Curriculum for Excellence Building the Curriculum 5 a framework for assessment: Executive Summary
Building the Curriculum: A Framework for Assessment is one of a series of publications on Curriculum for Excellence. It supports planning, design and practice in relation to the curriculum and assessment in pre-school centres, schools 1 and colleges.
A Framework for Assessment builds on the strengths of effective approaches to assessment in Scotland developed through, for example, Assessment is for Learning and National Qualifications. It aims to ensure that existing good practice is shared, reflected upon and implemented in order to raise standards of achievement for all children and young people. It also takes account of best practice elsewhere and the findings of international research such as those in the Analysis and Review of Innovations in Assessment ( ARIA).
The purposes of assessment are:
- to support learning that develops the knowledge and understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities which contribute to the four capacities
- to give assurance to parents, 2 learners themselves, and others, that children and young people are progressing in their learning and developing in line with expectations
- to provide a summary of what learners have achieved, including through qualifications and awards
- to contribute to planning the next stages of learning and to help learners progress to further education, higher education and employment
- to inform future improvements in learning and teaching
Reflecting the values and principles of Curriculum for Excellence
The values that underpin Curriculum for Excellence inform all aspects of assessment. These values are that the curriculum must be inclusive, be a stimulus to personal achievement and, through broadening of experience, be an encouragement towards informed and responsible citizenship. 3 A coherent approach to planning the curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment is necessary. In order to gather good quality evidence of learners' progress through relevant experiences, staff 4 need a range of approaches that reflect the breadth, challenge, and application of learning and the wide range of skills being developed. To ensure that Curriculum for Excellence is a curriculum for all children and young people, assessment has to be used flexibly to meet the needs of all learners, regardless of where planned learning takes place. Everyone working with children and young people must collaborate to provide appropriate experiences and support in order to 'get it right for every child'.
What we assess
all aspects of learning
Assessment of the broad range of planned learning is required across the full range of contexts and settings in which the curriculum is experienced. These contexts include the ethos and life of the school as a community, curriculum areas and subjects, interdisciplinary learning and opportunities for personal achievement. They cover learning both within and outwith education establishments and classrooms.
Assessment will focus on the application of standards and expectations of each learner's progress and achievement in:
- knowledge and understanding
- attributes and capabilities
as detailed in the experiences and outcomes within curriculum areas and subjects and in the curriculum guidance and specifications for qualifications and awards in the senior phase.
standards and expectations
A standard is something against which we measure performance. Curriculum for Excellence has the clear aim of building on current practice to raise achievement. Standards and expectations in this context are set out for the whole curriculum in the experiences and outcomes of Curriculum for Excellence and their equivalent within specifications for qualifications. Within a level for a curriculum area, or a part of an area such as reading, the experiences and outcomes describe the sorts of knowledge, understanding, attributes and skills expected.
The expectations about progression through curriculum levels are shown in the table below.
The pre-school years and P1
To the end of P4
To the end of P7
S1 to S3 (Fourth level broadly aligns to SCQF level 4)
S4 to S6 and college or other means of study
The expectations comprise an entitlement and apply to the learning of every child and young person. A broad general education includes all 5 of the experiences and outcomes across all curriculum areas up to and including the third level. These should be experienced by all children and young people as far as this is consistent with their learning needs and prior achievements. The arrangements for assessment should enable and motivate all learners to develop to their fullest across the curriculum. Most learners will progress into the fourth level in many aspects of their learning before the end of S3, laying strong foundations for more specialised learning, qualifications and lifelong learning. Children and young people will progress at different rates: some will require additional support and may take longer for their learning to be secure at a particular level for some or all areas of the curriculum; others who achieve secure learning sooner will require more challenging tasks and a greater emphasis on independent learning to help reinforce learning and allow them to maximise their current and future progress and achievement.
assessing breadth, challenge and application of learning
Assessment approaches should help learners to show their progress through the levels and enable them to demonstrate their achievements in a range of ways which are appropriate to learning. For learners to demonstrate that their progress is secure and that they have achieved a level, they will need opportunities to show that they:
- have achieved a breadth of learning across the experiences and outcomes for an aspect of the curriculum
- can respond to the level of challenge set out in the experiences and outcomes and are moving forward to more challenging learning in some aspects
- can apply what they have learned in new and unfamiliar situations
Teachers can use these three aspects to decide when a learner has met agreed expectations and achieved a level, either in a part of a curriculum area such as reading, or in a whole curriculum area.
assessing progress and achievement in learning
Reflecting the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, progress is now defined in terms of 'how well' and 'how much' as well as learners' rate of progress. Children and young people will demonstrate their knowledge and understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities through a wide range of tasks and activities including dialogue and interactions with peers and teachers, practical investigations, performances, reports, oral presentations and discussions as well as specific assessment tasks, activities, tests and examinations. To ensure they are making progress across all aspects of planned learning, assessment will place a greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy across the curriculum, health and wellbeing, Information and Communications Technology ( ICT) and higher order skills including creativity. This approach will promote greater breadth and depth of learning, including a greater focus on the secure development of skills and knowledge to equip children and young people with the skills for learning, life and work required for the 21st century.
literacy and numeracy
Curriculum for Excellence emphasises literacy and numeracy skills and aims to develop, maintain and extend these skills. These fundamental skills are made explicit in the experiences and outcomes and developed across the curriculum. All teachers have a responsibility for their development. It is crucial that children develop these skills from the early years and sustain progress in these skills throughout their education. In assessing children's progress in literacy and numeracy, teachers will use the experiences and outcomes and the guidance in the relevant Principles and Practice papers and further guidance that will apply to standards. Applying the principles and practices of assessment for Curriculum for Excellence will ensure that the standards and expectations in literacy and numeracy are rigorously applied. It will also enable teachers to provide a robust and credible assessment of children's achievements in literacy and numeracy at all stages of their broad general education.
National Qualifications Units in literacy and numeracy are being developed at SCQF levels 3, 4 and 5. These Units will be built into English and Maths courses at SCQF levels 3 and 4, and at SCQF level 5 appropriate coverage of literacy and numeracy skills will be embedded across English and Maths courses. Those wishing certification in literacy and numeracy will be able to take the self-standing Units. These units will also be available to adult learners."
health and wellbeing
Assessment in health and wellbeing has to take account of the breadth and purpose of the wide range of learning experiences of children and young people in this curriculum area. Progression and development in many aspects of health and wellbeing will depend upon the stage of growth, development and maturity of the individual, upon social issues and upon the community context.
what we assess in the senior phase
In the senior phase, a substantial part of assessment will contribute to young people gaining formal qualifications and awards. Through these, young people will continue to develop the four capacities and the range of skills for learning, life and work. The Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA) is the national awarding and accreditation body for Scotland and is responsible for the next generation of National Qualifications and other qualifications and awards. Other awarding bodies and professional bodies, such as ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network), the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards Scheme and City & Guilds, also offer qualifications and awards.
Principles of assessment
As with all aspects of Curriculum for Excellence, assessment practices should be seen from the perspective of the learner. Learners should be engaged in all aspects of assessment processes and be afforded an element of choice and personalisation in showing that they have achieved the intended outcomes. As learners move through the curriculum, they will experience a range of approaches to assessment. From the learner's perspective, assessment will begin in pre-school by focusing on personal development and feedback with experiences built around the developing child while in addition at the senior phase young people will experience assessment practices which lead to qualifications.
Assessment practice should follow and reinforce the curriculum and promote high quality learning and teaching approaches. Assessment of children's and young people's progress and achievement during their broad general education to the end of S3 will be based on teachers' assessment of their knowledge and understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities, as described in the experiences and outcomes across the curriculum. Assessment practices in the next generation of National Qualifications will be aligned to Curriculum for Excellence.
Assessment needs to support learning by engaging learners and ensure appropriate personal support to enable them to gain as much as possible from their learning. Assessment has to be fair and inclusive and allow every learner to show what they have achieved and how well they are progressing. It is important that the information coming from assessment is able to show the breadth and depth of learning. Assessment also has to involve high quality interactions and motivate learners and provide high quality feedback.
When we assess
Teachers assess constantly as part of daily learning and teaching. They get to know their learners well, build up a profile of their progress, strengths and needs and involve them in planning what they need to learn next. From time to time teachers also take stock of their learners' achievements and progress in order to be able to plan ahead and to record and report on progress. This is vital in ensuring that learners' progress is on track and that action is being taken to address any problems at the earliest possible point. Taking stock of learners' achievements and progress is particularly important at transitions.
How we assess
Assessment involves gathering, reflecting on and evaluating evidence of learning to enable staff to check on progress. Teachers need a range of assessment approaches to assess the different types of achievement across the curriculum. This range allows learners to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do.
It is essential that staff use evidence of learning from a broad range of contexts to check how a learner is progressing and that learning is secure. The evidence will be different depending upon the kind of learning being assessed, the learning activity and learners' preferences about how to show what they have learned. Evidence will come from day-to-day learning as well as from specific assessment tasks, activities, tests and examinations.
Judgements about children's and young people's learning need to be dependable. This will mean that assessments are valid and reliable. Assessment approaches should be proportionate and fit for purpose: different forms of assessment are appropriate at different stages and in different areas of learning. It is important that an overview is taken across all learners' assessment experiences to ensure breadth, balance and coherence in approaches. It is also important that arrangements do not place excessive burdens on learners and teachers which divert their time and effort from learning and teaching.
Children and young people learn in a variety of settings, supported by a range of partnerships. Recognising, assessing and recording their achievement needs careful collaborative planning on the part of all those involved. Learners do best where staff concerned develop in partnership a shared understanding of the aims of learning and the standards and expectations across the curriculum.
Ensuring quality and confidence in assessment
developing sound judgements through sharing standards
Curriculum for Excellence aims to raise standards of achievement for all at 3 to 18. This requires us to have effective quality assurance and moderation processes in place.
Quality assurance in education is part of the day-to-day work of pre-school centres, primary, special and secondary schools, services and local authorities. Staff use a wide range of activities to ensure that high standards are maintained and outcomes improved for children and young people. These include monitoring, self-evaluation and planning for improvement. Since assessment is integral to learning, teaching and the curriculum, these quality assurance processes apply equally to assessment.
Where assessment is for high stakes qualifications and certification, particular safeguards are required to guarantee fairness to all young people and to provide confidence to parents, colleges, universities and employers. SQA has a range of well-established quality assurance procedures in place for its qualifications. Rigorous and robust procedures will also be important as part of the broad general education and in particular at points of transition in order to ensure the reliability of information shared about progress and achievements.
Moderation is the term used to describe approaches for arriving at a shared understanding of standards and expectations for the broad general education. It involves teachers and other professionals, as appropriate, working together, drawing on guidance and exemplification and building on existing standards and expectations to:
- plan learning, teaching and assessment
- check that assessment tasks and activities provide learners with fair and valid opportunities to meet the standards and expectations before assessments are used
- sample evidence from learners' work and review teachers' judgements
- agree strengths in learners' performances and next steps in learning
- provide feedback on teachers' judgements to inform improvements in practices
Moderation helps to ensure that there is an appropriate focus on outcomes for learners. Teachers' participation in moderation activities is a highly effective form of professional development.
Verification is one of the range of quality assurance measures used by SQA to confirm that assessment tasks and activities provide learners with fair and valid opportunities to meet national standards in qualifications.
Scottish Government, education authorities and other partners will work together to build on local and national practices for quality assurance and moderation of assessment. The aim will be to achieve consistency in standards and expectations and build trust and confidence in teachers' judgements. Education authorities and national partners will work together to develop the most efficient and effective approaches possible for quality assurance and moderation.
The approaches outlined below build on recent international research and development work, as well as recent work in Scotland as part of Assessment is for Learning and National Qualifications.
At school level, teachers need to have opportunities to discuss and share expectations across the curriculum with a view to achieving consistency. These expectations also apply more widely at associated schools group/cluster level, and in colleges and other providers, where examples of standards and expectations can be shared, particularly in key areas such as literacy and numeracy. Exemplification material will help to make standards and progression clearer and support reliable assessment.
External moderation will focus on the judgements teachers make and on internal moderation practices. Education authorities will have a key role in ensuring that schools have suitable arrangements in place to support teachers' judgements and focus on any action required for improvement.
SQA, working with key partners, will ensure that standards and expectations for National Qualifications are consistent with the values, purposes and principles of Curriculum for Excellence and that they take account of the breadth, level of challenge and application of learning. SQA will provide external quality assurance for National Qualifications to help achieve high quality and consistency in assessment judgements and quality assurance practices within schools, colleges and education authorities. SQA will continue to use a range of resources to support assessment practice and will also work with schools, colleges and education authorities to ensure that appropriate quality assurance of internal assessment of qualifications is taking place.
supporting assessment through exemplification and CPD
The Scottish Government and national partners are working together to ensure that support and exemplification materials provide advice and guidance on learning, teaching and assessment that encourage creativity and embrace the principles of Curriculum for Excellence. Staff will be supported by continuing professional development and a new online resource - the National Assessment Resource - which will provide guidance, assessment materials and illustrations of performance and learners' work to support the development of consistent standards. The Scottish Government, Learning and Teaching Scotland, SQA and Scotland's Colleges will work together on support for assessment and qualifications.
Reporting on progress and achievement
Reporting has two main purposes. Firstly, it provides clear, positive and constructive feedback about children's and young people's learning and progress, looking back on what has been achieved against standards and expectations. Secondly, it creates an agenda for discussion between learners and those teaching and supporting them about their next steps in learning.
involving learners, parents and others
Parents will get the regular information about their children's strengths, progress and achievements to which they are entitled. They should be informed about any gaps in their children's progress and ways that they can help.
describing progress and achievements
Parents will get information about their children's progress in achieving the Curriculum for Excellence levels in key areas of learning, such as literacy and numeracy, as well as performance across the curriculum. To help parents support their children's learning, it is important that teachers share full and open accounts of each learner's progress. At particular points - especially at points of transition - teachers will work with children and young people to sum up achievements through profiles. These will include summary statements of progress within and through the curriculum levels, as well as progress towards qualifications in the senior phase.
giving an account of learning at points of transition
Effective transition arrangements should ensure that progressive development of the four capacities is clearly recognised. Transfer of clear information about each child's or young person's progress, achievements and support needs is necessary. Information on progress and achievements should provide a valid and reliable account of the amount and quality of learning as concisely as possible.
recognising and accrediting achievements
Learners' achievement relates to all aspects of their planned learning. It includes their achievement in relation to national standards and expectations in the broad general education and in the senior phase, including in National Qualifications, and their progress in becoming successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
Informing self-evaluation for improvement
The framework of quality indicators set out in How good is our school? and Child at the Centre provides a focus for reflecting on professional practice for improvement in schools. 6 It is important that staff in schools reflect on a wide range of sources of information. They need to have readily available valid and reliable performance data to help to identify areas of strength, aspects which prompt further questions and scope for improvement.
Each framework of quality indicators provides a focus for reflecting on professional practice for improvement. Staff should be able to reflect on a wide range of sources of information. They need to have easily available valid and reliable performance data to help to identify areas of strength, aspects which prompt further questions and scope for improvement.
giving an account of success at local and national levels
It is important that Scotland has a comprehensive system for reporting against standards and expectations. Such a system provides information on achievement of individual learners and at class, school, education authority and national levels. It should be aligned fully with the purposes of learning and provide information on performance which can be compared with local, national and international benchmarks.
Within the context of Curriculum for Excellence, benchmarking at education authority and national levels should:
- prompt reflection on practice
- be based on a broad range of valid and reliable information
- use tools and exemplification available through the National Assessment Resource and moderation practices
- relate performance to that of young people with similar needs and backgrounds in other schools and authorities
It is important that schools and education authorities recognise the particular purposes of assessment instruments and use the information emerging from assessment appropriately, within the boundaries for which they were intended. Through improved assessment practices and benchmarking, education authorities will have moderated and nationally-benchmarked information about the performance of learners to assist them in meeting their statutory responsibilities including to secure improvement.
In addition to individual reports on the progress of the child or young person, parents will receive information on: how well all learners and particular groups of learners are achieving; the performance of children and young people in the school in relation to expected levels at particular stages in key areas such as literacy and numeracy, for example through the school handbook; and how the school is applying national standards and expectations, for example, in the school's annual standards and quality report. In relation to National Qualifications, SQA will report on learners' achievements through the Scottish Qualifications Certificate.
Schools and colleges should be able to provide an open and transparent account of how successful children and young people are in their learning and of the establishment's areas for improvement. These accounts will be based upon self-evaluation and will include consideration of the nature, population and context of the school or college. The accounts will contain a range of information on learners' progress and performance, a narrative about how well the establishment is performing and a description of how it intends to improve the achievement of its learners.
As part of inspections, HMIE will report on the effectiveness of improvement through self-evaluation and make recommendations where practice needs to be improved. HMIE will aim where practicable, to include at least one school in every group of associated schools within its inspection programme in any one year and will review the arrangements for moderation within that group of schools. This will support, promote and extend the quality and rigour of the moderation processes undertaken in schools and across education authorities and ensure regular national coverage.
The Scottish Government will develop a process to enable sharing of information about learners' performance at school level to enable schools to use benchmarking information. It will not collate or publish aggregate information nationally. The Scottish Government will also work with education authorities and other partners to develop processes for sharing assessment information so that education authorities can use the data to learn about the work of their schools and, where appropriate, to support improvements in aspects of provision.
monitoring standards over time
The revised Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy will be fully aligned with Curriculum for Excellence and will sample learners' achievements to measure standards over time and to monitor national performance in literacy and numeracy at P4, P7 and S2. Scotland will participate actively in international surveys of achievement to compare the performance of our children and young people with that of their peers in other countries. The findings of all such national and international studies will contribute to guidance and advice in the National Assessment Resource to help achieve better outcomes for all learners.