USAID’s Basic Education Program is working with the MEST Assessment Division to build its capacity to improve student assessment and is introducing “Assessment for Learning to Kosovo primary schools.
“Assessment for Learning”
Most people think of assessment as testing students to give them grades or scores; but assessment can also help students improve their learning. This approach is known as “Assessment for Learning” (AfL), and the Program is introducing it to Kosovo’s primary teachers.
AfL techniques will:
- Enable teachers to better assess students’ learning in every lesson;
- Enable teachers to identify their students’ needs and plan more effective lessons; and
- Help students to engage more actively in planning their own learning.
To view video examples of Assessment for Learning in Action, please click here.
School-based Assessment Standards
Effective learning depends on having a goal to achieve. The BEP Assessment Team has helped the MEST to develop new Standards of Good Practice and an exemplar Code of Ethics for School-Based Assessment. These have been approved by the MEST; all Kosovo schools will implement them.
Meeting these standards requires new skills, so the Program has prepared a 20-hour professional development course for teachers in “Assessment for Learning”, which is an accredited element in the MEST teacher certification system.
The BEP Assessment Team developed the professional development program for teachers in “Assessment for Learning” in collaboration with eleven “Assessment Lead Schools”, the participation of these schools ensured that the course is fit for purpose.
Each of the eleven schools selected two teachers (one from the primary grades, one from the middle school) to work with the BEP Assessment Team over a six-month period. Firstly, these teachers were introduced to the key techniques of assessment for learning, which they then tried out in their own teaching. They shared the outcomes at monthly meetings. After becoming familiar with the basic techniques of assessment for learning, they were introduced to the conceptual framework of assessment for learning, and applied the approach in their schools.
These original teachers were then prepared as school-level facilitators, by means of a professional development program for learning facilitators. They then participated in developing a course on “Assessment for Learning”, based on the materials used in the regular workshops they had attended; and prepared themselves to deliver this course in their own schools.
Having completed the delivery of the “Assessment for Learning” course in their own schools, these teachers have now become the BEP’s core team of “master facilitators”. From 2012, they have played a central role in preparing school assessment facilitators in other schools and municipalities.
Two assessment facilitators from each school are prepared by the Program’s master facilitators, and these school assessment facilitators train the teachers in their school in the Assessment for Learning course. From 2011 to 2014, 17 municipalities and over 12,000 teachers have participated in Assessment for Learning courses. In 2015, during the Program’s last year, the course will be offered to additional municipalities and teachers.
Some online portfolios of the Assessment School Facilitators:
Assessing 21st Century Skills
The Program has supported the MEST in the development of 50 test-items in Albanian language and mathematics for grades 6-9, which are aligned with the new curriculum and the PISA test. The test items have been uploaded online at the BEP’s and MEST’s website and are available for teachers and wider public. Before the Program ends it will also help the MEST’s Assessment Division, to revise and pre-test around 30 items in science.
Developing a guidebook on Assessment
The Program is working closely with the MEST’s Assessment and Curriculum Department on developing a guidebook on student assessment based on the new Curriculum. The Program provided the Assessment Division with a local assessment consultant, who developed detailed guidance for teachers.
Study visits for the MEST
In 2012, the Program organized a study visit to Slovenia for the MEST Assessment Division and Deputy Minister. The officials attended a two-day workshop in the Slovenian Examination Center. Although, some sessions of the visit were dedicated to the Matura exams, the main focus of the visit was the National Assessment which is conducted for the 6th and 9th grades.
During 2014, the Program supported MEST’s Assessment Division in attending a conference on the PISA exam and its impact, which took place in Dublin from 5th to 7th November, 2014. Seven MEST officials attended 3 days of the conference where they gathered useful information for PISA testing. The study visit was aligned with MEST’s priority for 2015, which is the PISA examination.
The manual of PISA test-items
Kosovo will take part in the international PISA assessment in 2015. The Program supported the MEST Assessment Division in translating and promoting a manual of the released PISA test models. The manual is intended to inform teachers and students of the structure of the test-items, as this is the first time that they will participate in an international exam. During 2015, the Program will promote this manual through the Program’s courses and distributing the manual in the municipalities that will participate in the PISA test.
Early Grade Reading Assessment
In February of 2012 a working group was formed to draft an assessment test in reading, for students in the early grades. Three versions of the test were developed and version A of the test was decided to be tested in three pilot schools with first, second and third grade students. After the pilot testing it was decided that the Albanian- EGRA was appropriate for second grade students. In June 2012 Program used the A-EGRA test to set a baseline of grade 2 reading skills, in the study were tested grade 2 students from 40 schools. In May 2014, the second study was conducted in the same schools to compare progress from the 2012 study. A further study will take place in 2015.
As part of the efforts to improve the reading skills of Kosovo’s students, the Program developed 20 books of the ‘Bleta Punëtore’ series of graded reading books. These books, each 16 pages long, are based on stories and characters that motivate students and enable them to read with understanding from an early age. The Program also developed a set of twenty-five easy-to-make and easy-to-read “mini-books” which will build children’s confidence as readers and help them gain fluency. The books were distributed to the Program’s partner schools and included in a kit of equipment provided on training courses.
The MEST accredited an Albanian language EGRA course, developed by the Program. This course will help teachers to identify struggling readers and provide them extra support and attention. The Program has trained teachers and facilitators to administer the EGRA in their schools. In 2015, the Program will extend the training to more teachers in the Program’s partner schools.