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Curriculum Essay

Free essay example:

Mock Parliament Assessment Task- a study of Key Stage 3 Citizenship in the British Secondary School System

Year Level of Students Completing the Task- Year Nine equivalent to Australia

Specific Dimensions to be Assessed- Key Stage 3 Citizenship, Unit One, Key Concepts- Democracy and Justice

Introduction

The importance of designing assessment tasks that are valid, reliable and fair for students is a challenging task for teachers.  There are a number of competing priorities that need to be considered, such as the curriculum frameworks and the school’s expectations. “The fact that a system which is fit for one purpose will not necessarily be fit for all purposes is a fundamental consideration when evaluating the legitimacy of proposals.” (Newton, 2007:1)

This essay aims to design an assessment task based on establishing a ‘mock parliament’ for students in a Key Stage 3 (KS3) British Citizenship class. The assessment criteria chosen and how learning will be assessed will be explained below.

Assessment Task- Mock Parliament

Background Knowledge

The curriculum framework that has been chosen for this assessment task is the KS3 British Citizenship document. (See Appendix 1a) This particular document outlines the aims of the course, its importance, key concepts and processes, and the different levels the students could attain in the subject.  As such, in my practicum I mainly focused on designing assessment tasks for the students that focused on the key concepts and the processes involved, instead of the assessment criteria.  

The students before undertaking my mock parliament task should have prior knowledge of the justice system, their role within it, and how democracy works.

Task Overview

The task aims to build on the prior knowledge of students through a role-play about how parliament works and the different stages and people involved in turning a bill into a law.  It aims to integrate across other disciplines such as Maths, English, Health and Psychical Education.

Task Outline

In order to achieve a successful mock parliament in the classroom five assessment tasks have been devised.  They are: multiple choice test, mock parliament role play, group work – writing and performance task, presentation to an selected audience including peer to peer assessment, and a reflective essay.

Each of the tasks will be briefly outlined and the justification of why they were chosen will be discussed in detail in the assessment criteria section.

Task One- Multiple Choice Test

Students will undertake a twenty question multiple-choice test. (See Appendix 1b) After students complete the test individually, answers will be shared as a class.

Homework Task- At the end of the lesson students will be set homework to research the three following issues in preparation for the mock parliament: abolishing uniforms in schools, raising the retirement age to sixty-five, and lowering the voting age to sixteen.

Teachers Notes

A homework handout listing the three issues with two articles on each topic, will need to be prepared with a couple of ‘thinking’ questions to stimulate interest in the topic.

Task Two- Mock Parliament

Students having completed the background reading will firstly, vote on the two issues to be debated as a Parliament in the class. The teacher will then assign the roles and approximately 20 have been devised. They are: Speaker, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer, four backbenchers, Opposition Leader, Shadow Treasurer, four opposition backbenchers, two pressure group leaders, two reporters and four members of the community.

The Speaker will then be giving a running order of the questions to be asked to the three main leaders of the government and the two opposition leaders. The questions will come from the remaining students in the other roles.

Once these questions have been asked, answered and debated, (the students in the main roles will have background information in front of them to help them answer) the speaker will announce that the bill has now gone to the Select Committee stage for approval.

The class will then perform the role of Select Committee and afterwards the Speaker will read out the recommendations of the committee.  

The Speaker will then ask if anyone has any objections to the bill state them now, otherwise it will pass through the House of Lords.

Once it passes through the House of Lords it will go to the King/Queen (teacher) to be signed off. The Speaker will then announce the white paper and the Parliament will then repeat this for the second issue.

Teachers Notes

The roles after the first sitting of Parliament can be rotated to give different students the chance to participate in another part.

Teachers can adapt the number of roles based on the numbers of students in the class.

Tasks three to five are activities that can be used by teachers after the conclusion of mock parliament.  They should be used to extend the students further and to encourage them to present their views to the wider school community

Task Three- Group Work- Writing Task and Oral Presentation

Students will be divided up into groups of three to four, to continue work on the two issues studied in the mock parliament task.  Firstly, in collaboration with one another each group will prepare a choice of one of three writing tasks. They are: writing a speech for the prime minister to a local community group, designing a petition, and/or writing a newspaper article. Secondly, the group must then present what they have written orally either at a school council meeting or at a year level assembly.

Teachers Notes

It is important that teachers observe informally, interactions between group members and assist where possible.

Teachers should also encourage every student to have a speaking role within the oral presentation.

Task Four- Presentation to an audience and peer-to-peer assessment

The groups will now present their written work that has been adapted to either the school council or a school assembly. The other students in the class will be judging their performance based on selected criteria. (See Appendix 1c)

Teachers Notes

Students should be encouraged to decide on what criteria they should be assessed against, if they are capable. If they are not the teacher should design the criteria for the class instead.

The teacher should calculate results and constructive feedback could then be given, to each of the students on both a group and individual basis.

Task Five- Reflective Short Essay

To finish the unit of work students will complete a short reflective essay of about 300 words. The reflective essay will focus on the feedback given about their performance orally, what the students had learnt during the assessment process, and the areas they though they could improve in.

Teachers Notes

This essay to prepare students for writing during coursework later in the unit should be timed, to begin to prepare students.

Assessment Discussion

Developing lessons based on the curriculum framework whilst important is not the only thing that needs to be considered. When designing lessons teachers should also consider why they are choosing certain tasks for a lesson and how they are going to assess them. …”The tasks set and the questions asked by teachers have to be carefully designed so that they evoke aspects of understanding which are critical indicators of learning progress.” (Black, 2001:13)  This section will provide justification as to why the five tasks were chosen and how assessment can be applied with reference to literature.  

The tasks outlined are centred on a formative approach to assessment. Students are given feedback informally throughout the assessment from the teacher and formally from their peers.  Based on the feedback students are then given a reflective essay task to evaluate the unit and their performance, to be completed within timed test conditions.

The diagnostic assessment that occurs in the fourth and fifth tasks allows the students to identify areas they are doing well in and those that they need to improve on to perform better in the future. The main reason for selecting the five assessment tasks however was that specific criteria and performance objectives could be assigned for each of them.  An assessment criteria sheet (See Appendix 1d) has been devised for the teacher to assess the students on for each specific task, including pupil performance objectives as well.

The assessment criteria sheet I have devised has been influenced by the literature I have read and my experience of teaching Citizenship classes on practicum.  For example, I developed an assessment criteria sheet when I was on placement with the help of my supervisor about the Tenancy Act.  My supervisor gave me the content that I needed to include, the outcomes the students should achieve, and the format that she had been using within the scheme of work.  This helped in the lesson because the students had defined objectives and outcomes, it meant I was able to keep to my timings in the lesson, and also assess them in different ways throughout the class.

Therefore, if we take the first criteria- does the student answer correctly and participate well in class? - I have attempted to make it well defined, so that both the student and the teacher know what is expected of them, in the multiple-choice test. In the teacher’s notes in the assessment task section, it encourages the staff member to get the students to complete the task individually and then to complete answers as a class.  By using this strategy it gives the teacher an opportunity to firstly walk around the class and see who is completing the task with the right answers, and secondly, when it comes to choosing students to answer, there is the opportunity to see who is more confident with their speaking abilities in class.  This will then give the teacher a clearer idea of which students would be better with larger speaking parts for the mock parliament role play, in the next lesson.

In addition the reason I have set a homework task with three possible scenarios of which only two will be chosen for the mock parliament debate, is to encourage the students to prepare adequately for the task.  Brookhart (2003:3) illustrates the importance of doing this by stating ‘students’ estimations of the importance, complexity, and difficulty of a task will influence their approaches to it.”  Essentially, I would also hope the students would undertake further reading in one of the topics, as it would ensure a more effective debate in the lesson.

Next, the second performance objective- participating well orally- is two-dimensional as it gives students that are not as confident with speaking in class, prepared scripts to aid them in their roles.  For those students who are more confident with their speaking abilities, it allows them the chance to showcase this to the teacher and their classmates. “The teacher’s responsibilities not only include tailoring her teaching so that is responsive to individual needs and abilities, but also… [developing] experience and expertise in making judgements about quality.” (Morgan and Wyatt-Smith, 2008:130) As such this task is tailored to the different individuals in the classroom and it should in practice produce a quality class role-play.  Furthermore, as there is a second debate, students will be given the chance to rotate the roles between them, and hopefully some of the less confident students will be able to take on larger speaking roles.

The third task encourages group work. Ideally students should be placed into groups of three or four to allow effective discussion and work to occur.  The performance objectives in this task focus on the group working well together and producing a piece of work that involves all parties contributing equally.  Thus, by having the choice of three writing and three oral presentation tasks that need to be written, it allows those students with better writing skills a chance to perform, and it fosters a sense of co-operation between pupils. As Brown and Hirschfield (2008: 5) state, “research into students’ preferences for alternative assessments shows that the assessments that have been positively evaluated by students were more authentic and thus made learning more realistic or powerful.”  This justifies why this ‘alternative assessment’ task has been placed in the middle of five tasks, as it allows the students to experience working as a group rather than continuing as individuals.

The next task allows the teacher the opportunity to use peer-to-peer assessment, which is a particular interest of mine.  When I was teaching during my school practicum the students were each given a chance to present a proposal as a group, about how to lower taxes.  Each group amazingly came up with the three dominant perspectives in politics- liberal, conservative and liberal democrats! The other students however were able to assess whether or not it was a good policy based on a short group assessment guideline pro forma.

Atara Sivan (2000) had demonstrated the importance of peer-to-peer assessment through a case study of students in higher education.  Sivan (2000:207) states however, “when the idea of peer assessment is brought into practice, the process by which it is implemented needs to be examined…so that the method may be utilised to its full potential.”  In my peer-to-peer task in the teacher’s notes, I have highlighted that the potential of the class must be assessed first, in order for it to be an effective learning tool.  If the students are more capable they should have more control over determining the criteria, but if they are not the teacher needs to design the questions for the task instead.

Furthermore, the presentation of the oral piece of work completed earlier as a writing task, gives the students another chance to demonstrate another set of skills.  Depending on whether or not the students have chosen to present at assembly or at a student council meeting, a different assessment criteria will be required by the teacher due to the audience types.  This gives an opportunity for the students in the class to in essence ‘educate’ other pupils, about current issues that are important them and why.   By presenting to an audience it allows the teacher the opportunity to determine the students level of interest in the subject, and to measure where they have come from the first task to this one in terms of speaking ability.

The final task is the written reflection piece. This illustrates why I have chosen this task, because I feel students should be given the opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge they have learnt. As Brookhart (2003:3) states, “Students’ estimations of the importance, complexity, and difficulty of a task will influence their approaches to it” These student ‘estimations’ can then be seen by the teachers in the students essays and it will also allows them to see what could have been improved in the unit.  This ‘feedback’ can then be used for the teacher in future lessons to devise assessment tasks that will cater to every pupil’s learning style.  The other main reason for choosing this task is in Key Stage Four students have to write a written reflection of 500 words in times conditions.  Thus, by beginning to introduce this type of task slowly, it will give the students an opportunity to develop their writing skills in timed conditions.

The five tasks have been chosen and placed in a sequence that allows students to use different skills and to be assessed by teachers based on their written, oral and group performances.  Thus, I have attempted to place an emphasis on criterion referenced and diagnostic assessment as being the main forms the teachers should use to assess in my tasks outlined. Both Brown and Hirschfield’s article and Brookhart’s article demonstrate that using diagnostic assessment is useful for students, as long as the feedback is relevant and constructive for them to use in the future.

The success of using criterion-referenced assessment in the classroom instead of the heavy reliance of summative assessment is highlighted by the Swedish example in Christina Wikstrom’s article (2005). The use of criterion-referenced assessment has enabled those students normally disadvantaged by summative tests such as female pupils, to perform better and improve their results. Wikstrom’s article also illustrates that assessment needs to be valid, reliable and fair, with particular emphasis on the validity.  “Validity is the most central and essential quality in the development, interpretation and use of educational measures.”  (Sanjakdar, et al, 2010:296)

As teachers we need to ensure that assessment is not only reliable, but also accurate and appropriate. This is one the hardest things to achieve, due to the fact that even I found on my practicum, that I often had too many competing priorities to deal adequately with everything expected of me.  I have attempted in this task to create five different tasks to cater for different learning styles and to provide the teacher with multiple ways to assess the students.

Conclusion

This assignment has enabled me to explore areas of the curriculum and assessment by creating my own assessment task. It has allowed me through developing that assessment task, to justify why I have chosen the criteria for which the students are to be measured.  It also taught me that assessment must be valid, reliable and fair, but students if possible should be given some input into determining the process as well.   Assessment when used correctly by teachers can be beneficial to both the students and them, however when it is not it can cause problems for those involved in the learning process.

Appendix 1a)- Citizenship Program of Study for Key stage 3

Appendix 1b) Multiple Choice Test

Please click on the link below  to view  the 20 questions.

http://tre.ngfl.gov.uk/uploads/materials/14106/law.htm

Appendix 1c) Peer-to-Peer Assessment Guidelines

Subject: Citizenship                        Name:                                Group:

For each group presentation, not including your own, award a mark out of 5 in each of the five criteria in the table.

Use the following marking scale for assessment:

1 – poor

2 - below average

3 - average

4 – above average

5 – outstanding

Criteria

Group Name

The presentation is easy to understand

The presentation outlines the issues clearly

The group works well together

The presenters speak clearly

The presentation was interesting

Appendix 1d) Assessment Criteria Feedback Sheet for Teachers

Please note the intended outcomes correspond with all tasks mentioned below.

Outcomes

Performance Objectives

Assessment Task Activities

Criteria for Assessment

Marking levels to be awarded

Democracy and Justice Key Concept One

Answer the questions correctly

Read the homework

Multiple Choice Test

Homework Task

Does the student answer the questions correctly?

Does the student participate in answering as a class?

Does the student read the information provided for homework?

Out of 20

Feedback should be given to indicate where their knowledge is with the unit.

Participating actively in different kinds of decision-making and voting in order to influence public life

Students should participate well

Orally

Mock Parliament Task

Do the students understand the role they are playing?

Do the students understand the issues they are debating?

Do the students interact well with each other?

Is there further thinking displayed?

Informal assessment to be undertaken by the teacher for future reference.

Weighing up what is fair and unfair in different situations, understanding

that justice is fundamental to a democratic society and exploring the role of law in maintaining order and resolving conflict.

Students should work well as a group in both tasks.

Group Work Task

Writing and Oral Presentation

Do the students work well as a group?

Does the writing task indicate equal work from each member?

Is the writing task completed to an adequate level?

Does the oral presentation indicate work from each member?

Is the oral presentation script completed to an adequate level?

Informal assessment of the group interaction.

Formal assessment of the students writing and oral tasks.

Marks out of 10. Give feedback to the students so they can use it in preparation for task four.

Considering how democracy, justice, diversity, toleration, respect and freedom are valued by people with different beliefs, backgrounds and

traditions within a changing democratic society.

Students are expected to present well as a group and individually.

Peers should judge accordingly.

Presentation to an audience and peer to peer assessment

Does the group present well?

Do the individuals present well?

Do the peers reflect this in their assessment?

Is the peer-to-peer assessment undertaken properly?

Is the content used appropriate for the audience?

Students are given feedback sheets compiled by the teacher from all students, listing positive and negative feedback in a constructive manner.

Understanding and exploring the roles of citizens and parliament in

holding government and those in power to account.

Students are expected to complete this essay within the required time.

Reflective essay- timed task

Is the essay clear and well written?

Does the essay reflect what the student has learnt?

Is the essay well structured?

Is the content appropriate for the task?

Students will be given a mark out of 10. These marks will be added to the multiple choice and group work marks.

List of References

Black, P. (2001) ‘Dreams, Strategies and Systems: portraits of assessment past, present and future’, in Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, London: Routledge, pg 13.

Brookhart, S and Bronowicz, D. (2003) ‘I don’t like writing. It makes my fingers hurt: students talk about their classroom assessments’, in Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, London: Routledge, pg. 3.

Brown, G and Hirschfeld, G. (2008) ‘Students’ conceptions of assessment: Links to outcomes’, in Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, London: Routledge, pg. 5.

Morgan, W and Wyatt-Smith, C. (2000) ‘Im/proper Accountability: toward a theory of critical literacy and assessment’, in Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, London: Routledge, pg 130.

Ministry of Justice Website, Rights, Responsibilities and the Justice System, (2008), Retrieved, May 24, 2010, from http://tre.ngfl.gov.uk/uploads/materials/14106/law.htm

Newton, Paul. (2007) ‘Clarifying the purposes of educational assessment’ in Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, London: Routledge, pg. 1.

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority England 2008, Citizenship- Program of study for Key Stage Three and Attainment Target, Curriculum Authority England, London

Sanjakdar, F, Webster, S and Sutherland-Smith, W (ed’s), ‘EDF4004: Curriculum and Assessment, Australia: Pearson Education Australia, pg 296.

Sivan, A. (2000) ‘The Implementation of Peer Assessment: an action research approach, in Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, London: Routledge, pg. 207.

Wikstrom C. (2005) ‘Grade Stability in a criterion-referenced grading system: the Swedish example, in Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, London: Routledge.

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