Saturday, 28 March 2009

Some interesting links from Twitter this morning which follow on well from a discussion going on at the moment over on mflresources forum about deep learning /length of lessons / assessment. Am currently listening to video referenced by Terry Freedman: Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate - his keynote speech at a conference on using games for education. I'm pleased that he acknowledges that teachers are hampered by the 'mendacious press' - he says: (0833 - 0901)
In many senses, we the active influencers of change are underachieving as a result of (stifling?) our creativity, our ambition, our imagination for what the future of learning might come to look like. And in this sense, I must stress (and I hope this has come up in the last couple of days) we are desperately hampered by the scare stories in the Daily Mail and elsewhere. Never ever underestimate the degree to which educational progress in this country has been hampered an in some cases badly distorted by a mendacious media. I have no idea why they do it, I have no idea what their agenda is but I certainly do think it's been remarkably destructive.

It was in the question / answer time that I feel a key issue was partly explored: the critical role of government / DCSF / QCA in allowing teachers to follow 'good practice' (.. it tends to grate when you hear people saying 'the education world ought to .... ' 'teachers should ...' etc etc. Teachers and their managers are seriously constrained by the assessment system and above all by league tables.

Thanks so much to Lilian Soon (??) (3135) who explained the dilemma of awarding bodies / DCSF / Government passing the buck ... and asked David 'what can the politicians do about this?' .. she said that everyone is able to take forward the ideas of the conference BUT .. we can't get past that ... the problem is assessing the curriculum ..

David's said it was not a question of 'throwing away the curriculum' .. he likened the curriculum to a spine .. the body does not get very far without it .. instead he focussed on assessment:
The problem is not throwing away the curriculum, it's assessing the curriculum. (.referred to the earlier criticism of the role of the press .....) the other issue that bedevils education is that we are trying to evolve a 21st century education system but we're still stuck with what looks horribly like a nineteenth century assessment process - we've absolutely failed to develop assessment processes which can take advantage of what you can do - the things you can to - and translate them into something which parents at home can understand so how do we explain to parents that actually the work that your so or daughter has been doing on his or her Blackberry is translated into something that they tangibly see as points or certificates or something that they can go out into the outside world and boast about .... the emotional leap has befuddled us .. [ we need to ]make absolutely sure that as we do it the assessment processes for that curriculum remain contiguous with the development of the curriculum - if we don't do that we will always have a drag anchor wherever we are going - so I would say on balance that there is more work to be done on assessment than there is to be done on curriculum at present.

He does acknowledge that there are well-meaning people at QCA who want to address this.

So what is the answer? What is the purpose of assessment? Is there a middle way between the extremes of education being for a state purpose / allowing the teacher free rein? How can we veer assessment so that we strike some sort of balance? I don't know ....

But perhaps it would help to make more explicit the connection between the two 'thorns' David identifies of (1) the nature of assessment and (2) the press:.............. the league tables. [he may have mentioned this earlier .. this is a quick reaction to a first hearing ....]. Perhaps if we could abolish league tables our hands would be less 'tied'. But is there any chance of that happening? Which political party would be brave enough to put this in a manifesto and have a chance of being elected?

(And 'PS' .. I admit to having been rather overwhelmed by a visit to the House of Lords this week when Lord Puttnam passed right in fron tof me and I squealed.. a bit ..hope he didn't notice!! .. will blog about the visit later!)

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