Every Saturday morning I take two of my children swimming. The local pool is stocked full of enthusiastic young swimming teachers who have given all of my children a fantastic start in life. They have shown them how to feel comfortable and safe in water and how to enjoy it. Ratios seem to be a maximum of 10:1 with a lifeguard on duty too. Lessons last half an hour and each child receives individual as well as group teaching and tutoring. The classes are differentiated by ability; when you are good enough you go up the next level regardless of age. When you look across the pool every single participant is enjoying themselves. For £5 the half hour session is an immense bargain.
However today was different. THERE WAS NO TEACHING AND LEARNING AT ALL. Instead it was a ‘recording how far you can swim’ day. The children were put into lanes up and down the pool and every time they swam the 50 meters there and back the teacher recorded it. All the teacher had to do was shout encouragement and tick a box. Then at the end, write in the gap on the slip of paper how far the child had managed.
Maybe I should demand my money back because my children could not have progressed this morning even if they wanted to. Swimming up and down didn’t seem to serve any purpose. After all I am paying for them to LEARN how to swim.
Then I watched what happened after the class. Normally parents pick up their children from the poolside, get them showered, changed and leave as soon as possible. This morning however, slips were being checked and congratulations given. Timidly at first comparisons between offspring were being made. No one was rushing to leave, even if it was only to queue at reception for a certificate and badge proving the distance that had been swum. All parents were hooked on this measurable outcome. ‘How good is my child?’ is what we all desperately wanted to know. In other words parents wanted to know the outcome and the sum of the summative assessment.
Not only that, but the children wanted their reward too. When my two realised that I wasn’t queuing for their certificates and badges they were upset. I didn’t have any money on me, but explaining that wasn’t satisfactory. Of course they were wanting to have what everyone else was getting, but equally they desired the proof of their success and their efforts.
All this made me think about assessment and parents involvement in their child’s learning and progress. My previous post on parents evenings was partly about how schools may try to involve parents in what their child is doing. Parents rarely understand the difference between one level or grade and the next. They want to know “How is my child doing? Are they working hard? Are they behaving themselves?” After all if they were excited by pedagogy they would be teaching too.
Now if parents do not understand levels and that is the summative assessment we used to report to them whist their is child between 5 and 14, then there is something seriously wrong in the way schools are communicating. Since there is confusion over what a level 4 may mean then reporting part levels is even more senseless. I can understand “Your child swam 400 meters” but I don’t know what “your son is a level 4″ in French means.
So we need to rid ourselves of National curriculum Levels
Only I don’t know what we could replace them with.
I am looking forward to meeting my children’s primary teachers in the upcoming parents evenings. I want to hear what they think of my children. How they are progressing and whether they are happy or not at school. I will get 10 minutes with the teacher. This is a good thing. I will be involved a little bit in their education. As a parent this is my right.
For the school they get parents into school, they get to hear about any issues that may be affecting their pupils learning in class.
But as a SECONDARY teacher i really hate parents evening. I get 5 minutes with parents at the end of a full day of teaching. The hall is cold. There are rarely any gaps between appointments.
The whole procedure stinks of repetition. I write down in the pupils exercise books how they are doing, what they have done well and what they could improve upon. Then i write their reports in which i say how they are doing, what they have done well and what they could improve upon. Then at parents evening i tell their parents how they are doing, what they have done well and what they could improve upon.
So i say for secondary schools, parents evening must change.
In the internet age we can have much better day to day communication with parents if we need. Indeed the government is telling us we must do exactly that. Yet of course as we all know communication that is merely digital lacks some basic contact. It is still imperative that parents and school meet face to face. But not over a desk in the school hall discussing the teachers mark book.
I am not sure exactly what could take its place but i have a suggestion to get the discussion started. Parents could come into an extra lesson after school WITH THEIR CHILD. They could see what and how their child is being taught. They could get a sense for the learning environment, they could share this experience with their son/daughter, they could get to know their offspring’s teacher. It would be so much more REAL than that 5 minute chat.
I would really welcome any contribution to this line of thought…… happy half term to you all.
I came accross this interesting post from taitcoles last week. In the it he explained how he had used SOLO taxonomy with a Y9 group. As you will know from my 2 previous posts i am concerned at the moment about learning objectives and specifically differentiated learning objectives. When we met as a dept we came up with some good ideas on how to deliver and present these to classes. However I noticed that all the ideas that were proposed were examples of what teachers had tried in KS3 lessons. No one had attempted any differentiated learning objectives with KS4. I can see why; if you look at the syllabus and the mark scheme there is not much differentiation in there. Well there is but levels lend themselves far more easily to setting out differentiated learning objectives.
SOLO stands for Structured Observation of Learning Outcomes. But my theory is that if theses outcomes are understood by the pupils then i can show them as the lesson objectives and they will easily allow for differentiation.
Now I just copied TaitColes idea really. I havent added much more to it. So I really recommend you read his thoughts before you plough through my attempts.
What I did
The work on the London docklands had already been set and handed in before I read about SOLO. This link shows you the instructions I gave to my pupils (it is on my pupil blog). I had orignally planned just to hand the work back as normal marked with my comments for improvement on them. I also wanted to show them how it fitted in with the syllabus and exam question they might get so I also handed them This document too.
From now I went into new territory with SOLO. I used this powerpoint Y10 SOLO intro lesson to help them become familiar with the whole idea. It worked REALLY WELL. they quickly categorised the XFactor statements. Interestingly most of the class thought that the 4th stage (relational) was deeper thinking than the 5th (extended abstract) as the 4th was all fact and the 5th was more opinion.
When they read through each others work intheir groups they slowly but surely began to understand the task and by the end everyone had some feedback from another pupil to reflect on.
Finally I linked the SOLO taxonomy to exam grades and showed how it wasnt until you were starting on the relational stage that you could be certain of gaining a ‘C’ grade at GCSE. It was this fact that finally nailed the usefullness of SOLO to them!
From now on I plan to start setting KS4 differentiated learning objectives based on this taxonomy. I will let you know how it goes!!
In the meantime a big thank you to @Totallywired and @learningspy for all their ideas which I have simply stolen added nothing to and used (by God I love the internet and twitter especially)
In our previous department meeting we had discussed how we could make our learning objectives accessible for all. We all went away for three weeks and last night showed and shared our first attempts and ideas for using differenetiated learning objectives. Excuse the bragging but our ideas were FAB. I have attached a word document showing 4 of our methods that have been used so far. Click here for the link.
What came out of the discussion on Monday was that we were all thinking of using these to aid our AfL as well. By setting these objectives at the start of a lesson we could then review them with our pupils or ask the class to review them themselves. Everyone then has a clear idea of how they are doing and what their next step is.
There was some concern about the amount of targets and objectives and aims the pupils would be taking on board, but we agreed that many of these ideas would work best if they were used over a series of lessons.
There were also different opinions about the use of ’all, most and some’ as an approach. Some people said it could be easy for a pupil to achieve the ‘all’ target and stop for the rest of the lesson. Others said it was a question of how you phrased and sold the idea of ‘all, most and some’.
The meeting covered much more than this too, but we all agreed that opening up the department meeting to discussion about teaching and learning’ wasextremely useful and the discussion will be continued at our next meeting too. We would be really interested to hear anyone else’s opinion and strategies as well.
At tea last night, over jam on toast my daughter, 8 asked her elder brother what he liked most and what he disliked most about school. He said he liked “games and PE and maths because you don’t have to do any writing in those lessons except of course the learning objectives.”
“do you have to write a learning objective every lesson?” I joined in
And my year 3 daughter confirmed she had to the same as well. “But sometimes they let you write LO instead of learning objectives.”
So my children know exactly what they are going to be learning. They can measure their success or not at achieving it. They know where the lesson is heading.
In the lessons I teach to my KS3 and KS4 classes I want my pupils to know what I am trying to help them learn. I want them to know how it links to the last lesson and where they should be by the end of the hour. But I also want them to enjoy the learning, to develop a taste for investigation, for enquiry and for the PROCESS of finding out. If the lesson structure is all about the goal at the end of it and whether you are red or amber or green in achieving it, then where is the emphasis on “HOW” going to come in?
My SLT also want me to teach ‘objective led’ lessons just like it looks like the SLT are asking my children’s teachers to do. Teachers are supposed ‘light the fires’ of our learners. How can we balance these two strands? How can we open up our lessons so the pupils can take some control over the learning yet still fit in with the demands of curriculum and SLT ? How can the lesson both allow the students to experiment with finding out and know what they have to achieve in order to pass exams?