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Archive for the ‘Assessment’ Category

Getting to know the E’s and O’s

I know, I know. The experiences and outcomes have been around for ages now. Surely we’re long past getting to know them? In my experience however, this simply isn’t the case. Many of us seem to have taken something from them first time through, but now that we’re approaching the blunt end of assessment and reporting we’re beginning to wonder if we got them right.

Through our work with Myra Young, we’re being encouraged to take another look at the experiences and outcomes – this time starting with the purpose. This can often lead to a quite different approach to planning. Rather than looking at the experiences and outcomes and jumping straight to the activities we’d carry out, we think first about what the purposes of the outcomes are in terms of learning, how this could be evidenced and what the success criteria are.

On our inservice days next week at my new school, we’re lucky enough to be receiving CPD from teachers at Cramlington Learning Village with a view to planning our lessons using the accelerated learning cycle. But first I’m going to suggest that we need to ensure we understand the curriculum before jumping into detailed collaborative planning of lessons based on the learning cycle.

This can be illustrated with one of our science experiences and outcomes. Whilst in the past this might have led to us planning a series of lessons covering all the various organs of the systems we feel we need to ‘cover’, a fresh look at the purpose of the learning outlined in the curriculum brings a different emphasis and therefore quite different lessons.

We often complain the experiences and outcomes are vague and complex (which they are…but do we really want a version of the National Curriculum instead?) but if they are how can we expect to be fully familiar with them already? As difficult as it is to accept from the perspective of development work (which is going to get worse when the new NQs start arriving), the reality is that our understanding of the curriculum is going to evolve over time and I’m doing my best to try to keep my mind open to that…

Cross-posted on Fearghal Kelly’s thoughts

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The X Factor and the Future of Assessment

Cross-posted on:  Just Trying To Be Better Than Yesterday.

This week my middle school S4 class and I looked closely at an article from The Observer, ‘Is Simon Cowell Essential to the X factor?’ where two prominent commentators debated the latest news that he may be leaving. Knowing nothing about the programme, I expected these kids to tell me all about the latest news and give me an Idiot Guide. They did so. I must say, very little surprised me and I tried not to look too appalled as they told me that the greatest glee they felt was

But Simon, I Thought It Was Higher, Not National 4!from watching the really bad singers humiliate themselves.

What did they think of the winners? They would be successful because they would be millionaires in a year. Hmm. At my age it is very easy to get up on the middle class moral high horse and condemn this ‘low culture’ as a lot of nonsense but I am beginning to think that there is something far more damaging than I first thought. It seems that the X-Factor teaches three things:

  1. If you are a winner then you are placed on a pedestal not necessarily because you are the greatest talent but that you have the greatest money making potential.

  2. If you are a loser then you are a loser. You will be mocked in public and treated like a loser. Why? Because you tried and failed in front of others.

  3. You can be a judge. Even the viewers are judges remember. Standing on the sidelines mocking the losers. Not commiserating or offering help – at least Cowell and his smug cronies occasionally do that – but wallowing in the humiliation of others, gleefully celebrating their rightful comeuppance. Who Do they think they are?

So is there anything really wrong with a harmless bit of schadenfreude on a Saturday night? Well, yes, actually. As an educator I see the kids who watch this show every day. I see kids who have learned that taking part means win or lose, that having a go must mean that success is the only option because reputation is on the line. I see kids who would rather sit on the sidelines and say ‘I don’t know’ to every question because being wrong in front of an audience, and an audience of peers at that, is too horrible to even contemplate.

And, do you know what? I don’t blame them. I would do the same. Because school reiterates that X Factor feeling every day of their lives. Humiliated into a ‘bottom set’ from the age of eleven. Pressed into an assessment funnel from even earlier and spat out at the end either a winner or a loser. If it was me, and I was given that choice, I would stand on the sidelines too.

If Curriculum for Excellence is to change things for kids in Scotland it needs to consider an assessment process which will help them get out of this X-Factor mindset. Success and achievement should not come in a certificate in August. It should come from us, the adults, every day of their lives.

National Qualifications – Mythbusters

Click on the image to visit the SQA Mythbusters page.

There is a new page on the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) website which is a start in addressing the FUDsurrounding the new National Qualifications.

The page is called New National Qualifications — Mythbuster, and has explanations of why the roll-out of the new National 4 and National 5 qualifications are progressing as they are. Well worth sharing, and don’t forget that you too can add you tuppence worth on the CfE Feedback page.

Reflecting on Learning

At a time when Scottish education is changing and standard tests were no longer around, I wanted to develop my own use of assessment within the classroom. I already used different forms of formative assessment which gave me as an educator instant feedback but although the use of ‘thumbs up, in the middle or down’ etc was somewhat useful, I wanted it to be more beneficial to the children. In short, I wanted assessment to inform next steps.

I then went onto create a Learning Log. As my first attempt had a few flaws (it was just based on achievement…it didn’t work too well!), I went on to develop a Log based on ‘Two Stars and a Wish.’ Every Friday the children reflect over each curricular area and write down what they have learned. They think of a maths and a writing wish too. Although they found it difficult to start with, the class now find it easier to identify specific wishes that they work on the next week. This means that each learner knows exactly how to improve their work. The children are encouraged when their wishes turn to stars.

When the opportunity came for the staff from our cluster schools to join/lead Learning Communities (groups of teachers from various schools working on a chosen topic to enhance learning and teaching in their classroom) I really wanted to be involved with the assessment community.

As a newly formed group, we wanted to look at the ‘Learning and Teaching’ A4 ring-binders our school had given every pupil, as well as Learning Logs. We tried out different types of Learning Logs within our classrooms. We also benefitted from an opportunity to visit another local school to view their folders to see what they were including. The whole group liked the ‘I can…’ list for every curricular area/topic covered in class so the children know exactly where their learning is going. (However, I would create these lists after the learners have helped to plan their topics.) From this visit I realised that these lists would be helpful but I still wanted to include a personal reflection ‘wish’ section so the learners know what specific points they have to work on.

The group have since asked the children and parents what they think of the folders- we received very positive feedback and interesting suggestions to improve them further.

As my Primary 4 class are now reflecting on their learning more specifically and regularly, I would like them to record their reflections on our class blog (http://edubuzz.org/blogs/dunbarprimaryschoolp4d/) or through film. It’s always good to keep things fun and fresh! Perhaps they have some ideas…

Throughout the year I have enjoyed seeing the class embed reflection into daily class life, not just as a written exercise once a week. Their honesty and enthusiasm to progress has certainly helped their learning progress and they, along with me, are greatly encouraged by it.

Involving Pupils in Assessment

One of the questions on the Suggested Themes page is:

How, realistically, can pupils be involved in both their learning and assessment?

This really reminded me of a practical example from Stoneyhill Primary School, where P3 demonstrated how they are actively involved in their assessment…

As a secondary teacher, I love this video. It exemplifies not only how it’s possible to involve pupils in assessment, but also that the Primary 3 pupils are gaining a lot from having this sort of opportunity. And if they can do this in P3, imagine what they could be doing in S1!