Assessing the Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities

Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities are part of the minimum statutory requirement for all pupils at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 and they are a statutory part of the revised assessment procedures.

In the context of the Northern Ireland Curriculum, diagnostic and formative approaches are relevant when considering the assessment of Thinking Skills & Personal Capabilities (TS & PC). This is because pupil progress in TS & PCs is unlikely to be linear, and might be uneven during the development of skills and capabilities. Pupils may reach a plateau in a particular aspect of a skill and not make further progress immediately. For example, they may acquire mastery over one aspect of a skill but when confronted with a new type of problem or one set in a different context are unable to apply it.

Pupils can only make sustained progress through practice and by repeatedly applying the skills they have learned in a range of contexts and at increasing levels of challenge and demand. Pupil progress in skills and capabilities is therefore more likely to be cyclical than linear.

Assessing pupil progress in the TS & PCs should be formative and diagnostic. Teachers should assess pupils to ascertain:

  • what skills they have acquired;
  • the extent to which they are secure in those skills; and
  • the extent to which they need to consolidate skills before encountering new material.

This should only occur once teachers have taught the skills and given pupils opportunities to demonstrate them. A combination of teacher observation, pupil peer evaluation and self-evaluation can provide a picture of where the pupil has developed a degree of mastery in the skills.

To be able to assess skills, teachers must ensure that pupils have:

  • opportunities to apply them; and
  • time to reflect on their performances.

Teachers should regularly observe pupils using these skills to form an impression of how well they can demonstrate them.

Even where teachers have planned an assessment opportunity to focus on a particular skill, pupils’ performances will typically demonstrate a blend of skills. To assess progress, the teacher must know the pupil and use subject expertise and professional judgement.

The outcome of this type of assessment is not a measurement of the skill. It is a diagnostic check to see where the next development is likely to come from, and how best to guide the pupil towards it.