Assessment in education involves gathering, interpreting and using information about the processes and outcomes of learning. It takes different forms and can be used in a variety of ways, such as to record and report achievement, to determine appropriate routes for learners to take through a differentiated curriculum, or to identify specific areas of difficulty or strength for a given learner. While different techniques may be employed for formative, diagnostic and summative purposes, the focus of the assessment and reporting is on the improvement of student learning. To do this it must fully reflect the aim of the curriculum.
The junior cycle places a strong emphasis on assessment as part of the learning process. This approach requires a more varied approach to assessment in ensuring that the assessment method or methods chosen are fit for purpose, timely and relevant to students. Assessment in junior cycle mathematics will optimise the opportunity for students to become reflective and active participants in their learning and for teachers to support this. This rests upon the provision for learners of opportunities to negotiate success criteria against which the quality of their work can be judged by peer, self, and teacher assessment; and upon the quality of the focused feedback they get in support of their learning.
Providing focused feedback to students on their learning is a critical component of high-quality assessment and a key factor in building students’ capacity to manage their own learning and their motivation to stick with a complex task or problem. Assessment is most effective when it moves beyond marks and grades, and reporting focuses not just on how the student has done in the past but on the next steps for further learning. This approach will ensure that assessment takes place as close as possible to the point of learning. Summative assessment still has a role to play, but is only one element of a broader approach to assessment.
Essentially, the purpose of assessment and reporting at this stage of education is to support learning. Parents/guardians should receive a comprehensive picture of student learning. Linking classroom assessment and other assessment with a new system of reporting that culminates in the awarding of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will offer parents/guardians a clear and broad picture of their child’s learning journey over the three years of junior cycle.
To support this, teachers and schools will have access to an Assessment Toolkit. Along with the guide to the Subject Learning and Assessment Review (SLAR) process, the Assessment Toolkit will include learning, teaching and assessment support material, including:
The contents of the Assessment Toolkit will include a range of assessment supports, advice and guidelines that will enable schools and teachers to engage with the new assessment system and reporting arrangements in an informed way, with confidence and clarity.
The assessment of mathematics for the purposes of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will comprise two Classroom-Based Assessments: CBA 1; and CBA 2. In addition, the second Classroom-Based Assessment will have a written Assessment Task that will be marked, along with a final examination, by the State Examinations Commission.
Over the three years of junior cycle, students will be provided with many opportunities to enjoy and learn mathematics. The Classroom-Based Assessments, outlined overleaf, link to the priorities for learning and teaching in mathematics, with a particular emphasis on problem solving and communicating. Through the Classroom-Based Assessments students will develop and demonstrate their mathematical proficiency by actively engaging in practical and authentic learning experiences.
The Classroom-Based Assessments will be carried out by all students, and will be marked at a common level. The teacher’s judgement of their mathematical attainment will be recorded for subject learning and assessment review, as well as for the school’s reporting to parents and students.
Students will, over a three-week period, follow the Problem-solving cycle to investigate a mathematical problem.
Problem-solving cycle: define a problem; decompose it into manageable parts and/or simplify it using appropriate assumptions; translate the problem to mathematics if necessary; engage with the problem and solve it if possible; interpret any findings in the context of the original problem.
Students will, over a three-week period; follow the Statistical enquiry cycle.
Statistical enquiry cycle: formulate a question; plan and collect unbiased, representative data; organise and manage the data; explore and analyse the data using appropriate displays and numerical summaries and answer the original question giving reasons based on the analysis section.
More detailed material on assessment for reporting in junior cycle mathematics, setting out details of the practical arrangements related to assessment of the Classroom-Based Assessments, will be available in separate Assessment Guidelines for Mathematics. This will include, for example, the suggested length and formats for student pieces of work, and support in using ‘on balance’ judgement in relation to the features of quality.
The NCCA’s Assessment Toolkit will also include substantial resource material for use and reference in the ongoing classroom assessment of junior cycle mathematics, as well as providing a detailed account of the Subject Learning and Assessment Review process.
The features of quality support student and teacher judgement of the Classroom-Based Assessments and are the criteria that will be used by teachers to assess the pieces of student work. All students will complete both CBAs. The features of quality will be available in Assessment Guidelines for Mathematics.
The Assessment Task is a written task completed by students during class time, which is not marked by the class teacher, but is sent to the State Examinations Commission for marking. It will be allocated 10% of the marks used to determine the grade awarded by the SEC. The Assessment Task is specified by the NCCA and is related to the learning outcomes on which the second Classroom-Based Assessment is based. The content and format of the Assessment Task may vary from year to year.
There will be two examination papers, one at Ordinary and one at Higher level, set and marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). The examination will be two hours in duration and will take place in June of third year. The number of questions on the examination papers may vary from year to year. In any year, the learning outcomes to be assessed will constitute a sample of the relevant outcomes from the tables of learning outcomes.
This specification allows for inclusive assessment practices whether as part of ongoing assessment or Classroom-Based Assessments. Where a school judges that a student has a specific physical or learning difficulty, reasonable accommodations may be put in place to remove, as far as possible, the impact of the disability on the student’s performance in Classroom-Based Assessments. The accommodations, e.g. the support provided by a special needs assistant or the support of assistive technologies, should be in line with the arrangements the school has put in place to support the student’s learning throughout the year.