Diary of an NQT: Assessment anxiety

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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The first round of summative assessments are approaching and our NQT diarist is trying to ensure she doesn’t take the results too personally...

As half-term slowly approaches, I’m currently planning my summative assessments for the majority of my classes.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was introducing myself to a group of wide-eyed students, and it is hard to believe that in this short time we have covered a good portion of the schemes of work.

When considering key stage 4, I have been having regular doubts and fears about their end of unit assessments. I am very lucky to work in a school where numbers and data aren’t the dominating rhetoric – grades aren’t enforced on students, and they are mainly kept for monitoring and teaching purposes. And as I’m sure we’re all aware, measuring progress over a longer period is becoming more valued in schools.

Regardless of this, I can’t help but see the grades my students achieve at the end of a unit as a direct reflection of my teaching. On a personal level, I suppose this is down to being still new to the profession, and this is all part of building a sense of resilience.

As I am sure it is with many other subjects, teaching key stage 4 content is a continuous battle against the clock. It has become more and more apparent that every lesson is spoken for – trying to cover all the bases of the course has been tricky and it’s hard to know how much knowledge has been embedded in such a short space of time.

Alongside this, I’m constantly second-guessing my own approaches – have I taught them correctly? Will they remember key information and methods of approach? Am I drastically different to other teachers in the department? Has anything sank in?

While using formative assessment along the way has helped to guide planning, it is hard to say for sure that I’ve been as transparent as possible and taught with full clarity. I suppose that in the coming weeks, time will tell whether the late nights and cyclical rounds of marking have actually paid off.

From a more rational perspective, I’ve told myself not to get too wrapped up in the numbers and figures. Of course, any form of assessment is important, but being over-critical of my own efforts won’t get me much further in the long run.

As an NQT, and now experiencing the “behind the scenes” of education, I have so much appreciation of the sweat, blood and tears that go into making a valuable learning experience for all pupils. I suppose that’s why seeing a positive result is such a natural source of satisfaction for me now.

However, my mentor assures me that assessments are exactly that: a measure of what the pupils know at certain times.

And at this point in the year, it’s perfectly fine if some of the pupils don’t know it all just yet. It’s also really important to consider the trajectory of learning, rather than judging a set of fluctuating grades throughout the year.

She also reminded me not to forget the responsibility the pupils have for their own learning; there really is only so much we can do as teachers. We can provide all the tools necessary, but it is their effort and application that will see them achieve what they deserve.

After all my musings over the subject, I’ve decided to use the data much more holistically and treat it as a springboard for the coming terms.

Hopefully, it will not only outline the knowledge gap of my pupils but allow me to see the strengths and weaknesses in different areas of my teaching.

From this perspective, I’m finding the stress and worry much easier to manage.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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