back how the resource might:
    • support assessment for English, mathematics and ICT;
    • support assessment at different levels;
    • support a problem-solving approach; and
    • be amended or developed further to meet the needs of their learners developing their functional skills.

Stage 3 (30 minutes)   

  • Share the third learning objective (you will plan with others to embed the initial, diagnostic and formative assessment of functional skills at appropriate stages of the learner journey) with participants.
  • You may need to remind them of the stages of the learner journey which are listed in the discussion prompts of the functional skills progression cards.
  • Tell participants that in this stage of the activity they will have the opportunity to scan other resources that relate to functional skills assessment. Tell them that there will not be time for an in-depth exploration and that the purpose of this stage of the activity is to gain awareness of the resources and how they are appropriate for different stages of the learner journey.
  • Ask participants to work in pairs or small groups. Distribute amongst the pairs or groups copies of the following resources.
  • Ask the groups to consider the resources in terms of one of the following issues. The facilitator may wish to ask all groups to focus on the same issue, assign one to each group or allow groups to pick the most relevant. They might consider:
    • which stage of the learner journey it supports;
    • how it might inform individual learning plans (ILPs);
    • how it supports assessment for English, mathematics and ICT;
    • how it supports assessment at different levels;
    • how it supports a problem-solving approach;
    • how it could be amended or developed further to meet the needs of their learners developing their functional skills;
    • how colleagues delivering vocational or other main programmes of learning might be made aware of (or involved in) carrying out the assessment activities; and
    • the next steps in embedding initial, diagnostic and formative assessment of functional skills at appropriate stages of their learners' journeys.
  • The group may wish to use Sheet 1.5 to record comments. Each group can then in turn feed back to all participants and share findings with colleagues after the session.

Stage 4 (20 minutes)   

  • Share the fourth learning objective (plan with others to design functional skills learning sessions that support assessment for learning and differentiation) with participants.
  • Ask participants to work in their small groups to make an initial draft for a learning session that:
    • includes functional skills;
    • uses an assessment for learning approach; and
    • supports differentiation.
  • They may wish to amend or check a session plan they have already prepared or used for functional skills delivery. It is important for participants to involve (or think about how they might involve) vocational colleagues in contextualising functional skills activities.
  • Show participants Sheet 1.4 Quick start guide to differentiation. They may find it helpful to include elements from this in the session plan to support differentiation.
  • Ask participants to share additions or amendments to their plans with their colleagues.

Stage 5 (10 minutes) Plenary   

  • Ask participants to reflect on what they have learned and how they have learned it. In particular, ask them to reflect on:
    • how they can share good assessment for learning practices with colleagues;
    • who can support them in preparing and carrying out functional skills assessment;
    • how the materials and activities used in the session might be used to support learner progression;
    • how to share effective assessment for learning and active learning approaches;
    • how the materials and activities used in the session might be used with their learners; and
    • how CPD sessions on 'whole organisation approach for functional skills' and 'embedding functional skills into the curriculum' can further support assessment for learning.
  • Remind participants that it would be useful for them to record their thoughts, and any agreed next steps and their impact in their reflection log.

Ideas for extension tasks or for adapting and developing the activity   

This activity could be extended or adapted either:

  • within the session; or
  • in subsequent sessions with either learners or with colleagues for CPD.

Ideas for extending or adapting the activity include:

  • planning and carrying out assessments with learners, using activities and materials from the repurposed resources;
  • using the guidance notes to adapt or develop other KSSP or Skills for Life resources from the library;
  • facilitating or engaging in CPD sessions that explore the materials in depth and provide opportunities to try out activities and other active learning approaches;
  • organising a CPD session on functional skills to be led by a representative from one of the awarding bodies (subsequent reflections with colleagues could focus on the relationship between formative and summative assessment);
  • collaborating with vocational teachers to adapt, extend and contextualise the statements in the card sort;
  • collaborating with other functional skills teachers or teachers in vocational or other main programmes of learning to create a series of session plans that offer a coherent approach to assessment for learning and summative assessment;
  • sharing advice and strategies with colleagues on how assessment for learning can prepare learners for summative assessment of their functional skills;
  • adding to the glossary which accompanies this activity by recording any terms that arise during the session and agreeing definitions with colleagues;
  • using the functional skills progression cards on an individual basis as prompts for reflection, in line with the Institute for Learning (IfL) 30 hour (or pro rata) CPD requirement;
  • adapting the self-assessment card sort activity to use with learners who are potentially at a high or lower level;
  • revisiting Stage 2 with the same group of participants, ensuring that each takes a different role to make sure everyone experiences the activity from the point of view of teacher, learner and observer;
  • using the self-assessment cards as prompts for learners to use during a peer review;
  • working with colleagues to prepare constructive feedback for common problems in learner work, which will enable learners to move up a level;
  • working with an equality and diversity expert or carrying out research to explore how equality and diversity issues can impact on the assessment of functional skills.
  • considering e-learning approaches that might be used to give feedback. You may like to explore the electronic skills audit in the Creative and media resource, particularly the questions relating to transferable skills which can be found at http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/cam/resource/tl1/tl1mh01.php.

Teachers might ask the Subject Learning Coach (SLC) in their organisation to support them in developing their skills in using active learning approaches and their understanding of learner progression through exploring resources on the Excellence Gateway. Suggested sections of the Excellence Gateway appear in the 'Further resources to explore section' below.

Personal and group action points: reflection, sense-making and planning   

Reflections within the activity focus on:

  • the impact of effective assessment for learning for functional skills on learner progression;
  • how repurposed key skills and Skills for Life resources can support the assessment process for all stages of the learner journey;
  • how to work collaboratively to plan functional skills delivery that includes assessment for learning as well as summative assessment; and
  • how to adapt and develop resources for assessment that support differentiation.

Prompts to support this activity and the learning approaches used include the following.

  • Consider the learning approaches used within this activity and reflect on how the activity has supported you in your understanding of the pedagogies underpinning these resources.
  • Consider how you might use or further develop these approaches in your teaching.
  • Consider how other learning approaches not identified in this activity could be used to support you and your colleagues in developing greater awareness and understanding of assessment for learning and how it can support effective practice in functional skills.

Participants should record and reflect on what they have learned after completing the CPD activity, the results of which can be kept in their professional development portfolio.

When completing a record of CPD and reflection, consider the following questions.

  • What activities have you undertaken?
  • Have you reflected on the learning you have gained from these activities?
  • Have the activities and the reflection made a difference to how you teach or train?
  • Can you show evidence of this difference and the impact it has made to learners, colleagues or the organisation in which you work?

You will find more information on the Institute for Learning (IfL) 30 hour (or pro rata) CPD requirement at www.ifl.ac.uk/cpd.

Further resources to explore   

The library of resources contains a range of materials for you to explore with accompanying documents to support the use and adaptation of resources. Other sources of information and resources are provided below.

Related Excellence Gateway sections and resources:

Developing the expert learner: the learner journey:
http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/xcurricula/el/gettingstarted/learnerjourney/index.html

Supporting learner progression:
http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/progression/home.html

The 10 active learning approaches:
http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/pedagogy/introducingthe1/index.html

CPD:
http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/top/professional-development.html

Functional Skills Support Programme:
http://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/functionalskills

E-learning toolkit:
http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/elearning/index.html

CPD builder (Inclusive teaching and learning):
http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/cpd/cpdbuilder/flashplayer/index.html?wrapper_id=18


Useful websites:

Readability:
http://golddust.bdplearning.com/resources/planning_for_learning/supp_skills.pdf
www.niace.org.uk/development-research/readability

Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency:
www.qcda.gov.uk/

Functional Skills Support Programme:
www.fssupport.org/

Institute for Learning:
www.ifl.ac.uk/cpd

LLUK standards:
www.lluk.org/2799.htm

Ofqual:
www.ofqual.gov.uk

Gold dust (Assessment for learning):
http://golddust.bdplearning.com/assessment_for_learning/index.php