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Assessment for Learning - what do people think?

Discussion in 'Assessment' started by Rach567, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. Hi all,

    I'm in the process of completing my Masters dissertation. I'm really struggling with putting together my thoughts on AfL and wondered if I could open it out to you all to see what you think.
    The questions I want to ask is has AfL really got learning at its centre or is it really about equpping our students with the skills to know the exam criteria exceptionally well so that they can repeat it back or to each other?
    What does the learning part mean in 'Assessment for Learning'? Does this mean passing an exam or is it more than this?
    The potential for AfL to give ownership to students is significant; however, in a culture where the mark scheme has already been decided upon can or will AfL be anything more than learning for assessment?
    Thanks to anyone who has any thoughts on this
    Rach : )
  2. It's a load of old cobblers; another piece of impressive-sounding nonsense, designed to disguise the fact that the national curriculum is a failure.
  3. Professor Wiliam sounds like a bag of wind. (Obviously, he's trying to justify his no doubt massive salary and accompanying perks, e.g. petrol allowance, conference fees, etc, etc.) It's dead simple: you teach kids how to read, write and count, and everything else. You mark their work. You give it back. You go to the pub. End of.
  4. Oh right, didn't realise it was so easy to do. You would no doubt be fully in support of getting rid of QTS entirely then, I presume, given that our job is so 'dead simple' - anyone could do it.

    It's true that AFL has been somewhat hi-jacked by government, but at it's heart it is the best, most convincing, evidence-led articulation of good practice in teaching that currently exists. It's commonly misunderstood and over-simplified, but those teachers I've seen who really 'get' AFL, who understand the complexity and skill needed to apply it in a coherent, effective way, have been the most successful and confident professionals I've encountered.

  5. Yes, of course anyone could do it. It's a trade, like any other. Forget about all that 'good practice, evidence-led' gobblydeegook. This is how you teach a kid 1. You know your subject 2. You know how the exam will be marked 3. You tell the kid what he has to know to pass the exam. 4. You make sure they do know what they need to know, by giving them a task to do (essay, test etc.) 5. You drum 3 and 4 into them. That's it. Where's the complexity there?
  6. P.S... and then you go to the pub.
  7. Anyone could learn to do it. You might find more complexity in the job if you approached it from the perspective of actually helping students to learn interesting and useful things. Your approach seems to be to entirely about preparing students for exams - there might be more to education, and more to being a teacher, than this? And the bits that you make sound so straightforward 'make sure they know what they need to know'... 'tell them how to pass'... they might actually be quite straightforward with students from advantaged backgrounds, but are difficult and complex when teaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Successfully achieving this is the great challenge facing our education system at the moment, and it's why we need professional skill, knowledge and expertise in teachers; your recipe for simplicity may also be a recipe for perpetuating inequality.
  8. ps... and then going to the pub.
  9. The job is, primarily, about getting them through exams. If it isn't, primarily, about that, then what the devil is it about? You should regard your subject itself as interesting, hence my first point above. Everything else comes from that. No, with dense kids, the simpler you make it, the better. You say to them, write this, this and this. Simple. And in 30 years at the chalkface, I've never had a failure, either in GCSE, A-Level, or I.B. Re: your 'inequality' point, I don't understand it. Kids are inequal in terms of intellectual ability: some kids are brighter than others, academically speaking, in the same way that some kids are better at kicking footballs than others. Not every kid can achieve academically, in the same way that not every kid can get picked to play for England.
  10. Forgot to say, the first great challenge facing our education system is to abolish pseudo-academic, impressive-sounding balderdash like 'assessment for learning' and all the muddle-headed nonsense it contains. (The old fashioned term 'marking' is much better.) Michael Gove is making strides in this direction but will probably be stymied by the unions who have, of course, heavily vested interest in keeping the status quo. The second great challenge is to reintroduce proper technical subjects and re-energize the apprenticeship scheme. The kids who aren't any good academically can learn a trade (gardening, joinery, plumbing, painting and decorating, etc.) and a proper trade at that in the sense of them being time-served. All these educational 'initiatives' like 'assessment for learning' are simply 'here today, gone tomorrow' pieces of silliness, designed, as I said earlier, to paper over the fact that the national curriculum is a failure. If you've been around for as long as I have, you really do know that 'the experts of today are the idiots of tomorrow'.
  11. OK - I think we are coming at this from quite different starting points, which may go some way to explaining why I fundamentally disagree with almost everything that you've said. Differences seem to be:

    - You regard teaching as about getting kids through exams. I see it primarily as an instrument of social justice, in which equality of opportunity is offered, successfully, to all, thereby reducing social inequality and making society better for everyone (not suggesting that we are being successful in this at the moment, but that is the aim).
    - You think some kids are essentially just stupid, using the word 'dense', and, in your next post 'not any good'. I would see this in far less black and white (and frankly offensive) terms - some students display much higher levels of attainment than others in complex skills (e.g. literacy), but this is massively affected by environment - if you grow up surrounded by books you are likely to be good at 'book work' at school. If you haven't, it's going to be harder, but this does not mean that you are thick. It does mean you will need excellent, professional teaching to get up to scratch. It's interesting that you use the football analogy as if football were not something that is learnt - yes some people are better at kicking balls, but you can bet that they've put more time in and had better coaching and opportunities, than those who are rubbish. Compare the ways that expert rugby players kick footballs - they are often terrible at it - does this mean that their 'talent' was specific to the shape of the ball? Or that their environment and practice has resulted in higher achievement in one area?

    There might be a private school / state school divide going on here - not sure in which you teach. I would guess, although I will never work in a private school, that parents may be paying for results, and that might be the dominant reason for the job of the teacher in some cases simply. In which case, I suppose, your model of robotic simplicity might be applicable and relevant. In the state sector, where many of us are motivated by a genuine desire to make a difference in terms of social good, more skill and complexity is required.

    Having said that, I do agree that simplicity in teaching approaches is generally a good thing - this is why I like AFL, as it provides a pretty straightforward framework and process to help kids learn. I think it's been pretty badly led, and there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means and how it helps us - it has been overcomplicated and badly presented.

    Overall, I think my job is hard, and complex. It requires specialised skill, and absolute belief in students. I therefore find it somewhat irritating when it is dismissed as being easy. If you think that, you're probably not coming from the same context that I am.
  12. Wow - where are my paragraphs? They have been stolen, but be assured that they were there in the first place!
  13. You sound as if you've swallowed a book entitled 'Marxism for Infants.' Schools have nothing whatsoever to do with 'social justice': their primary function is to impart knowledge. How are the truths of physics, French, English, mathematics, biology etc. connnected with 'social justice?' You are attempting to politicise education, which is dangerous. Some kids are thick, in the same way that some adults are thick. Therefore, as I said, what is needed is a return to proper, time-served apprenticeships. Give the academically dim ones skills which are needed in the labour market (joinery, plumbing etc.) and that will be to the benefit of all. The point of the football analogy was to show that different kids are good, or bad, at different things. Thus, the academically dim ones may be better at working with their hands, for example. This is an obvious point. Also, if all this 'assessment' gobblydeegook is working, then why do we have one of the lowest literacy and numeracy rates in western Europe? And why do one third of kids enter secondary school without being able to read or write properly? I'll tell you why, its because in the last 15 years, state sector education was so politicised, that knowledge played second fiddle to political ideology, such as that which says that all kids can achieve academically, which is obviously not the case. The job of the teacher is not to purvey political ideology: it is to teach the objective truths of academic subjects. If you think that that is not the case, you shouldn't be at the chalkface. You should be working for the social work department, for example, or in the press room of a particular political party.
  14. By the way, what have you got against the private sector? Do you have any kids? If you do, I imagine you send them to a state school. If, however, your local comp is rubbish, would you 1. 'go private' 2. move to a better catchment area? 3. stay where you are?
  15. P.P.S The job isn't hard or complex. If you think it is, then you are doing something wrong. It's a fairly simple job to do ( I would define it as a trade, not a profession), and you also get a good salary, terrific holiday entitlement, excellent job security-- you can't really get made redundant, for example--and a good pension at the end of it. Don't make it out to be more than it is. It's an O.K job, but that's all.

  16. For the OP, and not wanting to interrupt anything, I think AfL is great (AfL is a rubbish name mind - Perhaps it might best be called Teaching Learners How to Learn, or 'the best way to involve students in interaction'.)
    Since I read the book and bought the T-shirt, I've re-discovered my love of teaching. As for whether it's just 'learning for assessment', I think that depends on your point of view of the purpose of education. I teach for the joy of learning - others, it seems from above, teach just to get others to pass exams. Either way there are some cracking ideas for effective teaching in it.

  17. In amongst the many questions that you ask in the last couple of posts, one is interesting:
    Well, if we take English as one example, if we can ensure that all students are literate and empowered in their use of and response to language, that will help generate social justice in my view. I'm not sure you quite understand my point - it's not to get 'social justice studies' on the curriculum, rather it's to ensure that education is successful for all. And this, even though you don't believe it, is hard to do with kids who come to us from less advantaged homes. It can be done, and we have to do it, but it's not easy. Therefore, professional skill is needed.
  18. How is that connected with 'social justice?' Literacy has got nothing to do with economics. Furthermore, you prove that they are literate by testing their literacy, i.e. by examination. And the primary job of the school teacher is to get kids through examinations. There are other things too, but that is the job. Education being 'successful' for all means that you give the academically dim kids something worthwhile to do, e.g. given them a modern day apprenticeship. As regards these kids, I have taught in comps as well as private schools for over 30 years, and getting dim kids through exams is simple. You do it through repetition and discipline. On the subject of private schools, what would you say to my question? Would YOU 'go private', move, or stay where you are? I'd like to see how deep your off the peg, liberal-metropolitan views actually run.
  19. OK - in the simplest terms I can manage, it is connected to social justice because:
    Advantaged kids tend to be easier to teach than poor kids as they tend to bring more useful knowledge with them so have a head start on the learning and more confidence.
    This leads to an achievement gap which worsens through school. If we get better at teaching disadvantaged kids, we can narrow this gap. I have no problem with repetition and discipline - both very important - but some kids need more nuanced practice as well.
    I have sent my child to the local comprehensive in the city where I live - thanks for your interest. I would never send a child to a private school.

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