During discussions within schools about children and their learning progress, a couple of diagrams began to develop to capture the essence of the schools. Over time, these became more refined, as new discussions added details and challenged earlier thoughts.
The first diagram, based on a central theme of analyse, plan do, review, record, then sought to link the associated teacher actions that contributed to each cycle.
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 baseline from which adjustments to the expectations are made, (review and adapt)
- ensures that the learner(s) make(s) progress and provides food for thought at the end of the lesson about next steps. (record keeping)
Progress in a subject, as determined by a teacher, is likely to be somewhat linear, if only because learning opportunities are created into a timeline, of knowledge transmission and activities and challenges, to seek to embed concepts and facts into a child’s psyche.
However, acquisition of knowledge generally, is not linear. Life offers opportunities in a haphazard way. Walk down a street and information is available to you, if you look and take notice. Each learner is a product of their home and school experiences, with each one unique in retention, ordering and the ability to recall information at speed and with a fluency that enables rapid working.
The range of children within a class can vary significantly, but, even within selected classes, such as streams and sets, there is a range to be accommodated, with both subject knowledge and skill needs to be addressed. Knowing the different needs of the children ensures that challenge within tasking can be tailored to their needs, with the need to articulate challenge being greater than the need to show different activities, which can be the fall-back position.
Rich experiences within which high quality language through mentally challenging projects were developed, across all subjects, each contributing to an enriched output.
Where high quality outcomes were shared with learners through display, or other sharing opportunities, they created a form of quality control and raised the general aspiration, especially as outcomes were developed through well-described processes, which, when elements were tweaked, enabled outcomes to be enhanced.
So, the first word that needs to be evident in the classroom is challenge and how this is manifest and visible across the range of abilities. It can be embedded in personal challenge or learning targets, which can be the main focus within a broader tasking.
Drafting and redrafting of outcomes, with children learning and being coached to self-edit, against a set of criteria, enables some independent action before the teacher acts as the final arbiter. This element of progress is embedded in a post that looks at exercise books as personal learning organisers.
There is a current need to track and evidence children against year based criteria. With each child likely to have significantly different needs at any one time, the idea of the flip out flaps on which to record the current need provides a scaffold for both the teacher and the child, to support discussion, coaching and feedback. The system was developed from the outcomes of the National Writing Project, around 1987, with regular tweaks to address changes over time. It could be a simple adjustment that still holds many benefits.
Every outcome should become a new baseline if the process of challenge and improving outcomes is embedded in classroom practice. Each successive outcome becomes a descriptor of progression.
Of course the issue then is how to find the right language to describe progress across a subject, so that there is a framework against which to make the judgement. The question is; how far have they travelled and where next?
Clarity, especially in early career decisions require clear frames of reference.
- The two practical teaching standards are (6) assessment and (5) adapting learning. If these are interpreted as “thinking on your feet” and “engaging and making adjustments to expectation and tasking”, they become active constituents of lessons, rather than being seen as something that is done after the lesson, as marking and feedback, although that contributes further to development and future progress.
- Learners and their teachers need mental maps of progress, supported by overt descriptors as reminders. Evidence of achievement can be noted and celebrated at the moment, but also as a collation of evidence at summative points, perhaps as formal reports.
- Progress is a fluid concept. Outcomes are reflection points, which can be used to determine advice, feedback, coaching need and the next appropriate steps.
The following demonstrates what can be said about inclusive schools.
The school provides a lively, challenging, stimulating and attractive environment in which each child enjoys working and is actively encouraged to take every opportunity to fully develop their academic, physical, artistic, spiritual and social abilities.
Pupils are set literacy and numeracy targets based on prior and anticipated attainment with a degree of challenge built in as they work to achieve personal, group and the whole class targets. Targets are shared with parents at Parents' Evening and through reports.
Assessment for Learning is used in the school with a range of other assessments, formal and informal used to support Teacher Assessment, to monitor children's achievements throughout the school, to track progress and inform target setting, tracked through APP style documents.
Children identified as needing reinforcement in Literacy or Numeracy or as having SEN are supported through a broad range of well organised interventions as small group work or 1.1 support for those with specific learning difficulties. Children on the SEN Code of Practice have individual plans to target their specific needs.
Results have remained consistently high over a number of years.
The school expresses the view that it is very important that every child achieves to the best of their ability. Academic achievement is a high priority and the main focus. They also believe in giving each child the opportunity to feel successful by encouraging them to develop their unique gifts and talents in sports or the arts. This is seen as boosting their self-esteem and having a positive impact on their motivation to succeed academically.
· Children are challenged to achieve.
· Motivation is high, engendered by school and home working together.
· Target setting and tracking is embedded, with accurate, helpful information being shared with parents, so that they are able to fully support the learning agenda.
· AfL is embedded in practice as a tool that supports the evidence based approach to the curriculum.