Researchers are increasingly focusing on the role of assessment in teaching practice, not only to measure learner progress, but also to enable it, allowing teachers to accurately identify the needs of their students and tailor their plans more efficiently. The importance of selecting the right assessment program is therefore paramount and has led to a growing demand among teachers for evidence about the effectiveness of different assessment programs.
In response to this thirst for research Oxford University Press conducted an impact study into its flagship assessment program, Oxford Literary Assess.
Oxford Literary Assess is a suite of print and online tools for gathering and managing reading assessment data, based on rigorous research and trialling, allowing student data to be gathered and analysed to identify individual learning needs. The program was implemented at Lalor Gardens Primary School in Melbourne in 2015 to improve the consistency and reliability of its assessment system.
In February 2016, six teachers and senior leaders at the school were invited to participate in a series of in-depth interviews, investigating their experience of using Oxford Literary Assess. During the interviews, teachers discussed how the program had impacted their teaching practice and helped them to develop their learners’ reading ability.
The staff who participated were positive about the impact of Oxford Literacy Assess on their school. They highlighted four key ways in which Oxford Literacy Assess had supported them in developing their learners’ reading ability
- Understanding learners’ support needs
All of the interviewees felt that Oxford Literacy Assess was a powerful tool for formative assessment that allowed them to identify individual learning needs. According to one teacher, using Oxford Literacy Assess made it “much easier to track a student and pinpoint their needs”.
“Oxford Literacy Assess is my go-to place. Doing the online reading records has been really beneficial in terms of consistency with other teachers. When kids are moving through reading groups, to go back and to see the records all there without having to go through papers makes it much easier to track a student and pinpoint their needs.” Heidi, Foundation teacher
- Providing instructional strategies to address individual and group learning needs
The teachers interviewed said that the data gathered using Oxford Literacy Assess was used to support the formation of guided reading groups by instructional need, placing students into groups based on the results they obtained in the reading records. As one teacher mentioned, “the information is really useful because it helps us set our focus for the group”.
- Increasing professional knowledge and learning
All interviewees felt that Oxford Literacy Assess had helped improve teacher knowledge and judgement, including literacy instruction and the ability to track and report on progress. This, in turn was perceived to have a positive effect on learners.
“It’s fantastic to have all the data online that you can refer back to throughout each student’s schooling.” Amy, Foundation team leader
- Facilitating planning and reporting
Two senior leaders mentioned that using Oxford Literacy Assess had supported the school’s ethos of evidence-based planning and had become crucial to the planning and reporting activities. Oxford Literacy Assess has established an accurate baseline of student achievement at the school level.
Senior leaders in the study felt that Oxford Literacy Assess had a more robust comprehension component than their previous method of assessment and “provide[d] a truer indication” of what assessment texts at a particular level should be.
“The assessment results from Oxford Literacy Assess corroborate our NAPLAN and On Demand Testing results, showing that the data we have now is more streamlined and accurate compared to the data from our previous benchmarking system.” Cassandra Hoggins, Assistant Principal
This impact study demonstrated not only the importance of adopting a considered approach to assessment but also the benefits that Oxford Literacy Assess can have on teachers and students in a real world context.