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Solutions that have been successfully applied at No Bell for many years involve a departure from marks and behavioural conditioning, from summative (numerical) ways of measuring pupils’ progress. Self-assessment and peer assessment play a major role in our practice. On the basis of assessment criteria received from the teacher, pupils review and assess their work by themselves, give one another guidelines and advice, comment on their classmates’ assignments presented during lessons. Thanks to these forms of evaluation, they understand their schoolmates better and learn mutually to teach one another. They develop their ability to produce verbal feedback and present in ways that show respect for the other person and his or her work. By learning to reflect on their work and assess it, children and teenagers begin to participate more effectively in the learning process and become responsible members of the school community. Everyone has the right to make mistakes. Mistakes are inseparable from our life and choices. What is important is being able to recognise our errors and teach ourselves and others how to avoid them in future. By introducing formative assessment / descriptive feedback at school, we stop stigmatising children, who are no longer discouraged from learning by stress and fear, begin to understand their mistakes or failures and learn to cope with them.   Summative assessment in the form of marks / grades reinforces habits and behavioural patterns that have negative influence on learning and motivation. Such a way of checking knowledge can lead to: - low and inadequate self-esteem, dissatisfaction and disappointment with oneself, a feeling of dejection; - morbid competition between pupils; - loss of internal motivation; - the development of the syndrome of habitual helplessness and inability to act independently.   Summative assessment – as its very name suggests – only sums up, without providing guidelines and clues as to the directions and manner of further development. Numerical assessment is also purely conventional and relative – a fact painfully reflected in the experience of children who, with the change of address and school, realise that their old teacher’s B or C is by no means the same mark for their new teacher.
Research undertaken by Nancy Ryan-Wenger, Vicki Sharrer and Kristine A. Campbell has produced interesting conclusions: Children aged 7 to 12 consider sitting on school tests as the most stressful situation in their lives. Tests are followed on this list by: homework, being laughed at, and getting poor marks. Of these four main stress factors, three directly result from the assessment of pupils’ progress. From the very start, children see school as a place where they are judged and controlled. The assessment situation generates fear and anxiety. The German psychiatrist and neurobiologist Manfred Spitzer rightly concluded that fear is detrimental to learning. Fear favours one specific cognitive style, which helps perform simple mechanical procedures, but interferes with making mental connections and free associations. Assessment is a major element of the learning process. It can either inspire or destroy motivation, depending on how it is designed.