There has been a recent spate of blogging and tweeting about a range of topics, arguing that they somehow don’t serve a purpose in education, but also that they are flawed because of potential human error, or teacher judgement as I like to call it.
When examined closely, every single one of them revolves around a central premise of knowing the learners as well as possible.
To mention a few that have come under the spotlight; you can’t see learning in a lesson; taking full account of prior outcomes, especially at transition/transfer; differentiation in plans and in expectations; personal targets; adjusting the task demands within a lesson to the evident needs of the learners from outcomes; feedback (oral seems to be just about ok for now, but marking gets a no); moderation activities.
Reasons given are often “dumbing down” expectation, or how judgement can be skewed by personal bias. I could rightly ask, where does the novelty program of “Growth Mindset (GM)” fit into this? If you can’t see learning and you can’t challenge and support learning or judge progress accurately, then, to me, by extension, you can’t see GM either, but I could argue that GM is “just what we do”, or should be doing every day.
Each of the challenged elements has grown into an aspect of learning and teaching, but each, taken in isolation, is capable of being grown into something that can become it’s own version of Frankenstein, leading to shortcuts and myth-development.
Holistically there is a common sense approach, which I have characterised as analyse-plan-do-review-record, with each having contributory elements. Thinking about teaching metacognitively requires a broad model which can aid detailed thinking of the whole.
There may be an element of Primary-Secondary difference, which may have to be acknowledged. By the end of week four in a school year, a Primary teacher will have been with their children for a time equal to a full year of two hours a week in Secondary, enabling more in-lesson dialogue. They should know the children better. Secondaries may well have to depend on lesson outcomes in other forms to inform decisions.
Planning can be challenging, especially if the institution demands certain things to be included. While this might be needed in early career, it is less necessary later, unless there are concerns. It is far better to understand the learning needs over a longer timescale, so that adjustments can be made, while still connecting to the planning timeline. Teachers need to think about learning and record the essentials, so that there is some signal of intention should they be absent for a while. In that way the institution and the learners are not put at risk.
As for the rest, most of the elements are embedded in the dialogue that a teacher has with learners, in sharing information, discussing ongoing learning, coaching and guiding, giving feedback; all seeking to keep forward momentum in learning.
Where there is talk of flawed teacher judgement, this has always been the case and is likely to remain so. I have yet to hear a call for better informed teacher judgement and yet, in a scenario where a nationally common language of progress, levels, albeit with flaws did exist, it strikes me that there will, in the near future be some very challenging conversations to be had, especially across Key Stages 2&3, where the new Primary National Curriculum English and maths may ensure that children transfer with potentially greater skill and knowledge than previously. Where it was rare for levels to be moderated between key stages, the mismatch could become greater, with different schools having different judgements. I am still waiting for a Secondary school to fully argue for “life beyond GCSE grades”.
Rather than seek to create no space for inter-school and inter-Key Stage discussion that might throw some light onto decisions, I’d want to see holistic approaches across a broad range of schools, because there needs to be a framework against which to make rapid decisions. Moderation to share outcomes, coupled with dialogue, will support experienced staff as well as newly qualified teachers. To plot the quality journey through time should enable clearer, if not perfect judgement.
What’s a good, or better outcome in an aspect of writing for a year 2/4/6 child? Exemplars please? What makes it good or better and what are the next (personal) challenges? Because, within the cohort based NC, there will still be a range of needs, even if “gaps are closed”, which is arguable.
Shared outcomes could both clarify and challenge. We have entered a new phase of education. The whole will stand or fall on the relative security of teacher judgement. Teachers will get better at judging and, by extension, of challenging, the more they do it.
Very experienced teachers arguing to take away the tools will weaken that thought process for developing teachers, who may need to go through a developmental route to attain that level of expertise.