Developing a toolkit for assessing young people’s oracy
(spoken language skills)
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to help young people develop their abilities to use spoken language effectively. Employers commonly say that members of their workforce, especially those engaged in creative activities and customer-related roles, need well-developed skills in communication and collaborative problem-solving. They want people who can make clear presentations, work well in teams, listen properly to people and solve problems collaboratively. Moreover, these are the skills that equip young people for full participation in the democratic processes, and life in general. If it is accepted that schools should be helping children to develop such skills, then teachers need ways of monitoring and assessing the oracy skills of their students in a classroom setting so that they can aid the development of these vital skills.
These materials will provide a toolkit for assessing how well children of 11-12 years old can use spoken English for different purposes and in different contexts. This age group corresponds with the first year of secondary school in most schools in the UK (and in many other countries), and one reason for focusing on this age group is so that teachers can make an initial assessment of their new intake as they arrive in school. Teachers will build up an ‘oracy profile’ for their students specifying their strengths and weaknesses and planning ways of helping their students develop their skills. The same students could be assessed again, at the end of that school year, to see the areas in which they had made progress. The toolkit is designed for assessing all students as speakers of English, and not just those for whom English is a second language.
The toolkit consists of a set of initial tasks, a set of curriculum-embedded, assessment-for-learning (AfL) tasks, for use throughout the year and a set of end of year tasks, together with a system for assessing performance on these tasks and giving feedback to the children. We have aimed to make the use of the toolkit as flexible as possible, so that teachers can use any or all of the AfL tasks at any points in the school year, with any number of children, depending on the circumstances within a school.
Most previous tools for assessing oracy have focused on particular kinds of task or situation. This toolkit differs by being based on an Oracy Skills Framework which specifies the various skills young people need to develop to deal with a range of different talk situations. The framework has been developed by drawing on available existing resources and research, and in consultation with a range of experts.
We have trialled the tasks and assessment schemes with children and teachers in secondary schools in England, and used those schools to generate video exemplars of children performing the various tasks.
The Education Endowment Foundation with School 21