It may be easier for a Secondary specialist to answer that than for a Primary generalist.
People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves. Albert Camus The Fall
I am hesitant to offer an opinion within the current climate, as I am aware that in may appear to be framed within any prejudices or dogmatic views which I may have, so I may be judged harshly. So as a precursor to any points I may wish to make, I’ve reflected on the words themselves, as they relate directly to the role of teaching, as well as o life in general.
Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it. – David Starr Jordan
- the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions: an error of judgement
- an opinion or conclusion: they make subjective judgements about children’s skills
- assume the right to judge someone, especially in a critical manner: this total stranger was actually daring to sit in judgement
When decisions or actions arising from them affect others, they are more likely to be codified in some may, providing a modifying factor, almost a law of friendship; If a friend was to intimate that they did not like some aspect of your behaviour, without some modification of the behaviour that friendship might weaken.
Is there ever such a thing as truly balanced judgement? Is anyone so totally sure that their judgement is correct that it can be seen as an absolute? Where someone is so sure about a decision or action, this can be as a result of a prejudice. An opinion based on prejudice can cause a significant problem to another person, as seen in legal terms where extreme prejudice can be the cause of legal dispute.
• Noun Preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience.
• Verb Give rise to prejudice in (someone); make biased: “the statement might prejudice the jury”.
• Synonyms noun. bias – preconception – detriment – prepossession – harm
• Verb. harm – injure – bias – damage
The only justice is to follow the sincere intuition of the soul, angry or gentle. Anger is just, and pity is just, but judgement is never just. David Herbert Lawrence
We often talk of evidence, including the evidence of one’s eyes. A witness statement in a court of law is a retelling of what the witness saw. Evidence in a classroom is sometimes fleeting and only visible to the able watcher. It may not be quantifiable, but the description of the qualitative nature of the observation might be a precursor to altered responses. There can seem to be a disproportionate weight put on measureable data, leaving the unmeasured unvalued, or devalued.
We use polar opposites to describe situations; love, hate; good, bad; pass, fail; large, small. Some opposites, eg short and tall, are capable of measurement to verify, whereas others are more subjective, along a continuum, while a third group is subject to decisions by an authority, ensuring a pass/fail mentality ensues.
An even more extreme position can become dogmatic, where prejudice becomes a personal law, against which the person will never transgress. Dogmatic argument can lead to isolation, or the decision to operate within a small group of believers. This position is easy to hold, when a peer group sustains a member in these beliefs.
- Noun; A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true: “the Christian dogma of the Trinity”.
- Synonyms tenet – doctrine
One could add to this, in order to counter prejudice and dogma, making up their own minds based on their own perception, in discussion with others, including surrounding adults. To do otherwise may allow children to grow within a dogmatic approach, ensuring the continuation of that mindset.
frame of reference Noun
- 1. A set of criteria or stated values in relation to which measurements or judgments can be made.
- 2. A system of geometric axes in relation to which measurements of size, position, or motion can be made.
Other frames of reference include the rules and regulations which govern life in general, such as national laws, and the workplace, especially in teaching, where curricula and other aspects are centrally controlled.
The announcement of removal of levels has the potential for chaos as it removes a frame of reference for progress judgements. The situation is likely to be different if comparing Primary and Secondary outlooks, the former being multi-subject generalists, the latter more likely to be specialists in one or two subjects.
Where Secondary education retains an end of school exam which has a graded structure, this could provide a frame from which to extrapolate the developmental routes for different groups.
For Primary, the route may be more challenging, in that there are two key stage breaks from Reception to year 6. Growing criteria from the Early Years Foundation Stage outcomes is a feasible option, but the route is likely to describe the stages currently being described through the NC level descriptors, which, for the journey to level 5 is clearly articulated. Many schools will retain something akin to the current situation, in order to be able to describe individual progress, especially within Maths and English. Holding to a progress descriptor also provides a developmental staging for other subjects, essential for a generalist, to ensure appropriate match and challenge of tasks.
The danger of not having a frame of reference against which children can be judged across all schools is that there will be a whole array of assessment approaches, unique to the school, possibly bought in from an external provider.
At transfer, receiving secondary schools will need to understand the many different approaches being used, in order to understand the children transferring in. It is not yet clear what will happen to Primary end of Key Stage assessment and how it will describe outcomes.
Alternatively, in some transitions, we will see outcomes from KS2 being ignored, with Secondary schools retesting to establish baselines from which progress in the school will be measured, as many now do.
A Frame of Reference is essential to FORmative assessment judgements, which for an inexperienced teacher is an important stage of personal development, adding to the sum of their understanding of child learning development. If you know what you are looking for, you might just see it.
Not knowing might mean a child not developing through an oversight. It might also herald a return to the days of teacher judgement being expressed as very good, good, satisfactory, not good enough. Teachers to a large extent have moved to a clearer commentary on achievement and the needs of progress.
We could have children returning to producing the equivalent of reasonable level three work on leaving Primary, devaluing the improvements of the past 26 years.