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AfL, learning and teaching Professor Mary James TLRP, Institute of Education, University of London Faculty of Education University of Cambridge April 2008 A reminder: What Assessment for Learning is really for

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AfL, learning and teaching Professor Mary JamesTLRP, Institute of Education, University of LondonFaculty of Education University of CambridgeApril 2008


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A reminder: What Assessment for Learning is really for

Its ultimate goal is to promote learning autonomy – crucial for lifelong learning in multicultural societies and globalised knowledge economies. Autonomous, self-directed learners take responsibility for their learning and develop strategies that enable them to learn both on their own and collaboratively.They Learn How to Learn.


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Learning Autonomy (goal)

Learning How to Learn (activity)

Assessment for Learning(tools)


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Is this trying to impose a Western conception on the East?

Eastern values (Confucian) – respect authority and seek to acquire the wisdom of the past (the best that has been thought and done), especially through hard work (effort) and development of memory. Academic achievement highly prized.

Western values (Socratic and Aristotelian) – encourage critique of ideas through logic and empirical testing. ‘Flair’ and thinking differently is highly valued – when it contributes to innovation.

We need both in the 21st Century. Can we put them together to get a better balance in all learners?


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So what is learning?

Three metaphors:

  • Acquisition

  • Participation

  • Knowledge creation

    The first tends to dominate in schools and the other two in workplace learning and university education. But if schools are a preparation for life, should they pay more attention to 2 and 3?


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Learning as creating new knowledge

Learning as developing expert ways of thinking, doing and being

Learning as acquiring knowledge and skills


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AfL can help because it is about developing learning practices – for life

Focus on practices that enable learners to reflect upon, and understand, their own learning processes and develop ways of regulating them. Closely linked with the content of what is being learned. There are both generic and subject specific aspects that interact.


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Extract from TLRP DVD practices – for lifeCranmore Integrated Primary School Belfast

Practices for developing thinking skills in citizenship education


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So, AfL practices should serve underlying principles practices – for life

AfL practices, such as sharing learning intentions and success criteria (WALT & WILF), comment-only marking, peer and self-assessment, should serve underlying principles, such as making learning explicit and promoting learning autonomyThey cease to be formative if they fail to do this (some forms of self-assessment serve only summative assessment)


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Extract from TLRP DVD, practices – for lifeValentine’s High School Redbridge


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The ‘spirit’ of AfL is more important than the ‘letter’

Teachers appreciate practical strategies but they can become mechanistic and ritualised Practices and beliefs are interrelated and need to be developed together so that teachers can ‘know what to do when they don’t know what to do’‘High organization based on ideas’ (Dewey) is central


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Successful AfL teachers take responsibility for what happens in their classrooms

The most successful teachers have a capacity for strategic and reflective thinking and concentrate on how they could improve the learning experience for pupils. They did not blame external circumstances or pupil characteristics (e.g. lack of ability or effort)


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Angela’s reflection in their classroomsIf I’ve taught a lesson, then I’ll go over it, reflect, think, what could I do better next time? ..Sometimes it’s just a thought and sometimes I actually kind of go back over the scheme of work, look at the lesson plan and write notes to myself for next time. So it depends on what it is really and how severely bad it went.


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However, most teachers hold positive educational values but struggle to close values-practice gaps

A 2002 survey of 1212 staff showed that they did less promotion of learning autonomy than they would have liked and more performance orientated practice (e.g. teaching to the test) than they thought important By 2004 these gaps had closed somewhat


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Closing the gap struggle to close values-practice gapsChanges in teachers’ classroom practices, 2002-2004


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Janice’s reflection – showing movement in her thinking about teaching infants

How can teachers meet the demands of the national curriculum while still focusing on the needs of children as learners? How do you teach children who do not necessarily want to learn the things you want to teach them at the time you need it? The Learning How to Learn project has helped me work through these questions. Sharing the ‘big picture’ with the children, involving them through the use of mind maps to clarify what they already know and what they might like to learn, making the learning explicit but also recognising that it can also be diverse and unexpected, helping children talk about the language of learning, and to recognise what kind of thinking is required for different activities ... enabling children to pose questions so they can make sense of the world in which they live ...


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Within and between school differences indicate a need for differentiated professional development

Different groups of staff within schools (teachers, teaching assistants, senior staff) have different configurations of values and practicesIn secondary schools subject differences are markedThere are also differences between secondary and primary schools


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Classroom inquiry is a key influence differentiated professional development

Classroom-based collaborative inquiry for teacher learning emerged as a key influence on teachers’ capacity to promote learning autonomy with their pupilsThis includes learning from research and also working together to plan, try out and evaluate new ideas(Japanese-type Research Lesson Study is a good approach)


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School conditions that support AfL in classrooms differentiated professional development

Developing a sense of where we are going

Making learning explicit

Supporting professional development

Promoting learning autonomy

Inquiry

Performance orientation

Auditing expertise and supporting networking


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Networking builds the social capital for spreading good practice

Teachers create and spread new practice knowledge through networking within and across schoolsNot much evidence (yet) of ICT use for this purposeFace-to-face meetings builds the social capital (trust and mutual support) needed for the exchange of intellectual capital(ideas and practices)


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Opportunities for teachers to learn through inquiry depends on organisational structures and cultures

Schools need to audit expertise and support networkingThis needs to be done with a sense of purposeQuality of leadership is crucial – at every level


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The challenge for leadership is to create space and climate for reflection and sharing

This includes encouraging dialogue, dissent and risk-takingTakes time and is on-goingInvolves leading, modelling, brokering, bridging, mediating


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Headteacher: for reflection and sharing

AfL has been a joy. It is intellectually profound, yet eminently practical and accessible. The project has enhanced the learning of us all. I have no doubt that our children are now better taught than ever before. It has been the best educational development of my career.


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Want to know more? for reflection and sharing

James, M., et al. (2006) Learning How to Learn: tools for schools (London, Routledge).James, M., et al. (2007) Improving Learning How to Learn in classrooms, schools and networks (London: Routledge).Research Papers in Education 21(2), June 2006 (Special Issue devoted to the LHTL project)http://www.learntolearn.ac.ukhttp://www.tlrp.org

Learning How to Learn

- in classrooms, schools and networks


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Formative and summative assessment: for reflection and sharingthe teacher’s role Professor Mary JamesTLRP, Institute of Education, University of LondonFaculty of Education University of Cambridge30th April 2008


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Formative and summative assessment differences for reflection and sharing

Distinction between purposes:

  • FA - to improve learning, and achievement (AfL)

  • SA - to sum up attainment at a moment in time (AoL)

    Similar evidence can serve both purposes but the evidence needs to be interpreted differently.

    A summative judgement (e.g. this pupil has reached level 5) cannot be used formatively. The teacher needs to go back to the underlying evidence and make a different kind of judgement for formative purposes (e.g. this pupil had a problem with X that indicates a misconception about Y that needs to be tackled)

    SA judgements can be scores but FA judgements must involve words (usually oral or written dialogue)


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Formative and summative assessment similarities for reflection and sharing

Both FA and SA should have reference to the same curricular and learning goals. So, look after the learning and the performance should take care of itself!

If the curriculum requires the teacher to teach reading then her formative assessments should help children to learn how to read. If she is successful then the children will do well on any valid summative reading test without the need to give many practice tests. Problems arise when tests cover only part of the domain. Then the tendency is for the teacher to teach the test – not reading.


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So why do teachers (in England and Hong Kong) constantly test (SA) their pupils?

  • Tradition and habit

  • Tool for instilling good behaviour/obedience

  • Belief that competition stimulates better performance

  • Belief that learning is largely associated with individual recall of memorised facts in time-limited situations

  • Belief that external tests, or those that mimic them, are more valid and reliable

  • Trust in numerical data that seem more objective

  • Lack of confidence/trust in teachers’ judgements – even their own

  • Pressure from parents and the media


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What is the impact of this? test (SA) their pupils?

  • Test performance is more highly valued than what is being learned

  • Testing can reduce self-esteem in lower-achieving pupils and make it hard to convince them that they can succeed in other tasks

  • Constant failure in practice tests demoralises some pupils and increases the gap between higher and lower achieving pupils

  • Test anxiety affects girls more than boys

  • Teaching methods become restricted to what is necessary for passing the tests


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Implications – Do more of this test (SA) their pupils?

  • Provide choice and help pupils to take responsibility for their learning.

  • Discuss the purpose of this learning and provide feedback that will help the learning process.

  • Encourage pupils to judge their work by how much they have learned and by the progress they have made.

  • Help pupils to understand the criteria by which their learning is assessed and to assess their own work.

  • Provide feedback to pupils in relation to learning goals and help pupils to understand how (what to do) to make further progress.

  • Encourage pupils to value effort and a wide range of attainments.

  • Encourage collaboration among pupils and a positive view of each others’ attainments


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Implications – Do less of this test (SA) their pupils?

  • Define the curriculum in terms of what is in the tests to the detriment of what is not tested.

  • Give frequent drill and practice for test taking.

  • Teach how to answer specific test questions.

  • Let pupils judge their work in terms of scores or grades.

  • Allow test anxiety to impair some pupils’ performance (particularly girls and lower performing pupils).

  • Use tests and assessment to tell pupils where they are in relation to others.

  • Give feedback relating to pupils’ abilities, implying a fixed view of each pupil’s potential.

  • Compare pupils’ grades and allow pupils to compare grades, giving status on the basis of test achievement only.

  • Emphasise competition between pupils


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Reconciling formative and summative assessment test (SA) their pupils?

‘Innumerable classroom events enable teachers to gather information about pupils by observing, questioning, listening to informal discussions and reviewing written work. …The information gathered in this way is often inconclusive and may be contradictory, for what pupils can do is known to be influenced by the particular context. This creates a problem for summative assessment but is useful for formative purposes. … For formative assessment the evidence is interpreted in relation to the progress of a pupil towards the goals of a particular section of work. Next steps are decided according to what has been achieved and what problems have been encountered. …For summative purposes, common criteria need to be applied and achievement is summarised in terms of levels or grades, which must have the same meaning for all pupils. This means that if the information already gathered and used formatively is to be used for summative assessment it must be reviewed (re-evaluated) against the broader criteria that define reporting levels or grades. Change over time can be taken into account so that preference is given to the best evidence that shows the pupil’s achievement across a range of work during the period covered by the summative assessment.’ (ARG, The role of teachers in the assessment of learning)


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The importance of moderation by groups of teachers test (SA) their pupils?

‘It is, of course, necessary to have some quality assurance of the summative judgement. The more weight that is given to the summative judgement, the more stringent the quality assurance needs to be, preferably including between-school as well as within-school moderation of judgments.’ (ARG, ibid)


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Building quality assurance across a region: an example from primary schools in the East of England (in the early 1990s)

  • School –level agreement trials – teachers brought evidence to a joint meeting, to discuss and agree judgements of standards in relation to criteria, then they annotated the evidence and compiled a portfolio of exemplars.

  • Across-school moderation at district level – one teacher from the school group took the school portfolio to an across school meeting and the procedure was repeated.

  • Across-district moderation at regional level – an adviser attending the previous moderation repeated the exercise at regional level

    Disadvantage: it took time

    Advantage: professional judgement was built from the bottom-up; excellent CPD


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Portfolios and records of achievement for pupils too primary schools in the East of England (in the early 1990s)

  • Much work was done on RoAs in England prior to the introduction of the National Curriculum (c.f. SLPs in HK)

  • Development and research focused on:

    • What range of achievement should be recorded?

    • Who should do it? What criteria?

    • How? How much? How often?

    • For what purpose?

      Many of the ideas about formative assessment emerged from this work: formative and summative purposes; dialogic process; pupil agency and responsibility; choice of latest and best evidence to show progress and next steps.


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A recent example: assessing creative learning primary schools in the East of England (in the early 1990s)

A project in inner London primary schools: 2007

www.clpe.co.uk/assessingcreativelearning

The key development here was the use of electronic portfolios to show children’s creative work (art, design, dance, music etc)


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Want to know more? primary schools in the East of England (in the early 1990s)

ARG (2002) Testing, Motivation and Learning, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education.

ARG (2006) The role of teachers in the assessment of learning, Institute of Education London

Black, P. (ed.) (2005) Special Issue on Formative Assessment, The Curriculum Journal, 16(2)

See also: www.assessment-reform-group.org


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