However, on reflection, I started to think more broadly about personal reflective journeys and how this impacts on teaching practices. I’m going to assume, from the outset, that anyone destined to be a successful teacher has a number of specific qualities, as described by the Teacher Standards, shown in this diagram; an organised, responsible person, who understands how to organise and run a good classroom for learning.
Why did I link reflection with assessment? For a very simple reason that that’s exactly what any teacher is doing; thinking about what they know about a class of children and deciding on the best means to promote learning progress across all of them.
The “thinking standards” I’d see as 24652. The whole being a linked series of consequential decisions, premised on one particular; How well do you know the children in the class?
The header in the diagram looks at the developing curriculum. In a blog on planning, I advocate the creation of an annual plan to look longer term, to ensure appropriate coverage, as well as consideration of the interlinked potential across the curriculum. As this was done as part of a closure in the July before the new year, one layer of planning was clear from the outset. As it started with a two-week, teacher-devised topic, as a “settler”, teachers could focus in that timeframe on getting to know the children better; putting flesh on the generalities of data.
Described as Teacher Standards 6 and 5, these are assessment and adaptation. I’ve always seen these as the thinking standards, in that they represent, to me, those points in a lesson where the original plan meets the reality of learner needs, causing the teacher to wonder, to themselves or aloud, what is causing an apparent issue for one or more learners. These are the “decision-making” points; intervene and address, leave and watch, do nothing, any of which could be a right or wrong decision. This is often only clear at the point of intervention. To me, this starts to meet with Dylan Wiliam’s description of the “reflective-reactive” teacher.
The reflective outcomes from any lesson can be simply summarised; did they “get it”? If the answer is yes, then there’s a point to move on; no, move back one place; some, how to address the evident need and at the same time cater for those who are secure. I would say that these decisions have always been the case, throughout my career, and probably always will be.
Some commentators see inherent bias in teacher actions. While we have a system that puts one adult in charge of the learning journeys of a cohort of children, we probably must accept that decisions are seen through their eyes, with or without their bias. Having been a classroom teacher before the National Curriculum in 1987, the language of progression, through the level descriptors did offer clearer criteria against which to make judgements.
Some also wish to promote testing as the only real route to assessment. Tests, to me, have always been just another point of information, to be used to inform decisions. If information that informs teacher decisions and subsequent interactions with learners is not forthcoming from a test, then I’d always question its utility. Summative points are only classroom MOTs; only really good on the day.
The reflective cycle is one of constant refinement, supporting the teacher rationale for decisions, in terms of task challenges and subsequent interactions. Every interaction is a chance to question, to respond, to model, reflect with the learner, alter course. The diagram above looks at trainee need. We cannot assume that every trainee is always thinking at this level, they need to be challenged to do so. For a significant period, they are making sense of the structural elements, before getting to those parts that really matter; the children.
Progress can be a difficult word to describe, but, if process and outcomes combine, with a sense of achieved criteria within a particular task, at least the learning journey of the children can be described, with an overview over time supporting that analysis.
Unpicking Standard 2 of the Teacher Standards with a trainee.
A feature of recent visits to ITE trainees has been the difficulty in evidencing Teacher Standard 2, Progress and Outcomes, yet it is the most significant of the standards, as teachers are always judged on their outcomes.
Many ITE routes require trainees to keep portfolios of children’s learning, and in fulfilling these requirements, often end up with a disparate collection of work, which has little meaning and limited impact on their understanding. It can have the appearance of busyness, but becomes a futile exercise in file-filling.
Annotating work collected with notes that describe the context of the learning, such as time taken, support and guidance given, as well as a qualitative assessment, helps with later reviews.
Formative thinking can be captured in annotated lesson plans, indicating where in-lesson decisions were required, to address evident needs and issues carried forward into the next lesson. This would highlight both the in-lesson thinking, and reflections after the event.
As a training exercise, the trainee and mentor should meet to discuss pieces of work from a focus child, recording their discussion outcomes as the basis for a future, short summative oral “report” from the trainee on the pupil. If this become a regular feature of the weekly review, it would inform both formative and summative assessment, supporting standards 6 and 5 as well, both of which can be more difficult to evidence as they are the “thinking” standards.
A trainee, especially on a Primary route, when asked at any point, to talk about a child, should be able to come up with a short summary. In the early days, it will necessarily be a little generic, based on early exposure, but, over time, becomes much more nuanced, enabling more refinement of the teacher-child interactions.
A simple summarising question, to stimulate discussion, might be; what impact have you had with (child)?