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Assessing ICT

  Understanding and measuring attainment
Good practice requires that assessment should be an integral part of teaching and learning. The programmes of study are the basis for planning, teaching and day-to-day assessment. All of the Programmes of Study for ICT must be taught throughout the key stages but there is no requirement to assess every part of them.

It is important to decide which parts to assess on a regular basis (formative assessment) so that staff can decide which of the level descriptors gives a 'best fit' judgement at the end of the key stage (summative assessment). 
The other reason for making assessments is to make sure that pupils are making progress and developing their ICT capability in a systematic way. 
The current requirements are that: 
  each pupil should have an individual record which is updated at least once a year 
  pupils' progress is assessed and reported to parents every year 
  there is no requirement to report on levels at present in ICT (at Key Stages 1 and 2)
  there is a requirement to report on levels at present at Key Stage 3

Although new government papers, such as "Connecting the Learning Society" do not make explicit reference to assessment levels, there is an expectation that "there should be measures in place for assessing the level of school leavers' competence in ICT".

National expectations state that at the end of Key Stage 1 the average child will be operating at level 2, at level 4 at the end of Key Stage 2 and at level 5 at the end of Key Stage 3. If pupils were above average ability then they would be expected to work at higher levels. 

The QCA schemes of work refer to assessing pupils' work towards the end of each unit, though Learning Outcomes are clearly stated and match the intended Learning Objectives. In using these schemes it will be likely that activities will be set at different levels and the difficulty will increase. Expectations are stated for each Unit giving a broad description of what children might be expected to know at the end of the unit. For the Key Stage 3 Units these expectations are clearly linked to the national curriculum level descriptors.

  What is the least I can do to survive?
The very least that is needed is a plan for how assessment will be developed in your school. It will give those who need to know the timescale for the development of assessment in ICT and the key markers along the way 

  What can I do to thrive?
The way to thrive is to carry out your plan. Make sure that any action down to you is transferred to your individual action plan. Any action involving funding or staff meeting time will need to be raised with the appropriate person, well in advance. If your planning has been shared with senior managers at the outset, then it should be easier to get agreement when necessary. 

  Typical markers could be:
  formalising your plan for assessment based on the ICT that is actually happening in your school; make sure that each new development has an element of assessment in it to help teachers understand how work should progress through the school (see the QCA expectation statements and the attached Pupil's ICT assessment sheet of "Can do" statements) 
  becoming familiar with the level descriptors and what they mean 
  practicing 'levelling' work using examples from the children in your own class (see the key words in the left margin on the Pupil's ICT assessment sheet) refer to the national curriculum action site produced by QCA.
  sharing your experience with colleagues 
  incorporating work at different levels into your scheme of work (and into subject schemes of work to deliver statutory elements) 
  working with the teachers in your school to agree levels of ICT achievement
  working with teachers from other schools to check your judgements.

  Possible monitoring strategies include: 
  looking at teachers' planning for ICT each term and checking levels from learning outcomes 
 talking informally with teachers about what they are teaching the pupils in ICT 
  using a staff meeting or departmental meeting to look at samples of work and agreeing levels; this works well if done whilst developing a strand of ICT for a scheme of work 
  asking all staff to bring a sample of work on ICT they are comfortable with and agreeing levels
  discussing the level descriptors at a staff meeting to develop understanding of what we expect of pupils at each age.

Pupils assessing their own work: 
As children get older, and usually by Year 4 children can be involved in assessing their own work. Pupil assessment can be at a number of levels and can be supported by clear statements of learning such as shown in the Pupil's ICT assessment sheet.

'Inside the Black Box' by Paul Black and Dylan William made the points: 
"You need a culture of success backed by a belief that all can be achieved".
"It is found that pupils are generally honest and reliable in assessing both themselves and one another, and can be too hard on themselves as often as they are too kind".
"Pupils can only assess themselves when they have a sufficiently clear picture of the targets that their learning is meant to attain".

  Teacher recording:
There are numerous recording sheets around. Schools each have their own preferences from some which are very detailed to those which are very minimalistic. A number of downloads are offered based on the QCA KS1 and 2 schemes of work.

Year1assessment.doc - Provides a whole class recording sheet against the Year 1 units - the key learning outcomes of the QCA units are noted on the sheet. 
Year4pupilrecord.doc - Provides a pupil record sheet of the same learning outcomes. There are some additional outcomes because of the wealth of subject references also for this year group.
AssessmentRecordUnit3.doc - Provides a record against some, most, etc for a QCA unit.
PrimaryPupilProfile.doc - Provides a summary of all units for a pupil.

Clearly the class recording sheet is less paper intensive.
Some teachers record key information on their planning sheet. Eg John now needs to ..

  Teacher marking:
Marking is just as important in ICT and therefore some work should be printed off or you could use a digital camera to record experiences. Marking should offer guidance on how to improve.

  Determining Levels
Useful reading for an understanding of the level descriptors is on the national curriculum action site ( This site enables a teacher to collect examples of work to produce a portfolio which can be used to discuss with colleagues. These outline in simple terms what the key features of each level are, as well as describing why work fits better with one level than with another. KS1, 2 and 3 examples are provided.

It will be useful for a ICT coordinator to develop the ability to assess quickly the levels of work for their own pupils and for others in the school so that colleagues can be guided and appropriate standards set. Support group meetings with other ICT coordinators or other staff are a good way of starting discussion and practicing leveling work. Examples of activities aimed at particular levels are useful to create - such as the one below for PowerPoint. The document "The characteristics of ICT levels" is another helpful way of understanding the difference between levels. This attributes a level based on the best match to the 'verb set' that provides the closest descriptors of what pupils did to produce their work.

It is worth remembering that a level is only officially determined at the end of a Key Stage, and that judgement will be based on a broad body of work across the programme of study (and ICT strands). It is useful however to track the general range of levels that pupils are working on as they move through the key stage. A single example of ICT work is not sufficient evidence on which to award a level -although it can be examined for the 'contribution' it makes to a particular level. However, it will not usually be possible just by looking only at pupils' work to determine the ICT level because we would need to know the context of the work and the process that gave rise to the example. Hence an annotated commentary to each example of a pupil's work will be important to provide this fuller picture.

ICT is an area where the programme of study and level descriptors are not as consistent in their illustration of levels as they could be, though there are clear steps in progression in learning about ICT. It is not unusual for teachers to find it hard to reach agreement about the level of examples of pupils ICT work. Discussion about pupil work against criteria can help to clarify the level of work, but more specifically to identify what it is that enables progress from one level to another. Assessment is something that ideally needs to be planned for. It is not good practice to wait until the end of a key stage and then find that a 'best fit' is not possible because work across the ICT strands at at different levels or missing altogether.

Good questions to ask include when planning for assessment will include:
What type of activity will provide access to a particular level?
What evidence will I expect to see when pupils are working at a particular ICT level?
Will the activity allow pupils working at different levels to make progress?

  The ICT Portfolio
Many schools develop "portfolios of evidence" in a range of subjects. These form a record of teachers' understanding of standards in the subject. They can be used to assist with attributing levels to pupil's work. They can help with planning lessons that target a particular level.
Other uses of a school portfolio include having evidence of the range of pupil ICT work undertaken in a school (eg for Ofsted, Annual Review); for new members of staff and support staff to familiarise themselves with the ICT work of the school.

Pupil Portfolios
Pupil portfolios could include a range of work undertaken. Pupils might be encouraged to review their portfolio termly or at the end of the year. By keeping evidence of different areas, including work from the beginning of the year and the best subsequent work, they will be able to demonstrate progress. This work could include work undertaken at home. Many schools are beginning to keep this work electronically on the school network. The discipline of sorting work is just as important and can be a way of encouraging structured working using folders

A portfolio can also be used as evidence to show future employers or colleges/higher education institutions.


Useful Links


NCAction - a web site which provides examples of pupils' work at each level
Support for leveling work (Surrey LEA)


Downloadable files  
  The Characteristics of ICT levels
Tracking pupil levels towards national targets - spreadsheet
Pupil ICT profile recording sheet (primary)
ICT assessment record (Unit 3)
Examples of use of PowerPoint at different ICT levels
Example of progression in the computer control strand
Assessment Sheet (Year 1)
A pupil's ICT self assessment prompt sheet based on ICT Programme of Study
An assessment sheet based on the ICT strands
An assessment annotation sheet (Key stages 1-3)