RM Compare – Oxfordshire schools successfully pioneer a new method of collaborative assessment and moderation
Church Cowley St. James is a two-form entry school in Oxford, with nearly 500 children. There are 45 different languages spoken by children representing 48 different nationalities. Approximately 30% of the children are on a Special Educational Needs register. The school had taken a leading role in local partnership moderation. However, this was logistically challenging in terms of bringing together different schools, and whilst each teacher would bring a few examples of work, they were from different writing tasks making it difficult to get a true idea of what “good” work looked like.
Church Cowley head teacher Steve Dew was looking for a more impactful way of assessing written work, supporting improvements in writing, and developing easier methods of collaborating with other local schools. He decided to work with RM Results to pilot its new digital assessment solution: RM Compare. The pilot, led by Church Cowley St. James School, brought together 14 previously unlinked primary schools to work together on assessing writing tasks by Year 6 children. The pilots ran from June 2018 until July 2019.
"It has reduced the teacher workload hugely – most of our teachers now leave school at half past four and don’t take any books home. The time that we used to spend marking, we can
use more strategically – planning and delivering the highest quality of learning in the classroom.”
- Steve Dew, Headteacher, Church Cowley St. James School
- To find a valid and reliable way of assessing writing that would give a true idea of the standards of writing across the whole partnership, and benefit all the teachers and children in the school.
- Develop a way of using the RM Compare sessions to inform formative assessment, by enabling teachers across the partnership to see a wide range of anonymous writing from outside their school.
- Reduce time spent marking and improve the impact of time spent using professional judgements with colleagues, improving the quality of writing across the school/partnership.
- The adoption of a different approach to assessing writing in each school, that helps to reduce subjective opinion and bias.
- The logistical, time-consuming challenges of getting schools together, to collaborate on the assessment and moderation of writing.
- To find an easy and reliable way of marking work across a large cohort of schools, as well as creating a consistency of writing tasks across the group.
- To provide teachers with a comprehensive overview of the standards of writing across multiple schools, enabling everyone to establish “what good looks like”, whilst reducing their workload.
RM Compare is a new interactive digital assessment solution from RM Results. It is designed to enable an easy and flexible approach to formative assessment and collaborative learning.
The cohort of 14 schools each set the same task for their Year 6 children – a written narrative based on a video stimulus. Instructions were sent to each school on how to administer the test to ensure fairness and parity. Each school had a week to carry out the writing assessment, and then a week to make their judgements. RM Compare shows teachers two anonymous pieces of work side-by-side on a screen, and the teacher judges which of those best meets the simplified assessment criteria. The ACJ technology uses a unique algorithm to intelligently select and pair pieces of work based on previous judgements, displaying similarly ranked work side-by-side. The intelligent pairing reduces the time it takes to accurately place a piece of work on the professional consensus rank order it then generates.
The trials found that teachers could evaluate children’s performance in different styles of writing at a much more granular level. This helped to boost children’s attainment, and aided strategic lesson planning: for example, if other schools were receiving higher marks for descriptive writing, a teacher would know to focus efforts on developing this competency in lessons. Using the tool for formative assessment has led to increased attainment for children in their writing tasks.
Following the successful pilot, Church Cowley St. James School has completely transformed the marking of written work. The traditional book marking process using a formal mark scheme for writing tasks has been replaced with the use of RM Compare to assess writing across Years 1 – 6, ten times a year. The whole school approach to formative assessment adopted by Church Cowley St. James School has now expanded to include five schools in their local area, using RM Compare has allowed for greatly improved moderation. Schools collaborate by using the same script, prompt and writing task, rather than trying to compare different tasks set by each school. It avoids discrepancies or unfairness where some children may have received more modelling, or different scaffolds. Each piece of work is independent, and so the judgements made are truer, and schools receive an on-going understanding of the expected standard in writing, and are working together to raise their attainment levels.