Changing Levels: Making KS3 Assessment Work

Yesterday I wrote a post about how I intend to change Key Stage 3 Assessment to using a Graded system of 1 – 9. I have decided to go back to the Drama in Schools document published in 2003 by the Arts Council and build this new assessment system around the model of Make, Perform and Respond (MPR).

I’ve broken MPR down in 6 different areas:

  • Participation in and contribution to group work (M1)
  • Understanding of key terminology (M2)
  • Portraying and sustaining a role (P1)
  • Application of key terminology (P2)
  • Use of key terminology to either describe or evaluate the work of other people’s or their own work (R1)
  • Written evaluation of their own work (R2)

Each section has a mark out of 7 based on the evidence that can be seen by the teacher over a period of time:

  • No Evidence of it being done = 1
  • Very Little Evidence of it being done = 2
  • Some Evidence of it being done = 3
  • Evidence of it being done consistently = 4
  • Evidence of it being done thoroughly = 5
  • Evidence of it being done with very few problems = 6
  • Evidence of it being done without any concern = 7

The lowest possible mark is 6 and the highest is 42. The students are then ranked in order from the highest to lowest and that ranking is then converted to a Grade 1 – 9 system based on a quota established by the expected outcomes of the cohort concerned, such as this:

Grade 1 – 9 Percentage of distribution
9 7%
8 17%
7 20%
6 20%
5 17%
4 10%
3 7%
2 3%
1 0%

An example of how this evidence base might look like is as followed based on participating in group work (M1).

  1. There is no evidence that the student has participated in group work. It may be a student who deliberately isolated themselves from the group or a student with severe behaviour issues that constantly disrupting the learning of the class and group work.
  2. There is very little evidence of the student participating in group work. It may be a student who you’ve worked hard with, who normally isolated themselves from the group, but you have managed to get them to at least listen to group suggestions and participate in a very loose and non-committal way.
  3. There is some evidence of the students participating in group work. That the student may listen and be told what to do in group work but rarely contributes to a discussion (and really only does so when pushed by the teacher).
  4. There is evidence that the student contributes to the group work on a consistent basis, that although they largely listen to the ideas of others, they are able to contribute their own ideas when they feel confident and secure in what they are saying.
  5. There is evidence that the student is thoroughly contributing to group work, able to listen to others as well as contribute to their own ideas into the mix.
  6. There is evidence that the student is very able in group work, at ease with contributing ideas as well as listening and developing the ideas of others. The student can appear sometimes bossy that sometimes needs to be intervened with.
  7. There is evidence that the student is extremely able in group work, easily contributing ideas and developing the ideas of others and they are able to involve everyone in the group in the decision making process without being bossy.

Students who receive a 1 or 2 in this category, and indeed any category, needs serious intervention which is probably not going to come from within the classroom but via achievement/learning/teaching assistants, pastoral care or support from school action / school action plus.

The distinct advantage here is that there is no banded criteria with a mark range of 3 or 4 grades, here 6 marks means that the student is at ease with group work whereas 3 marks means that a student just about contributes to the group work. There is no ambiguity in the marking, students can see where they are now and consider what targets they need for progress.

When one looks at the big picture and the results from all 6 different areas, the score reflects the student’s ability far better than levels could do. Here a similar student would score high marks on M1 and M2 but lower marks on P1 and P2, thus balancing them appropriately against students who might score highly across all the criteria. Whereas, in the time of levels, a student who was really good at making drama but found it hard to perform had to have a level applied to them on the basis of best-fit but might have found themselves with the same level as the student who achieved well in both the making and performance elements.

You can download a copy of the Assessment Criteria here: Key Stage 3 Assessment Criteria

You can also download an example of a Excel spread sheet that I’ve created to demonstrate the grading process: Key Stage 3 Assessment Example

I’ve written up a few examples of students and their profiles as a way of demonstrating and standardising this.

Surname Forename Drama Target M1: Participation in and contribution to group work M2: Understanding of key terminology P1: Sustaining a role P2: Application of key terminology R1: Use of key terminology to describe and evaluate their own work and the work of others R2: Written evaluation of their written work Lesson 4 Total Lesson 4 Rank Order Grade
Student A 7 4 4 4 4 4 4 24 11 7
Student B 6 5 6 3 3 3 3 23 16 6
Student C 7 3 3 6 6 6 2 26 10 7
Student D 8 6 7 7 6 7 6 39 3 8
Student F 4 2 3 2 3 2 1 13 26 4

Student A
Student A is an all-round good student who achieves everything that is asked of them but doesn’t do it with any creativity or innovation. They will work in a group well, create a still image using different levels and appropriate body language but isn’t challenging or complex. They score 4’s across all the criteria, finishing with a total score of 24, ranked 11th in the cohort of 30 and achieved a Grade 7.
Student B
Student B works much better in group work situations and can create strong pieces of drama that uses the key terminology of that lesson well, but when it comes to perform the student falters and isn’t so confidence. They score higher in the Making criteria than Student A but overall scores below Student A with 23, ranked 16th in the cohort of 30 and achieved a Grade 6.
Student C
Student C doesn’t work very well in group situations preferring to mess around than work in their group. However they do understand the content of the lesson and the key terminology, they also perform well and have the confidence to evaluate work. This student scores highly in P1, P2 and R1 but not so well in the other areas. It is enough to give him a slightly higher score than Student A and B of 26, placing him at a rank of 10 and achieving a Grade 7.
Student D
Student D is a very strong student, perhaps a bit bossy but otherwise very strong. They score highly in all the areas and finish on a mark of 39, placing them 3rd in the rank of 30 students with a Grade 8.
Student E
Student E is one of the weakest in the cohort, they understand the key terminology and know what to do with it but lack motivation or effort to complete the work and they don’t complete any written work either. This student scores low marks across all 6 areas, finishing with a 13, placing them 26th in the rank order of 30, giving them a Grade 4.

4 thoughts on “Changing Levels: Making KS3 Assessment Work

  1. This system looks good, but I have a question – across two different classes, could a student achieve the same numerical score but end up with a different number grade because they fall differently in the ranking order or because of class size?

    1. A very good point and I don’t think I made that point clear enough in the piece I wrote. You don’t rank class by class but by the whole year group. So once the entire year group has completed a test, they are all ranked, thus any identical numerical scores become the same number grade.

      What I’ve noticed is that often the numerical scores clump around certain scores and, almost (I say almost because we are no longer allowed to use the term or idea) provide grade boundaries between the numerical grades.

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