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Features of best assessment practice - Cyprus

Assessment practice in inclusive primary classrooms has been examined against the backdrop of (a) the stated multi-cultural and inclusive dimension of educational policy in Cyprus and (b) ongoing educational reform requiring a shift in the role of school units and in the role of teachers within their classrooms.

Learner-centred instructional approaches and assessment methods that are designed to monitor the progress of each pupil towards his/her own learning and development goals have been highlighted as reflecting best practice.  

It has been noted that best practice is facilitated in school units where the head teacher is knowledgeable and experienced and has the confidence to lead, to inspire, to motivate, to coach, guide and support colleagues and to empower them to adopt learner-centred attitudes, approaches and methods. In such schools head teachers play a key role in facilitating a positive and helpful learning climate for teachers as well as pupils and in facilitating teacher-learner interaction and teacher-parent co-operation.  A case example of such a school unit is Meniko Elementary School in the Nicosia district which has been described in more detail elsewhere.

Best practice highlights

Role of teachers:

  1. Flexibility and variety in methods of assessment. Teachers exercising autonomy and independence in choosing methods of assessment that will help them gather information about each pupil’s learning and development needs and in monitoring their progress towards the attainment of their individual learning goals. Sources of information may include not only oral and written tests but also observations, interviews, and samples of work, individual files/portfolios, class record books, home-school books, and teacher-parent consultations.
  2. Avoidance of exclusive reliance on quantitative information. Creative use of descriptive / qualitative records of each pupil’s development in all areas, including personal and emotional adjustment and not just attainment of lesson goals.
  3. Teachers being allocated out-of-class time for providing individualized support to pupils who need it. In this way class teachers are in a better position to assess needs in further detail, to design strategies for help, to motivate pupils and raise their self-esteem, to monitor their progress and to provide feedback to the pupils and their parents.
  4. Teacher-parent consultations and more generally pro-active partnering with parents and others in helping each pupil achieve to their potential, with the participation of pupils themselves in such consultations, to talk about positive and negative experiences and what they find helpful or not. 

Role of Educational Psychologists (EPs):

  1. Adoption of a preventative rather than interventionist approach in schools through systematically pursuing and developing a partnering role with the school. EPs offer guidance and support to the school in facilitating and promoting learning and development in all their pupils and in all areas.
  2. Adoption of contextual/ environmental/social/adaptation model of assessment and intervention rather than strict medico-psychometric model.
  3. Use of a wide variety of methods of psycho-educational assessment including observation, interviews, psychometric measurement, questionnaires, exercises, projective and other techniques, multi-disciplinary team meetings etc. EPs observe the pupil in many contexts, in and out of class, in organized and free play, alone and with peers or significant others, in school and at the EPS offices.
  4. Involvement in ongoing, continuous process of assessment alongside teachers, parents and pupils themselves.
  5. Supporting teachers in assuming an active, leading role in the assessment of individual needs, in the drawing of individualized learning plans and in monitoring the progress of each pupil in their class. 

Policy that supports best practice

The role of Law 113(I)/1999 and the District Committees for Special Education and Training:

  • Mandates interdisciplinarity of assessment both through the composition of the District Committees themselves and also through the appointment, by the Committees, of multi-disciplinary teams of professionals to conduct diagnostic assessments of pupils with SEN.
  • Regulates the development of the pupil’s Individual Education Plan (I.E.P) so that every effort is made to ensure that pupils are fully involved in all school and class activities.

The contribution of The Mechanism for Identification and Support of Pupils with Learning and Emotional Difficulties (2004): 

Special mention was made of the Mechanism for Identification and Support of Pupils with Learning and Emotional Difficulties (2004) as an innovation introduced by the Ministry of Education and Culture during the school year 2004-2005 as it became increasingly apparent that referral procedures to the District Committees for Special Education and Training (Law 113(I)/1999) would have to be internally regulated.   The guiding principle of such regulation was the empowerment of class teachers and their school units to assume responsibility for the learning and development of all their pupils within a multi-cultural, inclusive setting.  

Within the framework of the Mechanism, good practice is reflected in the following:

  • a process for the assessment and support of pupils over time is institutionalized;
  • the leading responsibility  in the process is delegated to the school unit and particularly to the class teacher;
  • the partnership between teachers and parents is also institutionalized; 
  • best practice is reflected in the involvement of the pupil itself in the process (triangular partnership model of assessment institutionalized) 

Furthermore, other features of assessment policy that support best practice are the following:

  • records must be kept
  • teachers have the flexibility to prepare their own means of assessment, according to the needs of teaching and the abilities of the pupil
  • there are no regulations for public examinations or assessment for promotion from one grade to another.  Thus, pupils with SEN are not forced to drop out of school if they cannot succeed, or repeat a class
  • teachers are autonomous to choose the methods of assessment that they consider the most appropriate in each situation
  • teachers must have a 40 minute parents-teacher consultation meeting every week.
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