Variation on a theme is testing for some

29th May 2009 at 01:00
Reluctance to ditch traditional testing may stymie the radical change promised by A Curriculum for Excellence, fears the teacher behind a pioneering Highland response

Kevin Logan is concerned that, just as teachers often adopt only the parts of curricular innovation that match their existing practice, Scottish policymakers will do likewise.

"The fear is that when we strip away the fine words, we will simply be left with a variation on the prevailing orthodoxy of testing and accountability," said Mr Logan, who was looking ahead to the national document on assessment, Building the Curriculum 5, to be published later this year.

Aligning this orthodoxy with ACfE was a "significant problem", said Mr Logan, project manager of the innovative Highland Future Learning and Teaching (FlaT) programme of formative assessment. "The Government and Scottish Qualifications Authority will have to be quite radical in their thinking if assessment is to fully complement ACfE."

BtC5 was "causing some difficulty due to a lack of any coherent conception of assessment". Teachers were receiving conflicting messages that "ACfE offers an opportunity to make some fundamental changes" and that they were "doing it already".

"Significant investment" was needed in continuing professional development, which needed to go much deeper than "tips and strategies". Teachers had to become "reflective professionals" - not "proficient technicists" - who would work closely with researchers and drive curricular reform themselves.

"Hoping that local authorities and individual headteachers will be the main drivers for deep meaningful engagement with ACfE is simply not feasible," he said.

Mr Logan's comments came in a draft paper considering the project's national implications, which he is discussing this month with the Scottish Government, HMIE, Learning and Teaching Scotland, and the SQA. Researchers from Glasgow and Strathclyde universities previously concluded that "something unique has emerged within Highland Council".

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