Sarah Frodsham

Thesis title: Assessment of Primary School Science: Understanding when and how effective formative assessment is being performed whilst teaching creatively for science

Start year: 2013


Supervisor(s): Professor Debra McGregor

Research topic

The use of summative attainment tests (SATs) in primary school science, at the end of key stage 2, was abolished in 2009, due to the failure to produce complete and relevant information on the performance of individual children (Harlen, 2012) and having narrowing constraints on the teachers ability to teach creatively (Harlen, 2008). Teachers are currently producing summative attainment levels by formatively assessing and judging their students’ on-going conceptual development and performance throughout the academic year (Harlen, 2012). Whilst a general consensus regarding generalised best approaches to formative assessment practice has not been established (Dunn and Mulvenon, 2009), Turner et al (2012:22) has listed some of the strategies currently being utilised. There has been attempts to aid formative judgements including the now abandoned Assessing Pupils Progress (APP) project, initially it appeared to provide consistency and confidence in teacher based judgements (Turner et al, 2012) but unfortunately due to unwieldy alignment of assessment focuses to learning outcomes the project was abandoned (Harlen, 2012; Tyler, 2013). Other assessment strategies, which appear to have their roots tentatively based in the APP framework, have been trialled and initial results looked promising; teacher’s feedback included growing confidence in assessing student learning and the ability to plan more creatively and engage the children in science (Tyler, 2013). McGregor (2012) has shown that children’s scientific learning can be more easily accessed by teachers via an open, task rich, student-orientated, pedagogical cross-curricula approach combined with the creative arts, such as those described by McGregor and Precious (2010); this method could be distinguished as an rich-insightful formative assessment strategy and may help to alleviate teacher anxiety about summative assessments being based solely on their own formative judgements, however more research is required to reach a consensus of opinion regarding what generally constitutes a good potential assessment strategy.

Academic school / department

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


  • Dunn, K. E & Mulvenon, S. W. (2009) A Critical Review of Research on Formative Assessment: The limited Scientific Evidence of the Impact of Formative Assessment in Education. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation14(7), pp. 1–11.
  • Harlen, W. (2008) Science as a key component of the primary curriculum: a rationale with policy implications In: Perspective on Education. Primary Science. London: Wellcome Trust. pp. 4–18.
  • Harlen, W. (2012) Developing policy, principles and practice in primary school science assessment. London: Nuffield Foundation.
  • McGregor, D. (2012) Dramatising Science Learning: Findings from a pilot study to re-invigorate elementary science pedagogy for five- to seven-year olds. International Journal of Science Education34(8), pp. 1145–1165.
  • McGregor, D & Precious, W. (2010) Dramatic Science: Using acting techniques to develop science process skills and passion for science. Science and Children48(2), pp. 56–59.
  • Turner, J., Marshall, S., Farley, A. & Harriss, H. (2012) Primary Science Quality Mark: Learning from good practice in primary science. London: Wellcome Trust.
  • Tyler, T. (2013) What does a responsive, child-focused planning and assessment framework for Primary Science look like? [online]. Stockport: eedNET. Available from: [Last accesed 27th October 2013].

Teaching experience

Modules taught

  • (U14525) Mammalian Biochemistry – Peer Assisted Learner: advising and guiding, stage two, university peers
  • Volunteer Classroom Assistant at Thomas Reade Primary School (September 2013–Present)
  • Classroom Assistant at an after school Maths and English club (September 2008–September 2011)

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • MSc Structural Molecular Biology (Birkbeck, University of London)
  • BSc Molecular Biology with Human Biology (Oxford Brookes)

Scholarships and prizes

  • 2013 – PhD Studentship in the School of Education: sponsored by Primary Science Teaching Trust
  • 2008 – Society for general Microbiology: Undergraduate Microbiology Prize
  • 2007 – Oxford University Press Biosciences Prize