Curriculum change was accompanied by withdrawal of the previous system of levels, that covered KS1-3, providing at least a common language for dialogue. In place of levels as a judgement base, ARE, Age Related Expectations, were introduced as end of Key Stage 1 and 2 statements, with several layers of decision that sought to describe achievement against test outcomes. These outcomes have yet to fully embed in transition practice to impact on subsequent learning.
The structure of the curriculum in terms of yearness gave rise to systems of tracking “progress” on the basis of teacher confidence against a number of key indicators. In discussion with a group of nine mentors of trainees on a School Direct route into teaching showed that there were seven different assessment/tracking systems on use, including four variations on the County scheme. This did impact on dialogue between colleagues and trainees. So, on one level, there is a potentially significant difference between school systems, requiring trainees to come to terms very quickly with them, especially within their short alternative experience.
The second layer of concern, in terms of judgements is exposure to different year groups. A Primary ITE trainee will have a substantive practice in one Key Stage, with a shorter, six-week experience in an alternate Key Stage. Our trainees also get a week with EYFS and a few days in Secondary, as an extension experience. However, in the September after their training year, they could be working with a novel year group, where their quality assurance will be less assured, simply from lack of experience.
For this reason, during their training year, during my training sessions on assessment, we use exemplars to explore qualities and to make statements about children’s evident achievements. We also encourage regular moderation discussions between trainees and mentors, to provide further insights.
All trainees will be insecure on appointment to their first post. Given that the current curriculum and assessment systems are relatively recent, even very experienced teachers are likely to be reticent to say that they are fully happy with every judgement. With the curriculum not being issued with assessment guidance, this enabled further insecurity to be present for a considerable period of time, especially as teachers change year group or school.
We need, preferably, a national system of exemplar sharing and moderation discussions across schools to embed understandings of judgements and the potential for children’s achievements. This would allow for quality CPD opportunities, exploring developmental processes as well as analysing outcomes. In many ways this would take us back to 1987 and the National Writing Project, which coincided with the National Curriculum descriptors of progress. Moderation discussion was supported by a common language. Given that schools may have different articulations of judgements, this may well be a layer of difficulty in discussion.
Assessment, as a central feature of teacher thinking, drives every classroom decision, including the teacher expectations of what will happen in lessons. My own blog on Assessment; with Children in Mind explores more of this, as does 24652.
The teacher/expectation mind-set: - analyse-plan-do-review-record
- expects something specific to change as a result of the carefully matched learning opportunities being offered, (analysis)
- supports the teacher in looking at the resulting activities and discerning the nuances of behaviour that suggest ease or difficulty being encountered. (planning)
- drives conversations seeking to unpick areas of concern or to understand the fact that they’ve taken five minutes to complete a task you’d planned for twenty-five. (doing)
- creates the start point from which adjustments to the expectations are made, within or between lessons (review and adapt)
In many ways, getting trainees to think in an investigatory way is key to assessment. Meeting situations that were not expected are points where interaction and learning decisions are needed.
Reflective and reactive teachers anyone?