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Please send an e-mail to ian dot lynch at the ingots dot org with your e-mail address if you want to be put on the mailing list for baseline testing. Please spread the word because the more that take part the better the data will be. 

What is the aim of baseline testing?

What we are trying to achieve is a measure of current knowledge and understanding at a particular point in time and how that knowledge and understanding progresses for that person over time and for the nation as a whole.  From a secondary point of view, what do learners bring with them in Year 7 and how has that developed at the end of Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 10 and Year 11?

We start with a common exam based on the KS3 Program of Study which has quite an overlap with the KS2 POS. This means if we use the exam at the beginning of Y7 and at the end it will give an idea of what has been learnt throughout this year. By administering the same exam to a large representative sample of the population we can determine whether or not any individual is not only making absolute  progress as in scoring higher at the end of Year 7 than at the beginning or in relation to the rest of the cohort. This is the starting point and therefore a baseline test for incoming learners. 

Progress monitoring

If we extend this principle to Year 8, the end of Year 7 test is then the baseline for year 8. We produce a new exam for end of Year 8 that covers a wider range of the program of study and shift the difficulty up a bit. Repeat for Year 9.  Year 10 and Year 11 will be taken care of by formal qualifications. If we have cohort data, whenever you put a student into the test we can give you immediate feedback on their cohort position. 

In the first instance, we can use the same test for Y7, 8, 9 and even 10 because none of these learners has yet been subject to the new national curriculum. If we then use the same test at this point we can get an idea of the differences in knowledge and understanding of each year group gained from general exposure to technology and not specifically to being taught Computing. Let's say Y8 was on average 5% better than Y7 and Y9, 5% better than Y8.   In say 5 years time we do the same again and Y8 is 10% better than Y7 and Y9 10% better than Y8 we can see that 5% of the improvement is due to the teaching because the baseline only produced a 5% difference and now it is 10%. Of course if the Y7 score goes up 10% the accumulated effect by Y9 is this 10% plus 20% or 30% overall.  This is all a bit simplified to give you the idea rather than detailed accuracy of the maths which we will develop and build into the system.  All we need to start with is the raw data and the ability to feed back your student details to you (confidentially) in the context of the total.

All of this is voluntary and free so teachers can contribute as much or as little as they want but the more data we get from wider sources the more reliable it will be. The highest priority is to test new,  students coming into Y7 this September, but it would be really useful if it was possible to test  current year 7, 8, 9 and even 10 before the end of this term because it is a unique opportunity before a new subject comes on-line which doesn't happen very often. 

Using multiple choice tests

The idea with the exam is to be able to spread the candidates out right across the attainment range with the assumption that there is likely to be strong correlation between the outcomes of these exams and the final formal qualifications. MCQs have the advantage that they can be computer set and marked and done on-line so this removes most of the administrative bureaucracy and has a minimal impact on teaching as well as reducing the support costs. There are some downsides in that some aspects of learning are less well suited to any paper exam never mind MCQs. However, the progress in knowledge and understanding in the key aspects that need to correlate with formal academic exam performance are likely to work so the cost reductions and convenience outweigh other considerations. For those that want additional progress measures related to progress through the program of study using coursework we do have a solution. (See below) The exam itself has 50 questions some of which should be answerable very quickly and some will need time to work out.  An hour should be sufficient. We will not put a rigid time limit on the exam just recommend you give about 1 hour. Really we don't want time pressure to distort results or put any of the learners under an more stress than absolutely necessary but there will be time tabling constraints. We need teachers to keep the exam secret but there are no "points" or other pressures associated with this so we feel it is safe to trust teachers' professionalism in this.

Coursework monitoring

First thing to stress is that all of this is voluntary, no-one has to do any more of it than they think is valid for them in their school. The now discredited national strategies did have some good features. They allowed formative assessment methods to be incorporated with summative reporting but the snag was complicated bureaucracy. So the strategy here is to keep the best bits but without confronting the teacher with an administrative nightmare.

We have a set of assessment criteria which are the basis for setting the progress exams. They are derived directly from the NC POS for KS3 and they have been accredited in Level 1 qualifications by Ofqual and approved as high quality for performance points by the DfE. This gives us as much confidence as we are likely to ever get that these are "nationally validated".  If we track a learner's progress through these over the 3 years of KS3 we are monitoring their progress in gaining competence across the programme of study. So the simplest case is for the teacher to put S for secure against each of the criteria as the teacher makes that judgement for each learner. Apart from anything else it shows that the statutory requirement to cover the POS has been met. Baseline evidence for OfSTED. 

We provide you with the technology to do this simply and for free in the on-line mark book that is associated with registering your students for the on-line test. Just go to the assessment link on the left of the main (blue) menu bar, click on your group, computing, level 1 and then the unit. Here you can put S against any criteria that are secure, "H" for higher (ie the learner is operating at a higher level than this, or "L" for lower. You have some evidence but not enough yet for a judgment of secure. 

Of course you could just do this in a spreadsheet, the reason it is like it is is that if the assessor clicks the request award button, we can ask for some evidence samples and it then becomes an accredited unit certificate.  With all 3 units and a grading test similar to the progress tests it becomes a full points scoring qualification. All of this is entirely optional. You can simply use the progress tests and criteria for your own formative purposes for free.  You can copy the criteria into your own systems if you find these more convenient. If you want your students to get the qualification, there is a cost because we have to have and income to sustain the technology in the longer term!

….and there is more. 

On the INGOT learning site we have a full evidence management and progress tracking system where learners will already have had an account set up in order to take the on-line exam. If the learner submits their evidence here and self/peer assesses they can link this to the assessment criteria.  When the teacher logs in the system will list all new evidence from learners awaiting approval. All you need to do as the teacher is approve it (or adjust the self-assessment) and tell the learner what they need to do next. If you approve self-assessment, the criteria in the mark book will be automatically up dated, you don't need to log back in to enter the Ss against the criteria. We have also made it so you can approve self-assessments  automatically from a mobile device when walking around the classroom. The system keeps track of all the submitted assessed, returned work, the dates and comments. There is progress tracking built in so you can track progress through criteria and/or units and produce reports. Again, the system is designed for flexibility so you can use as much or as little of this as you like. It is all free and built on open source software. The only point of payment is if you want TLM to externally quality assure the work for qualifications and there is no requirement to take up the qualifications so you can use all the other facilities for free if you want to.

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