Communicating CAT4 results

Teachers have told us that it is often difficult to find the time and opportunity to explain CAT4 results to teaching colleagues. They fear this may seem burdensome or imply that additional work needs to be done. The development of new and refined reports for CAT4, including the individual narrative, makes this process easier and enables teachers and students to benefit from the additional information and recommendations arising from the testing process.

Students, parents, governors and other professionals involved in supporting children may also find an understanding of CAT4 results helpful.

However, the use of reports can be further enhanced by knowledgeable users discussing CAT4 results and, in doing so, ensuring that the key messages are tailored to the audience so that everyone has a clear understanding of the results and their implications.

Successful communication of CAT4 results has a number of common elements, whatever the audience. These are outlined below.

Build on existing knowledge and understanding

For communication to be successful it must build on the listener’s current understanding of assessment generally and CAT4 results in particular. Although it may be true that teachers and other educational professionals will, on average, have a greater understanding of assessment than other groups such as parents, this will not always be the case. Some teachers, especially if new to the profession, may have a limited understanding of assessment, whereas some parents, for example, may be extremely knowledgeable. The key point is that communication must be tailored to the recipient’s current level of understanding of CAT4, and so it should not be assumed that certain groups will have sufficient understanding whereas others will not. Always check out the particular person’s understanding before communicating results.

Sometimes it may be necessary to give a brief explanation of CAT4 and its use before results can be meaningfully understood and applied. A brief introductory text has been added to many of the CAT4 reports to help with this. Such an explanation may be needed during a discussion of results with an individual or small group.

A short generic overview that may be used to introduce the test to colleagues, parents and other interested parties is given on the CAT4 website at www.cat4support.com.

If results are regularly used across a whole school in a way that has a marked impact on teaching and learning, it will be important for all recipients of results to have a good knowledge of CAT4. Under these circumstances it may be appropriate to provide whole-school briefings.

Clear and appropriate communication

Having established the recipients’ level of understanding, information must be communicated clearly and succinctly, in a way that builds on their current level of knowledge. Consider how communication will take place – in writing, orally or a combination of the two – and what support may be needed for this to be effective.

CAT4 reports include combinations of visual, numerical and textual information. It is likely that certain elements of the reports will appeal to, and be more readily understood by, some people more than others. For example, some people will instantly pick up meaning from a graph but may struggle to make sense of the table of data on which the graph is based. As a communicator, varying the style in which you convey test results, by building on what listeners find most intuitive and using this to support understanding of those areas that are less intuitive, is a valuable skill.

A further point to consider is the amount of information that it is necessary to convey. The CAT4 reports have been developed for particular purposes and so contain selected information considered to be most appropriate for those purposes. So, detailed group reports may contain more information than is needed for some purposes. In these cases, match the information to the listeners’ needs and make sure that it is communicated clearly. Where more detailed reports are being used, point out what information should be of most use to them and make sure they know how to interpret it.

Checking understanding and clarifying actions

It is important to ensure that communication is a genuine dialogue. Particularly when new to CAT4 results, recipients are likely to have many questions and need the opportunity to absorb the information and ask their questions. Some people may need time to understand fully the implications of CAT4 results and consider what they mean in terms of teaching and support for individual students, classes or whole year groups.

It is useful to check understanding and clarify actions after communicating results. Listening carefully to the recipients’ understanding of what they have heard is a good way of checking that information has been understood. Opportunities for follow- up and further discussion of CAT4 results may also be necessary. Implementing results may lead to further questions and the wish to explore applications of CAT4 in more depth.

Communicating CAT4 results to specific groups

Communicating results to students

CAT4 is a test for which students do not need to prepare. It is important that the test sessions should be an integral part of the timetable to avoid undue anxiety in students. Older students may want to know what CAT4 is about. It is a well-known test and there may be misinformation circulating about why students are being tested and how results are used. A short explanation – that CAT4 is an assessment of ability in four different areas and has no direct connection to the curriculum, so it cannot be prepared for – and reassurance that results will be used to understand better how students learn will help to put students’ minds at rest.

Whatever their scores, it is important for all students to understand that the information gained from CAT4 testing can form the basis of plans for their future development, which they themselves can take some control over. No matter what the outcomes of the CAT4 tests, students should be encouraged to think positively about their results. Instead of reporting normative scores, reports about individual students present the student’s relative performance on the four CAT4 batteries. Scores on the four batteries are presented so students can see in which of the four reasoning areas they are strongest or weakest. This style of reporting is used for all students, no matter what their normative scores and overall level of reasoning ability. These reports also include additional narrative describing their profile and giving them ideas to further their learning according to the scores obtained.

It is recommended that relative strengths and weaknesses are presented, followed by a discussion with the student.

Therefore, it is recommended that this approach of presenting relative strengths and weaknesses is also followed when discussing results with students. Students, no matter what their overall level of performance on CAT4, should be clear about their areas of strength and supported in understanding how they can build on these. This is not to say that areas of weakness should be downplayed. Students should be clear about the areas where they need to develop further and have appropriate expectations about their future performance in school. Students should be encouraged to contribute to their own development targets, being supported as appropriate to set challenging yet attainable targets.

Checking that students have understood their results and the implications of these results is important, particularly for those with lower CAT4 results. It is essential that every student, whatever their ability, should take some positives away from a discussion of their CAT4 results.

Communicating results to teachers

In most schools, arranging the CAT4 testing sessions and reviewing and implementing results will be the responsibility of a single senior teacher or a small team of colleagues.

Raising awareness of the benefits of CAT4 may not always be straightforward, but we know that teachers want to support students as individuals. CAT4 is an aid to doing this and need not imply additional workload.

Successful differentiation will depend on many factors, such as students’ motivation, classroom structure, opportunities for personalised support and scaffolding learning. All of these will combine to affect students’ learning outcomes.

The Group report for teachers will help in communicating results and, importantly, details of learning biases among students in different teaching groups. This may allow those with similar or contrasting profiles to be taught together, with mutual benefits. The narrative that is now part of the Individual report for teachers includes implications for teaching and learning which offer brief insights into how different levels of ability combined with learning preferences may affect a student’s learning. It is hoped that simple adjustments based on CAT4 results and other information about the student can improve outcomes.

One of the main uses of CAT4 is to help teachers understand the potential and the learning needs of students and so differentiate their teaching methods accordingly. The full pattern of results from CAT4 needs to be considered, as abilities will work in interaction with each other and not in isolation. Differentiation of teaching methods can then be achieved in a way that draws on students’ strengths and, through these, supports weaker areas.

Communicating results to parents

Some parents will know about CAT4 but what they know may be based on misinformation. If the school wishes to inform parents about the CAT4 testing process, a sample letter can be found in Appendix B as a guide to what might be included. There is also a sample letter for post-testing purposes in Appendix B.

Discussion of CAT4 results and subsequent targets can help build links between school and home.

Many parents will naturally be interested in all aspects of their child’s performance at school, including their CAT4 results. The CAT4 reports have been developed to support the routine reporting of results to parents. As parents play an important role in their child’s development outside of school, these reports also include narrative text that will help parents understand their child’s profile of results and what they can do to further their learning. The Individual report for parents includes a short description of CAT4, results on each battery (expressed as ‘below average’, ‘average’ and ‘above average’) and indicators of future attainment based on the results. A short description of how these indicators are derived and what they mean has also been included.

As with the communication of results to students, there is no single best or right way of doing this, but it is recommended that the report is discussed with parents rather than simply being sent to them. Even though the reports have been written for a parent audience, discussing results with parents will ensure that the content is understood accurately. The reports can also be used as a focus for further exploration of strengths and learning needs with parents and as a way of engaging parents in actions they can take at home. In this way, CAT4 can be used as an effective tool for reinforcing school-based learning activities in the home.

Communicating results to other professionals

CAT4 results can be relevant to a range of other professionals who are involved with students’ welfare and development. Some colleagues may have a limited knowledge of testing and so the introductory text that forms part of the new reports will be useful in giving a quick overview and an example of the test material in CAT4.

Information from any test is most meaningful when it is communicated as part of a broader assessment of a student, rather than in isolation. In any such communication it is important to distinguish between what can be considered as ‘fact’ and what is ‘opinion’. The CAT4 results provide factual information on the student’s level of reasoning ability across the four batteries at the time of testing. Opinions, in this case, are the professional judgements that teachers and others who know the student may make, given an understanding of their CAT4 results plus other information. Although both facts and opinion can be equally valid, in some circumstances it will be important to make a clear distinction between the two.

CAT4 scores of individual students

When communicating the results of individual students, there are further important things to bear in mind.

CAT4 results should not be presented in isolation. Test results are a ‘snapshot’ of performance at one point in time and only give one view of the student’s performance. Thorough assessment is a continuous process that draws on many sources of evidence. Results should always be considered in conjunction with reports of attainment in specific subjects and teacher assessments, along with feedback on the engagement, motivation and effort made by the student
Any misconceptions of CAT4 being a measure of fixed ability should be challenged. Like physical abilities, cognitive abilities can be developed through experience and practice. However, having an aptitude for a particular sport will influence performance and, in the same way, a preference for one type of reasoning ability is likely to support greater attainment in that particular area.
Low CAT4 scores should never be used to put a ceiling on expectations of what the student can achieve, particularly if the student comes from an economically or socially disadvantaged background or a non-Western background which may mean they are not sufficiently familiar with the test content to obtain a reliable assessment of their abilities. Rather, results should be used as the basis for planning activities and a learning programme that is aimed at improving all students’ reasoning abilities alongside their attainment in curriculum subjects.

The case studies in this pack illustrate the interpretation, communication and application of CAT4 results.