Karen Collins CEA

What is your current role and background in educational assessment?

I am an Educational Consultant working with several different organisations, schools and trusts. My role included the writing of primary and secondary resources as well as proving training for teachers.

Why did you decide to complete the CEA course and assignment?

A firm understanding of educational assessment forms a fundamental part of my role so I sought a suitable qualification that would provide me with the grounding I needed. The CEA course not only covers the research behind assessment it also asks you to put it into practice in the form of a case study. This evidence and practice approach appealed to me, as did the opportunity to achieve Chartered Educational Assessor status.

Had you already completed the Certificate/Diploma in Educational Assessment?

I completed the qualification in one go over a year, rather than completing the certificate or diploma separately.

What did you like about the course?

The course was grounded in evidence, delivered by engaging trainers with an excellent understanding of the principles behind assessment. I have a particular interest in the use of multiple-choice questions in assessments and they were able to direct me to relevant and interesting recent research.

Briefly describe the context and focus of your CEA assignment

My portfolio focused on the secondary part of a 3-19 Roman Catholic school. On the outskirts of a city, the proportion of disadvantaged and special educational needs and disability (SEND) pupils at the school was similar to the national average, but it had over 40% of pupils who speak English as an additional language (EAL). Since the removal of curriculum levels in 2014, the school had experimented with different systems for assessing and reporting at key stage 3. The school was working with a School Improvement Consultant on a School Improvement Plan (SIP) to aid the transition from an Ofsted judgement of Inadequate. One focus of the SIP was to create a more clearly specified approach to assessment through clear assessment policies leading to a robust assessment process. My role was to act as an external agent, to investigate and analyse the approach currently in place and provide a in written review for the School Improvement Consultant and Senior Leadership Team (SLT).

The Assistant Head Teacher (AHT) in charge of quality of education raised concerns about the understanding of assessment amongst the faculty leads including: its purpose, what it should look like and how it links to the curriculum. There is also a concern regarding the link between assessment data and target setting, including determining what is useful for teachers, parents, senior leaders, and students.

I found that there was general confusion amongst the subject leads about the purpose of the assessments and how to covert them to the scale for reporting home to parents. There was a lack of consistency between departments in terms of the multiple-choice questions, students were being over-prepared for assessments, some assessments were being marked without mark schemes being available and there was a lack of consistency between markers.

I produced an action plan alongside the AHT in charge of assessment and coached them through the changes which needed to be made, including staff training. The impact on the school assessment procedures at KS3 was significant with the School Improvement consultant noting the significant impact the process had on the AHT:

‘*AHT* has created calendared points before and after next academic year’s summative assessments have been completed, for line managers to meet Faculty Leads. These are designed for talking about the quality of the assessments themselves. Did it test what you expected to test? How do you know? What are the next steps? There is a recognition now that this is a process rather than a one-stop-shop. A significant change.’

How has the course benefitted you / your employer / students

The qualification has given me both the background and the confidence to look at assessment structures critically. It helps me to ensure that any assessments I write are purposeful and appropriate for the role they have in the assessment structure. The portfolio in particular, has provided me with the perfect grounding for evaluating assessment structures in schools, ensuring any support I provide leads to positive, sustainable change.

Why would you advise someone else to do this qualification?

This course provides you with an excellent understanding of the research behind assessment, but also its practical application.