Learning Recovery (Catch Up) and the Role of Assessment

Over the next few months, assessment will play an important role  in recovering pupils’ learning when students return to the classroom from next week. After last year’s first lockdown, EEF-commissioned research indicates that there has been, on average, learning losses for many students. Additionally, it showed the disadvantaged gap is likely to have grown slightly. At the same time, we can also explore the many positives achieved during the pandemic. From students who have thrived with new routines, solutions that have been shaped by determined teachers, and the positive relationships that have been forged between schools and home.

Crucially, teachers will seek out the actual impact of interruptions caused by the pandemic on individual students. It will be carefully calibrated assessments, undertaken in classrooms, which will offer a more accurate and complete picture of any necessary ‘catch up’ or otherwise.

Since 1998, the work of Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam has demonstrated the double impact of assessment for learning: it improves students’ scores in national tests and examinations as well as their metacognitive skills, including the capacity to learn how to learn. Assessment for learning will become a more important tool to identify gaps in learning. It is not an occasional activity at the end of a unit of work, but a complex, joint activity between teacher and student. It helps teachers identify what students have or have not achieved, while students increase their understanding of the standard expected, their progress towards it and what they need to do to reach it. All this provides information to help teachers adjust their teaching. Teachers are familiar with the elements of assessment for learning: they lie at the heart of outstanding teaching and learning.

As the talk of ‘catch up’ inevitably fades from the front pages, teachers will continue this vital work. With the renewal of relationships and routines, teachers will continue to work hard and support all students to thrive and fulfil their potential across all of their subjects.

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