Junior Cycle students to write part of own reports
Students will be invited to write part of their own school reports under the latest development in the Junior Cycle reform process.
A phasing out of Christmas and summer school exams, from first year up, is also envisaged in a new paper from Government education advisers the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
The long-running row over Junior Cycle has centred on replacing the Junior Certificate exam itself, but the new document sets out plans for changes in assessment and reporting at school level throughout the first three years of post-primary schooling.
The NCCA has invited the students, parents and other education partners, such as teachers' unions and school principals/managers, to express their views before it publishes guidelines for new arrangements for in-school reporting during the Junior Cycle years in September.
According to the NCCA, there is a need to switch the emphasis from providing feedback on students in "grades, marks and percentages" to a more rounded picture of achievement.
Traditional exams are seen to be too limited to represent the full range of skills and knowledge covered in class, while reliance on marks and grades often provides "little direction or advice for improvement beyond general advice around more effort or concentration or harder work", the report states.
The changes would involve giving greater prominence to teachers' professional judgment in the reporting process through a process of ongoing student assessment.
"In line with this greater focus on ongoing assessment, schools may wish to consider the benefits of reducing the frequency of in-school end-of-term tests and use the time freed to focus on reporting student progress using the broad range of evidence ... from ongoing classroom assessment," the report states.
At the heart of the NCCA proposals is the need to give effective teacher feedback on student progress, which is regarded as providing the greatest benefits for ongoing student learning.
The paper cites Australian research that states that the most powerful single factor in enhancing student achievement is feedback.
The new reporting arrangements also aim to give students a voice in the process, with plans to leave a space in reports for them to reflect on their learning and comment on how they hope to make further progress.
While schools will have the option of retaining traditional, end-of-term exams, the NCCA report comes down heavily in favour of ongoing assessment.
When the new reporting guidelines are rolled out, the NCCA will also publish a set of standard templates that schools can use to report to parents, similar to what is already happening at primary level.
Whether schools opt to retain in-school exams or not, there will be no place on the reports for grades, marks or percentages. Instead, schools will be given four descriptors from which to select to describe a student's achievement in different subjects: 'exceptional', 'above expectations', 'in line with expectations' or 'yet to meet expectations'.
Where schools decide to use end-of-term tests, the NCCA says they should report results using the new Junior Cycle grading system: 'distinction', 'higher merit', 'merit', 'achieved' or 'partially achieved'.