Using Plickers to assess for Mastery

My TLR role is currently leader of KS3 achievement. A position and challenge that I will blog about in more detail at a later date I am sure.

One of the current challenges since national curriculum levels have been abolished is assessing and reporting at KS3. Lots schools have taken different approaches to this and all have positives and negatives. The reporting aspect again is a topic that I will blog about later however I wanted to explore what I have achieved in the Science classroom.

If you are not familiar with life beyond levels that I suggest you spend 14 minutes to watch National Curriculum: Tim Oates on assessment. Oates (2014) in summary claims:

  • Children negatively label themselves using levels
  • Levels encourage undue pace to achieve maximum progress and so have not mastered key material
  • Teachers rely too much on levels to label progress and ability when they mean different things – students were moved on too soon as they best fitted a descriptor however they could still have gaps in their understanding.
  • Too much emphasis on pace

 After watching the video I suggest reading the following article from.

From my understanding of what Oates and Quigley and others have written it was then my understanding to assess progress from this we need:

  • More low stakes testing
  • Clear objectives/programmes of study/key skills and statements from which students can be assessed to.
  • A tracking system – PLC
  • methods of questioning students to assess their understanding of statements

I decided at this point to use plickers (a free app) and a spreadsheet covering their science KS3 curriculum such as this PLC. (I also use this method at GCSE level)

For each statement I have written 2 to 5 questions on plickers which can then be used to test students understanding. The amount of questions the student gets correct leads to a RAG rating. Plickers, allows spreadsheets to be easily produced from data collected during sessions this can then be

Other methods which I use to assess progress that can influence the tracking sheet  include other low stakes testing such as:

  • MWB starter questioning
  • more 1 to 1 questioning to gage in depth understanding
  • statement/skills focussed homeworks
  • more mini quizzes
  • more hinge questions
  • and the assessing & marking of books

All of this can then influence the PLC spreadsheet that looks like this…

wiscreenshotSome of the advantages of the this include:

1) Easy to track, monitor and implement interventions.

2) Make report writing easier

3) Target setting for students is simple and effective

4) Homeworks can be differentiated to target students weaknesses

Some disadvantages and issues I am currently trying to address (if they can be) include:

1) Time – it doesn’t take a great deal of time to convert plickers to excel and RAG rate in the system but it is still time and really needs to be completed soon after.

2) How often do you assess after you have moved on from that topic do you reassess? If you get your whole cohort green (mastered) by mini quizzing and low stakes testing would they be green   3 months later.

3) If they are not green what do you do? how long should you spend trying make a student green? is it a case of giving up lunchtimes and afterschool with groups of students or giving them tasks to do in their own time. How is this monitored? when are they retested?

4) another name for mastered – I hate it! nothing is ever truly mastered is it?






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