The Scottish Qualifications Authority is under considerable pressure from a number of directions: from the Scottish government, which has pushed it in the direction of these changes; from teachers’ organisations, which are concerned with workload issues; and from the recent report of the Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, which criticised it for poor communication and inadequate consultation with teachers.
At the same time, the SQA is rightly concerned about maintaining standards so that the credibility of awards is not undermined. From the guidelines issued so far, it is hard to see if there will be much reduction in teachers’ time.
Where new elements of assessment are involved, teachers will have to familiarise themselves with the requirements. Monitoring the impact on staff and pupils as the changes are introduced will be important, preferably through independent evaluation. Otherwise, there is a danger that the exercise will be seen as an attempt at a quick, political fix.
Underlying the problem is the poor conceptualisation of the relationship between curriculum and assessment in Curriculum for Excellence. As CfE developed, insufficient attention was given to the best ways of ensuring that the knowledge, skills and understanding which the new curriculum was intended to promote could be acquired, consolidated and applied in other contexts. Vague talk about “deep learning”, “problem solving” and “critical thinking” is not enough. These concepts need to be fleshed out and related to specific parts of the curriculum.
Walter Humes, University of Stirling honorary professor of education