If you have ever used route-finding software to help plan a journey you are likely to have been amazed at how efficiently it works.
Type in a couple of postcodes and almost immediately you have a map and a detailed set of instructions to help you on your way. If only planning the learning journeys for pupils were so easy.
Where are we now? Where do we need to go? How will we get there? These are the important questions that teachers ask themselves as they plan their work. With 30 or so pupils in a class, however, it is a task that requires a good deal of time and is far more complex than entering a pair of postcodes. However, planning these learning journeys, providing signposts and celebrating milestones along the way is what effective teaching and assessment is about. The better teachers know the territory and what the destinations look like the better prepared they are to offer useful guidance and support to pupils making the journey. Understanding standards is a key feature of effective learning.
In planning paths through learning the closest thing we have to route-finding software is the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's National Curriculum in Action website. Designed to help teachers develop their understanding of standards, the site is an extensive on-line portfolio which uses examples of pupils' work to illustrate expectations in the national curriculum.
Nothing brings the dry words of level descriptions to life better than real examples of children's work. A quick search of the site can bring up examples of KS2 geography at level 3 or KS3 science at level 6. Alongside the examples of pupils' work are teachers' commentaries that describe what happened in the classroom and how the work provides evidence of what the pupils know, do and understand.
Ken Boston, the QCA's chief executive, has expressed a view that internal teacher assessment should play a greater role in our assessment system. He found it difficult to understand why teachers in English schools are not afforded the same degree of professional trust and responsibility as enjoyed by professionals in other countries. Many teachers agree with him.
They recognise the need to be confident that their judgments are consistent and reliable. A level 4 in Telford must be the same as a level 4 in Tewkesbury or Torquay. The National Curriculum in Action website has an important contribution to make in helping to ensure consistency in assessment. By clearly illustrating standards it provides a national yardstick to help teachers moderate their judgments.
National Curriculum in Action is proving to be popular and effective.
Feedback from teacher users is very positive and a number of LEAs are using it as a focus for assessment training. Last month it received more than 175,000 hits. Many teachers like the "my portfolio" feature which makes it possible to download items to create a personalised portfolio suitable for their own key stage or subject area. In the coming months the site will be further developed to show examples of the effective use of ICT across all subjects.
Plans are also in place to illustrate other cross-curricular themes such as creativity and thinking skills.
Put simply www.ncaction.org.uk shows you what the national curriculum looks like in action. Therefore next time that you're planning a curriculum journey for your pupils, looking for a learning signpost or checking that they've reached a particular milestone take a trip to the National Curriculum in Action site.
It may provide you with some useful directions.