Ok even i find this a tricky one…
Short-hand – Teach to the test basically equates to me standing at the front and making sure the students have everything they need to pass the exam.
Assessment for Learning – is the process of the students understanding what they need to pass the test, by allowing them to explore a topic and relate that to an assessment criteria.
One is lead by the teacher the other is lead by the learner…this is when it becomes a little bit tricky to understand this research. You do have to share, explain, teach the criteria/mark schemes/’what the examiner is looking for’ to enable the students to be able to do this for themselves, but then the process becomes the students seeing it for themselves…but isn’t this teaching ‘to the test’? AfL is all about the journey where am i now (level/grade)? what is my target (level/grade)? and what do i need to do to move towards the target? In the end AfL is allowing the students to understand the dark arts of levelling and marking a, yes you’ve guessed, it a test.
So is the point that a group of students that have a teacher under pressure for results will do worse than an teacher not under the same pressure? But what is that stress? I thought that we all wanted our students to do as well as possible? The result of that is that students do better or as well as expected? Some classes are harder than others? Some individuals are harder than others? But, in the end the class will hopefully do better than expected.
Now try to marry that up with two teachers in two schools. One working with a top set in a grammar school, with all their students expected to get an A*. That teacher can fail to get all them that grade, but 100% will pass. Therefore, the teachers results, internally, can be seen to be an underperformance. The students haven’t done as well as they should have had. But, externally the school is still successful. The school could get a visit from our friends at OFSTED, be told that its value added figures aren’t good enough, but will still get a minimum of a good because its standards (the pass rate) is massively above the national average. No-one ‘fails’ the school is still successful in the eyes of everyone externally.
The second teacher is expected to get 30% to a C grade, but the national minimum of 30% A* to C requires them to get 50% through. Even if to do that, that member of staff has basically worked miracles. The school is under-enormous pressure. If they don’t get above the 30% the head will be fired, possibly the governors. The SLT come under that pressure and it flows downwards to the staff. Everyone starts to ‘teach to the test’ results are disappointing compared to the National Average (although based on the intake of the school a success). OFSTED tell them that they can only get a satisfactory because their standards are too low against the national average. The Head is fired, National Challenge enter, more pressure etc etc.
I suppose the point of this blog is that it is ultimately the pressure of league tables that creates this mess. To allow teachers to ‘let go’ and allow the students to learn independently requires a moment of reflection across the whole of the education sector. Teachers need to see that letting go allows students to learn better and therefore gain higher marks without the pressure of the possibility of people losing their jobs and the school being closed down or labelled as failing. You have to be an extremely confident individual to let go in this way or work in an institution that won’t come under the spot light with every % point gained or lost.
Scrap the league tables, allow outstanding practice to be shared across the profession and then watch all students results improve…oh but then the exams will be deemed to be easier…don’t get me started on current assessment methods!!!