Press release

Teachers welcome new science assessment for 7-11 year olds which supports APP

11 June 2009

NFER has developed a powerful formative e-assessment package for KS2 Science which supports teacher assessment and Assessing Pupils’ Progress. This reflects changes in the educational landscape, with increasing demands for formative assessment which helps teachers to track progress and plan teaching.

The new KS2 Science i-nfer plan assessments have been warmly welcomed by teachers. At a time when the national Science tests are likely to be abolished, this versatile assessment helps them understand their pupils’ strengths and weaknesses.

i-nfer plan Science is an innovative e-assessment package which provides evidence to support the teacher assessment and Assessing Pupils’ Progress (APP) judgements required for periodic assessment. It completes the Assessment for Learning cycle by providing an instant snapshot of children’s understanding and detailed assessment reports with next steps. i-nfer plan is designed to be integrated in to the APP approach, by providing consistent and objective evidence validated by the NFER for teacher planning and moderation.

These assessments have been rigorously trialled by the NFER. Mrs Bridget Harris, the head at St Thomas More's Catholic Primary School in Colchester, which was involved in the trialling, said: "The children were able to do the tests independently with no adult intervention necessary. Audio support for children who found reading the questions a challenge was superb. Questions were appropriately phrased with excellent graphics so much so that the children enjoyed doing the tests and did not realise it was work!".

Cutting edge technology gives children the freedom to enter the answer they wish. The year 5 and 6 Science i-nfer plan uses free-text technology in some questions, enabling children to enter any text, without constraining them in a traditional closed answer system. This new development greatly increases the range of acceptable answers and enhances children’s engagement.

Jon Audain, an ICT advanced skills teacher at Castle Hill Junior School in Basingstoke, said: "I like the fact that the results are immediate, as this gives me a huge advantage in being able understand very quickly what the children are capable of and what they have achieved. Being able to group children into different teaching groups is really important when you have a lot of abilities in the classroom.

"The children that most surprised me were my special needs. I really like the way the questions and the voicing enabled them to show their knowledge and they did much better than I had anticipated. But importantly the challenges are completely suited across the spectrum of the class’s ability, from special needs to most able."

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For more information and for sample science assessments please go to www.i-nfer.co.uk., or contact Gail Goodwin on 01753 637159, g.goodwin@nfer.ac.uk

Notes for editors

i-nfer assessment limited is a commercial subsidiary of the National Foundation for Educational Research, the UK’s largest independent research organisation for education and children’s services.

i-nfer plan product
i-nfer plan’s innovative approach to formative assessment has several key features:

Cutting Edge Technology
The assessment engine employs natural language processing techniques to perform an intelligent search of free-text responses for computerised mark scheme answers. Like human markers, the system attempts to identify the understanding expressed in a free-text response, without unduly penalising the student for errors in spelling, grammar, or semantics. The system employs a computerised mark scheme that specifies acceptable answers (and where appropriate, unacceptable answers) for each item. In essence, the computerised mark scheme performs the same function as the paper-based mark scheme a human marker would use. Trials have shown that this engine works to an acceptable level of accuracy when used with carefully-designed questions.

Rigorous trialling
The new science assessments were developed by a team of NFER science researchers, who started by taking their ideas for questions into schools and discussing them with small groups of children. This ‘informal trialling’ in ten schools gave a wealth of information about the best questions to elicit children’s understanding and reasoning. The challenges were then trialled in volunteer schools, where over 5,000 children took them on-screen. Detailed data was collected about the ways they answered the questions, which allowed the NFER statisticians to run the complex analyses that gave rise to the profiles, scores and levels. This data gives a sound basis for the i-nfer plan reports.