Misjudged AfL needs reassessment

Bill Boyle

I was interested to hear Dylan Wiliam's thoughts on the distortions of AfL in classrooms ("Think you've implemented Assessment for Learning?", 13 July). A couple of points from our school-based research: (i) the "confusion" over the definition of the word "assessment" is partly caused by the absence of its use in conjunction with an understanding of the word "formative" and consequently (ii) the endlessly travelling salesperson who sells workshopsconferences to teachers on AfL has failed to emphasise "learning" as an activity that requires teachers to analyse and understand the complexity of that learning process and to plan accordingly. The reduction of the pedagogical training aspect of the initial teacher training programme to make room for fast-track solutions (such as Teach First) has validated this minimum level competency process.

In 2009-10, our team at the Centre for Formative Assessment Studies, University of Manchester, studied AfL strategies across a national sample of primary schools and the resultant range of definitions and usages published in the report should have been enough to provoke government attention. It was not newsworthy enough to merit action, sadly.

Bill Boyle, School of Education, University of Manchester.

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Bill Boyle

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