Assessment for Learning
Aug 1, 2013 Teaching Methodology 2406 Views
Overcoming negativity in a classroom in regards to achievement and behaviour can often be a problem that has many strands. For many years I struggled on the rung of being a good teacher, sometimes dipping into the holy waters of being an outstanding practitioner with no great consistency. One of the Eureka moments that improved my teaching and ability to influence a class was to understand Assessment for Learning (AFL). Too many times, buried in the back of a University lecture hall, I had been washed over by the myriad of equally intangible ways to assess a child; never really understanding the simple truths of effective assessment.
Effective assessment has many forms but I will proceed to share a lesson that steered me on a course of a simple truth in AFL. This simple truth tangibly propelled me a few rungs further up the ladder of being an effective teacher.
Imagine you walk into a teacher training course and the lecturer asks everyone in the room to draw a house. All the teachers, with a sense of urgency and competition, begin to draw a house with focused relish. Some houses are beautifully drawn, full of artistic merit whereas others fall somewhat short of artistic endeavour. The lecturer abruptly calls time on the competition much to the dismay of some of the teachers still sketching away. A pervading sense of disappointment emanates from the half sketched portion of the room, whereas the teachers who have finished feel as though they have been successful.
The lecturer then proceeds to ask each pair in the room to swap their art work for marking. The teachers are now given the criteria to measure each others performance of successfulness. 100 points for a garden fence, 200 points for door detail such as a knocker or a letter box, 300 points for roof tiles, 1000 points for use of perspective. Audible groans now start to grow around the room. The 'disappointed group' of learners is now growing as many people are losing marks for not fully meeting the terms of successfulness. All participants, with all humour, are now thoroughly deflated with a crushing sense of - that's not fair!
It is in this way that children measure their own success like adults. If they begin a lesson by describing a setting of a forest but you do not tell them the means by which the can be successful then they simply will not be empowered to achieve in the lesson. Consequently, moral will decrease, lesson quality will be poor and the ultimate goal of outstanding behaviour will have moved 100 yards down the proverbial line.
It is in this way that AFL is a key driver of improving children's self esteem, motivation and behaviour. At the beginning of the lesson the Learning Objective (L.O.) must be shared with the children and the Success Criteria (S.C) by which you and they will assess progress of learning. In terms of S.C. this can be generated by the teacher or the pupils. For example, a statement such as 'I can use adjectives' makes the positive assumption that the children will be successful. If we think back to writing a setting description; the teacher would share the L.O. with the children and just before writing the children would then generate the S.C. The S.C. should be comprised of short 'I can' statements such as, 'I can include connectives' and 'I can use a simile'. An 'I can' statement is more powerful than the old 'can I' statement which lacks a pro active edge.
Before setting off to achieve the S.C the children should be given the amount of time they will have to achieve these deconstructed goals. A young mind cannot be sharpened into directed action without knowing the pressure of time acting as a positive catalyst. The children, in knowledge of the time permitted for completion of the task, should now be ready to learn, and to achieve without the groans of discontentment and frustration that accompanies undirected efforts.
As learning unfolds under the guidance of a clear L.O. and a well defined S.C., a teacher should stop learning half way into the lesson and gain the children's attention with a finger on the nose. This mini plenary has a three fold purpose. First, it serves to refocus the leaner after a period of independent work. Secondly, any children who have been working under any wayward misconceptions will have time to reflect on the successfulness of their learning. Finally, the class teacher will be able to assess the children's learning by asking them the question, who is being successful and how do you know? The children should be reminded to refer back to the success criteria when explaining their answers. The mini plenary should then be concluded with the children finishing off their task.
In the plenary of a lesson children should be asked if they were successful or not and how they know in reference to the S.C. By using this simple strategy of AFL in the classroom a teacher can mould self assured and independent learners who feel confident working and learning in the classroom. AFL is a powerful tool in the tool box of a teacher seeking excellent behaviour as a product of excellent learning.