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Assessment in inclusive classrooms - Hungary

General features and pedagogical programmes of the institutions

Children House

This alternative school has worked since 1991. Its main objective is to provide a safe, naturally inclusive environment for all children, irrespective of their individual abilities, development paces and motivation for learning. In this spirit the programme has undertaken the total integration of pupils with special education needs since the school year of 1993/94. In 22-24 member groups 2 or 3 pupils with special education needs learn together with their healthy classmates. In this work teachers are helped by several permanent and if needed by travelling special education teachers.

In order to achieve effectiveness teachers in this programme use differentiated procedures of adaptive organisation of learning based on co-operation with the pupils and on their active, activity based learning. Differentiated arrangement of learning material is practised and the task and activity lines are set up continually. In the first six years pupils get personalised assessment reports in which feedback is given on their development in learning, performance as well as the development of their personal and social competencies. 

Istvánffy Miklós General School

In the school year 1989/90 the teachers of this school launched a programme of developing activities aimed at the modernisation of their school. As a result a model individual centred, comprehensive pedagogical system was created, which provided possibilities for the individual development of pupils, for catch-up programmes and support for gifted pupils. Its main features are a flexible curriculum, a well structured assessment system, differentiating adaptive organisation of learning and accurate diagnosing. 

Since 1996 they have been consciously integrating pupils with special education needs. During the adaptive organisation of the learning process they adapt not only to disabled but all pupils. This individual based, flexible organisation is the basis of successful inclusion. This makes successful inclusive education possible for pupils with mild mental disabilities (learning difficulties), physical disabilities and hearing/visual impairment. Practice shows that inclusive education is effective when the proportion of pupils with special education needs is 10 to 15 percent. In this work teachers are helped by a specialist teacher. 

Their assessment system is diagnostic, flexible and one that reveals processes. In years 1-3 there are no grades given but pupil performances are assessed in a report. As a result of more than 15 years of innovation the institution has become the basis school of the region, a scene for in-service trainings, professional visits and internships.     

Neumann János Secondary General and Technical School with advanced programme in Informatics

This school has been open since 1988. Inclusive education started in the very first years of their operation when they already accepted pupils with physical or sensory disabilities. Today more than forty pupils with special education needs (with physical disabilities, visual or hearing impairment) attend the school. According to the teaching staff the idea of inclusion was suggested by the social environment. Some of the pupils attend secondary school classes, while the others study in vocational classes.

A general principle is that the teacher undertaking inclusive education on a voluntary basis organises the lessons and testing in a way that the development of all pupils are ensured.  In this work teachers are helped by specialist teachers as well. The conscious undertaking of inclusion in secondary schools is not common in Hungary: legal regulations in force do not make it possible to assess pupils’ performances in reports. The institution adapts to special needs by using formative assessment and by the flexibility of assessment. The motto of the teachers is: a minimum of allowance and a maximum of help in all situations, in assessment as well. 

Selecting the applied assessment methods

In the assessment practice of the analysed institutions the qualifying function of assessment remains in the background. The importance of diagnostic and formative assessment is emphasised. The need for individual development, relying on positive features, and joint exploration of the causes and correction of errors characterise the presented assessment systems.  Instead of marking in the first three or six years, assessment in report form is used. The developing, formative function of assessment can be traced in secondary school practice as well within the boundaries of marking.

There is no uniform recipe for selecting assessment systems, schools themselves have to develop their own systems. In doing so existing good practices can be used as a basis but these models always have to be adapted to the aims and tasks of the given school. If the assessment concept of the school places diagnostic, formative approaches in the foreground instead of a result oriented approach, it will find the assessment system suitable for that. In searching for that system models, literature and professional co-operation can be of assistance.   

The extent of flexibility, adaptation to diverse abilities

The practice of host institutions reflect the fact that adaptation to individual characteristics and flexibility can be achieved by differentiated treatment monitoring individual needs. 

The importance of the grounding phase, the unity of the four years and the assurance of individual pace of progress are equally emphasised. Differentiation during classes, making sure that each pupil can progress according to their individual abilities and knowledge, differentiated arrangement of the teaching material and the flexibility of the borders of school years make it possible to adapt to individual abilities, i.e. inclusion.  

The practice of the secondary school also supports this. All help is there for the ‘integrated’ pupil to meet the requirements. Differentiation is present not in the content and method of assessment but in the process of acquiring knowledge and developing skills that last until testing.  

Resources available for the institutions. Professional assistance

In developing the assessment system the institutions relied on literature on the subject, learning the assessment systems of other schools and on their own experiences. They can also rely on the acquired knowledge of their teachers, on possibilities eminent in constructive thinking. It is important that feedback on the assessment practice and the analysis of the teachers’ own experiences be built on for further development. 

In developing the system for assessing pupils with special education needs assistance was given by specialist teachers helping inclusion, experts of special schools. The most recent form of professional assistance is that at the special institutions there are opportunities for in-service teacher training, for discussing and facilitating the quality and content of communication with parents, for professional and servicing work.  This shift of task was made possible by the Act on Public Education, which rules that unified special education methodology institutions can be established if this activity is carried out in the interest of pupils with special education needs. Thus the former segregated institutions can become professional centres, training and servicing institutions where professional support systems can be set up.  

Along with the shift in the proportion of integrated education, special services facilitating learning and educating are strengthening at the former special schools that have become unified special education institutions. This provides opportunities for the host institutions to strengthen the role of diagnostics, counselling development and therapy. Renewal of the practice of teaching is helped by special pedagogical services like preparatory courses for teachers, programme and tool development. 

Aims, plans of the institutions for further development of their assessment systems

In one of the schools the next task is to develop the system of assessment in report form for the Years 5-8. Feedback from pupils, teachers and parents prove that in this stage of life concrete assessment is expected instead of one referring to the level of skills and abilities improved.  Developing and piloting a criteria oriented assessment in reports type practice will be the next development task.  

In another school the assessment system is being improved to be used in skills development levels arising from the requirements of pupils with educational needs. The formerly applied tools are continually piloted and modifications are done in accordance with their pedagogical system.

By using Bloom’s taxonomy special task sheets, which are designed for testing the abilities of pupils with special education needs and take into account different development levels of thinking.  Thus the individual, general development requirements are revealed and defined in the opinion of the Expert Committee and can also be examined in addition to the degree of acquisition of subject requirements for the sake of further individual development. 

In designing task sheets for pupils with special education needs, opinions formulated by the Expert Committee are taken into account and assistance from specialist teachers is accepted. An accentuated aspect is the personal development pace of the child as it is an important aspect in the case of pupils as well learning according to the mainstream curriculum.  The task sheet prepared in this way enhances the development that makes the interpretation of and filling in the diagnostic test sheet possible for the pupils with special education needs.  

Connecting assessment to the individual development plan for pupils with special education needs

In all institutions the individual development plans comprise the basis of assessment. The assessment of pupils with special education needs is based on the contents and requirements to be met as set in the development plans. The process is characterised by diagnosing and formative assessment. In summative assessment the requirements defined in the development plans are decisive.

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