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Morris 'two stars' Simpson

Morris Simpson has let me down. In the quagmire of negativity, cynicism and underachievement that is the fictional world of The TES Scotland School Diary, he could usually be relied on to be open-minded, optimistic and upbeat, despite 22 years of evidence that this would get him nowhere.

Sadly, in a recent episode, he and his wife could be heard being scathingly dismissive of aspects of Assessment is For Learning. This they did using that glib, ill-considered phrase that has those who have run courses for their peers wishing they were allowed to bear arms: "This is what we were doing 20 years ago." (Funny how it's always 20 years. Even 20 years ago, it was 20 years.) According to my (rare unsigned) copy of A Probationer's Diary, Morris graduated from Jordanhill College in 1984, a year after I left Moray House.

Maybe we namby-pamby easterners didn't have such enlightened tutors there.

While I recall writing aims and lesson objectives, I never shared them, WALT and WILF style, with the weans. "That would spoil the surprise," a colleague once remarked.

Morris, you are turning into the sort of middle-aged misanthrope usually associated with the type of fossilised PT subject, whose existence represents the only credible argument in favour of a faculty management structure.

The only problem I have with Assessment is For Learning is when it is implemented superficially. Use "two stars and a wish" when marking, tick the formative assessment box on your development plan and don't worry if you don't give the pupil an opportunity to act on the wish. At that level, it is tokenism and is perilously close to education by soundbite.

It was, however, juvenile humour rather than heavy satire that led to a couple of us cross-authority secondee types turning two stars and a wish into rhyming slang. "I've had too much coffee. I'll need to go for a two stars."

Enough of the cheap jokes (well, not quite - there'll be another one in the sign-off). I was involved in a Learning and Teaching Scotland formative assessment project where we shared criteria for science skills with pupils at the beginning of a unit of work. They were asked to indicate how competent they felt about each skill, to see how much support they needed.

"We should do this in all our subjects," commented a first-year girl, "then they wouldn't keep teaching us things we already knew from the primary."

Oops . . . What I'm Looking For is a place to hide my embarrassment.

Gregor Steele invites readers to traffic-light this piece. Green: I enjoyed it. Amber: Good in parts. Red: Complete and utter two stars and a wish.

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