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
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.
Learning Autonomy (goal)
Learning How to Learn (activity)
Assessment for Learning(tools)
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?
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?
Learning as creating new knowledge
Learning as developing expert ways of thinking, doing and being
Learning as acquiring knowledge and skills
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.
Practices for developing thinking skills in citizenship education
So, AfL practices should serve underlying principles
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)
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
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)
Angela’s reflectionIf 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.
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
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 ...
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
Classroom inquiry is a key influence
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)
Developing a sense of where we are going
Making learning explicit
Supporting professional development
Promoting learning autonomy
Auditing expertise and supporting networking
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)
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
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
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.
Want to know more?
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
Formative and summative assessment:the teacher’s role Professor Mary JamesTLRP, Institute of Education, University of LondonFaculty of Education University of Cambridge30th April 2008
Distinction between purposes:
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)
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.
‘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)
‘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)
Disadvantage: it took time
Advantage: professional judgement was built from the bottom-up; excellent CPD
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.
A project in inner London primary schools: 2007
The key development here was the use of electronic portfolios to show children’s creative work (art, design, dance, music etc)
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