What is triangulated assessment and how can it best serve SEND pupils?

18 Apr 2018

by Tracy Edwards 

In Social Science, the term triangulation is used to refer to the use of a range of different methods, to source information for research. For example, a sociological study into the lifestyles of teachers post-retirement might look at a combination of questionnaires, interviews (and/or observations of mid-week leisure activities!). Triangulated assessment therefore is the use of a number of different approaches to support our evaluations of how a pupil is progressing: what their achievements are, and what their next steps might be to enable further development.

For pupils with Special Educational Needs, triangulated assessment can lead to deeper personalisation of learning: It means that very specific assessment systems which address particular barriers to learning, can be used alongside more generic ones.  For example, a Key Stage 1 pupil on the Autism Spectrum with a diagnosis of Moderate Learning Difficulties may be supported to access aspects of the National Curriculum Programmes of Study, yet simultaneously also benefit from assessment based on the ‘SCERTS’ assessment tool http://www.scerts.com. A pupil with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties at Swiss Cottage School may be assessed through a combination of  P-Level descriptors, personal learning intentions and/or developmental milestones such as those outlined in the ‘Routes for Learning’ framework: http://learning.gov.wales/resources/browse-all/routes-for-learning-assessment-booklet/?lang=en

Triangulated Assessment is by no means a new idea.  The DfE 2010-11 Progression Guidance on maximising the progress of pupils with SEND emphasised that its data was “one of a basket of indicators” Triangulation however, can often be viewed as the collection of more evidence and professional opinions to give more validity to a particular assessment judgement (ie: having several photocopied pieces of work to “prove” that a pupils is working at a P4).  The term “basket of indicators” however implies that authentic triangulated assessment is so much more than this, and is instead about extending the variety of assessments, adding to the multiplicity of “ways in” to a young person or child.

Another benefit of triangulated assessment is that it can refine a teacher’s professional judgement.  In my own professional experience, the use of a single assessment approach (such as P-Levels or GCSE assessment criteria) can shift the practitioner focus away from the actual pupil: Administrative tasks associated with teaching the next thing on a list of standards, (and evidencing against them) becomes seen as “the job” and time is spent demonstrating progress, rather than evaluating it.  A combination of different assessment approaches however, gives teachers a healthy distance away from procedures, and brings them closer to the heart of teaching and learning: They are in a better position to interpret data, based on their own reflections, dialogues and observations, and return their focus towards children and young people. Surprisingly, triangulated assessment can also save time with each form or system of assessment being much “lighter” and not relying on the onerous evidence trails that are associated with reliance on a dominant single assessment.


Assessment in Special Schools: Three Learning Walks

We are working with two other Teaching School Alliances (Oxfordshire TSA and Berkshire TSA) to provide a series of three “assessment-without-levels” events. One ticket will enable participants to visit three Outstanding special schools throughout the summer term, to explore how an emphasis on “small data, big steps” has driven assessment innovation for different cohorts of SEND pupils. More details can be accessed here.

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