If you are standing still, you are also going backwards. It takes great effort to maintain forward movement. - Reed B Markham, American Educator
Discontent is the first necessity of progress. Thomas Edison
Progress and Outcomes, teacher standard 2, is likely to be the area most concerning for a teacher, as they are judged on how well their learners do in their care.
Exploring the teacher standards as a continuum can offer the following. Let’s assume for a moment that teachers are displaying professionalism as described, run an effective classroom where children are enthused to learn, have status in the eyes of the learners and has sufficient subject knowledge. These four standards characterize the vast majority of teachers.
The more dynamic areas comprise those which are learner-based, their start points, or baselines, the teacher planning for learning over time, the teacher ability to work alongside learners and to adjust plans, even within a lesson, to developing, evident need.
Of course, quality control judgements, based on outcomes, need to decide just how good the work is and what support and advice is needed to remedy issues, or to continue the forward momentum.
Two diagrams seek to address these issues; the first looks at the teacher standards.
With Progress and Outcomes being high profile, there has been much discussion through Twitter about the possibility of seeing in-lesson progression, with arguments on both sides. See several authors writing on: - http://blogsync.edutronic.net/?buffer_share=8a222&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer%253A%252BEdutronic_Net%252Bon%252Btwitter
Perhaps we have started to use the wrong word to describe what we want. What if we used growth or improvement instead of progress, as in a growing or improving ability in an area, so that our nurturing and feeding has sustained impact? Growth and improvement imply development. Progress on it’s own might seem to some to be an inevitable effect of their teaching.
There is a need to be able to describe progress through a subject, not as a means to determine the exact steps that will be taken, as learning in reality is slightly messy, but to enable teacher and learner to engage in dialogue which supports continued focus and effort.
While it may seem reasonable to argue that one lesson is not sufficient to see growth or progression, especially across all abilities, it can also be argued that through observation, the observer should be able to infer the likelihood of progress, from the lesson intentions, the challenge to different groups, the interactions between peers and between students and teacher, as well as looking at the developing outcomes.
Expectation mind-set supports the mental rehearsal of a lesson, where a teacher anticipates the points in the lesson where learners could exhibit misunderstanding or simply encounter a block. This allows preparations which ensure that issues are addressed appropriately and in a timely way.
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, (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)
There cannot be many lessons where some progress is not anticipated and planned for. However, unpicking contributory factors to progress is essential.
Are lesson expectations clearly expressed, or are they sufficiently unchallenging as to allow all to make minimal progress, or some to make none? There is an interplay between the lesson activity success criteria and individual development statements, with the latter overlaying the former, adding value to reflective developmental discussions.
Put even more simply, do the children know what they are seeking to improve, in sufficient detail that it has regular and sustained impact and, perhaps more importantly, do they have the capacity to do this alone or do they need support and guidance?
In order to make specific changes in learning, the differential challenge embedded within a task will be a significant determining factor, even within so-called carousel activities, while the ability, engagement and resilience of the learners in the task will determine the ultimate outcome of the activity.
Teacher and TA intervention and support need to be monitored to provide a true picture of the learner’s independent ability.
Of course, many experienced (especially secondary) teachers will, intuitively, as a result of their teaching experience, be practised in how their subject develops across the age groups that they teach.
The situation is different for less experienced or new teachers.
During the year, the ITT students from Winchester University visit their school experience schools, getting to know the staff, the children and the realities of becoming a teacher. It’s a complex mix of personal, professional and practical knowledge and skills. They have had their preparatory lectures, as do all ITT students, covering the range of needs. Whether this is sufficient for each and every student is likely to be seen during the practice, with development needs identified by their teacher mentors, supported by the mentor, colleagues and the Link Tutor.
Introductory conversations are inevitably illuminating, with simple questions often being the ones that throw the student into a slight panic.
A recent question asked during visits was what a level x piece of writing might look like, dependent on the key stage and year group. (Many Hampshire schools are still holding to levels this year)
Most students were unable to offer insights into what they might be looking for as an acceptable outcome and, as a result, were unable to suggest what they’d be looking to offer as next step challenges. These responses made me reflect on the place of progress and outcomes in the holistic aspects of teaching and learning, particularly for ITT students starting out and early career teachers. If they don’t really know what to look for when they are looking at work outcomes, they are not in a position to support development.
It is, to me an argument for school and national exemplar portfolios across all subjects, as reference material.
The end of the week (23rd October) also saw the publication of the Government end of key stage proposals for the 2016 tests. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/performance-descriptors-key-stages-1-and-2
The Government discussion paper looks at the testing criteria for KS1 and 2, with some suggestion of expectation, articulated through the notion of a “national standard”. Early reading of the document suggests that there will be a form of levelled judgement against a nomenclature as follows:-
Mastery standard • National standard • Working towards national standard • Below national standard
At this stage there is no suggestion as to where the notional “national standard” will be determined. Linked to the earlier (David Laws) statement of 85% being “secondary ready”, it is possible to consider that the 85th centile would be the bottom line of the national standard, but, the inclusion of two grades below this can also suggest that the national standard might be higher, perhaps at 50th centile, with 35% “working towards” and 15% below.
The 15th centile and below are inevitably going to be comprised mainly of the SEND children, with a proportion of EAL children new to the country, whose ability to take the test will be compromised by limited language. So SEND and some EAL children will be told that they “do not meet the national standard”, as if they are being graded like eggs on a conveyor. Apart from telling them that they have failed, they have not met the standard, so they are sub-standard. “Working towards” also equates to sub-standard.
Has there been, in recent times, a more degrading vocabulary choice to describe children who find learning more difficult?
But I digress, if only for a short while.
C.S.Lewis We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
Progress in a subject is likely to be somewhat linear, if only because learning opportunities, as determined by the teacher 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 chances are that in any situation where work is produced, the top child will always be top and the bottom will remain firmly stuck. There may be a little shuffling up and down in the middle, but this may, in reality, be insignificant.
At its simplest, judgement seeks to articulate the value or quality of the outcome. Where there is an arbitrary line, that says “beyond this is good”, clear articulation of the qualities expected at the outset of the task, with modelling and exemplars, is likely to give the learners insights into expectations. These are often stated as success criteria (SC), steps to success, or what I’m looking for (WILF).
Assessment language talks of baselines. In plain English, this asks where the children are now. The “now” describes current capability; they know a discrete set of things, skills or knowledge. If these become non-negotiable in lessons, it is the adding of further capabilities or skills within the knowledge context which can be described as progress, improvement or growth.
Any planning for learning needs to acknowledge this expected progress, at group level, but also with the potential to be very specific to individuals or small groups who fall outside the general remit for their work group.
If these expectations are articulated as progress ladders, attached to their workbooks in a way that allows them to be opened out during working sessions, they do not need to be carried in memory. With large class sizes, teachers cannot be expected to memorize every target for every child in every subject.
- The two essentially 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 determine the next appropriate steps.
- Assessment judgements which imply “not at standard” will not support vulnerable learners.