Category Archives: Assessment

The Value of International Test Results

The positive results Irish students achieved in the recently published TIMMS and PISA results received relatively low levels of discussion in Irish media. The results appear to vindicate the general direction of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. However, whether international comparative test results are good or bad, it is important to reflect on the role such tests play in our knowledge of a country and its schools. Continue reading

Spellings 2: Children’s Error Patterns in Spellings

In tests written spellings are usually marked simply as being right or wrong. Often children correct their own tests or those of their classmates.

However, valuable information is missed when the patterns of errors are not looked at. By looking at the errors made, a teacher can analyse what underlying knowledge children are using to spell words. Continue reading

Spellings 1: The Problem with Spelling Tests

Although spellings take up time each week in most classrooms, the time spent testing spellings often exceeds the time spent teaching them.

Spelling tests are a weekly ritual in many classrooms around the country. I administered them for years as a teacher and as a child in primary school I did one each week. So important were spelling tests to one of my teachers that she used to display our weekly spelling scores on the classroom wall, and the coveted achievement of a full score was highlighted in red pen.

Spelling tests are so ingrained in the culture of schools that few question them; parents expect them and if you decide not to observe the ritual, you may have to explain why. Continue reading

School League Tables and Improving Teaching

Teacher unions are critical of league tables. When tables of college entry linked to schools were published in national newspapers last week, the general secretary of the ASTI said that “It is important to recognise that these tables do not tell us about the real performance of schools. In fact they present a shallow, incomplete and distorted picture of the work of schools.” Although many educators might agree with this view, it can sometimes be helpful to look at the other side.

Let’s just suppose that league tables are useful. At their very best, what good are they? Here are some possible benefits that I can think of. Continue reading

A better way of deciding who’s fit to be president … or fit to teach

After watching the final TV debate among presidential candidates, I have to agree with my colleague on Inside Education, Barry Hennessy, who says that the debate format is not best the best way to decide who is fit to be president of Ireland. One limitation, according to Barry, is that the order in which you are asked the questions determines how original your answer sounds to the audience and how much time you have to think of a response to a particular question. Continue reading

Repeat the Leaving Certificate in the Same Year? Probably Not Feasible

Repeat exams are taking place in many universities and colleges around the country at this time. For students who failed an exam the first time, repeats offer a second chance for students to demonstrate their knowledge in a subject area. Failing an exam the first time round is usually a sign that a student didn’t work as hard or as strategically as he or she needed to during the year. Or perhaps the student didn’t do justice to what he or she knew the first time. Continue reading