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A chance to dip your toe in the water

pedagogy | Published in TESpro on 23 November, 2012 | By: Michael Shaw

Do not adjust your set. You’ve not stumbled on a repeat by accident. Yes, this week’s focus is on assessment for learning, which has been explored in TESpro before. Indeed, it was the subject of the very first edition last year.

But you didn’t really think we would only cover something as important as that once, did you?

The international research suggests that the way teachers give their pupils feedback and help them to understand what they have achieved is probably the most crucial aspect of teaching. Forget the endless debates over school types, class sizes, setting, behaviour policies and so on; as Professor John Hattie’s studies for his book Visible Learning have shown, all those factors pale into insignificance compared with constructive forms of assessment.

Such approaches go beyond simply giving pupils a mark at the end of a test, instead involving young people in their own learning and helping them to see what they need to do next.

Our previous look at assessment for learning explored how the term came about and some of the sterling research behind it by professors Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black, authors of the seminal 1998 book on the subject Inside the Black Box. Many more pages could be filled with analysis on how the term has been hijacked by politicians and others as a fig leaf for data-heavy approaches that are blatantly about assessment “of” learning rather than “for” it.

However, that is not what this week’s piece by secondary school teacher Mike Gershon is about. Instead, it’s classroom tips a gogo. It’s stuff you can try out straight away, if you are not doing so already.

Some academics might find that reductive. They would point out that assessment for learning is more than just a set of tricks that can be dropped into lessons, such as getting pupils to hold thumbs up or down, or wave mini-whiteboards with their answers on them.

And they would be right: it does need to be deeper than that. But the ideas overleaf are still a handy starting point. Plus, it’s not as if we won’t come back to assessment for learning again …

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw.

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