Monthly Archives: October 2015

Austerity, education and losing sight of learners⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Since Nicola Sturgeon' announcement that standardised testing was to be reintroduced into all Scottish primary schools and the early years of secondary schools, as a key component of the National Improvement Framework, much has been written in the media, blog posts, by academics and some organisations that must make for very uncomfortable reading for the Scottish Government. The vast majority of what has been written is opposed to the reintroduction of standardised testing as a tool to drive forward improvements in our schools, both in terms of attainment and closing the gap between the attainment of the most privileged and the least. President Obama signalled last week that even in the USA, with the 'No Child Left Behind' agenda, they have gone too far and American children are over assessed and under taught. Worse, the programme aims, which were to raise attainment and to close the equity gap, have not been delivered. Recent research has shown that the equity gap in the USA has actually got wider in recent years and attainment is down when compared to other countries across the world. 

I have already written in previous posts of my opposition to the use of such standardised tests as a driver for our shared aims in Scotland, and other individuals such as Bill Boyd and organisations like RISE have published posts and policy statements that eloquently show the folly of the Scottish Government in placing their faith in such tests to deliver something that they have demonstratably failed to deliver in other countries across the globe. But, I am currently reading 'The Price of Inequality' by Joseph E Stiglitz the Nobel Prize winning economist, in which he examines the problems caused by the economic crash of 2007 onwards and the rush to austerity measures in America, the UK and many other countries. Stiglitz looks at what happened in the USA and other countries when governments introduced measures that basically impacted adversely mostly on the middle classes and the poor in such a way that the gap between the very rich and the rest of us got progressively bigger. Indeed the top 1% of earners and richest people in these societies were largely protected from the worst excesses of austerity so that the inequality gap has widened both in the USA and the UK, as well as elsewhere. Stiglitz argues that this was not inevitable and was a direct result of government actions and policies following the crash. My aim here is not to review or critique of Stiglitz's thesis in this work, I wouldn't dream to think I am qualified to do so anyway. But, reading the book and some of his insights did make me think again of the equity gap in education in Scotland, and elsewhere, and the approach currently being taken by the Scottish Government. Stiglitz has noted how government policy can help, or can make things worse, especially if they are badly informed, misinformed or driven by ideology.

When governments, including ours, began to focus on austerity measures, this had impacts for schools, our education system, local authorities and devolved government structures. Suddenly, everyone's focus was on finance. At first we were told that 'the status quo was not an option' as governments and directors encouraged everyone  to think and work differently, and 'do more for less.' We did. We reconfigured the ways we worked and looked to work more efficiently in order to begin reducing costs and overheads, whilst always trying to minimumise the impact for our pupils and learners. I myself became headteacher of two primary schools in 2008, as my own local authority, who could see what was coming, tried to reconfigure the service and reduce the number of headteachers by partnering schools where possible. At the same time they made all headteachers non-teaching, so there were no more teaching-heads, and this was a bonus for many heads and schools. Partnering schools enabled this to happen. So there were some gains, as well as some losses. This was just the start though and we soon started to see further budget reductions and the need to make even greater savings at the centre, where staffing started to be drastically reduced, and in schools as our budgets now required us to make savings too. Headteachers very quickly had less and less resources to help them deliver their own, local and national agendas, all of which were definitely not slowing down.

Soon, everything we talked about at headteacher meetings was dominated by budgets and the 'new efficiencies', which we eventually started to call 'cuts'. All of the time, many at the centre and everyone in schools were trying to protect our learners from the impacts of what was going on behind the scenes, and I think we have been pretty good at this. There was no reduction in the expectations from the local authority, Education Scotland, the HMIE, and the Scottish Government in terms of school development and the introduction of teaching and curricular reform. We also had the same expectations in school, which was to keep moving forward ourselves, and we kept delivering. 

Fast forward to today and we still find an ever increasing improvement agenda, driven by all the same people and organisations, and even more pressure on resources. What has changed now is that, to me as a headteacher, it would seem that many of the people driving forward the agendas are losing sight of the individuals that make up our learners, our staff and our school communities and systems. Decisions are being taken that are beginning to have bigger impacts on learners and education, by experts in finance, statistics, data handling and politics, and who have limited, if any understanding, of learning and teaching and the things that make a difference to these. My worry is that when we become so focused on money, statistics and data, we lose sight of the people who sit behind the figures. This is a concern with standardised testing too. Already we are being asked questions about percentages of pupils and levels of attainment and what is concerning is that the people asking the questions, including the government, don't want to know, or haven't the time to understand, the individual learning stories and journeys that sit behind the data. Percentages don't tell you about the individual circumstances of the pupils, where they started from and the efforts that have been made to get them where they are now. Every single pupil is a unique individual to their teachers and their school. To a standardised test they become a percentile, a number, or a point on a chart or graph. They lose their identity. They lose their individual learning journey. My point is that once we take the people and the individuals out of the learning equation, we lose sight of what education should be about. Not at a school level, where we will always see the individuals, but at an area and national level. Our own government are moving forward with the 'Getting It Right For Every Child' agenda (sounds familiar), their aim to raise attainment and the drive to reduce the equity gap. These are all very laudible, but they become undeliverable if policy makers have the wrong drivers and lose sight of the individuals that make up the 'system'. You can have all the rhetoric and visionary aims you like, but if you keep pulling the rug out from under the feet of the individuals delivering on a daily basis, by diminishing resources, monetary and personnel, and focusing on the figures, the loftiest of aims are doomed to failure. Eventually 'less does actually mean less', as there are no more efficiency savings to make and the people aren't there, or resourced, to deliver what needs to be delivered. When the people who drive strategy at local and national level become fixated on numbers, percentages and costings it is very easy for them to lose sight of the people who sit behind that data. You can dehumanise the system as we become more and more data driven instead of people driven. If education is not about people and their individuality, we have lost our way somewhere.

Ms Sturgeon has asked us to judge her on education. We will, but she should remember we judge people on their actions, not their words.

#ScotEdChat is here!⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

It started with a tweet “RT if you agree – educators in Scotland should be sharing & connecting on Twitter using the #scotedchat hashtag – pls using it!!” I have never caused a mini Twitter-storm before so this was new territory for me… I haven’t been using Twitter very long but in a short time […]

Why we need to reform assessment⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

Following on from my post back in May 'Do Exams Pass Under CfE?', I have given the issues of assessment and certification some further consideration, which I outlined in my presentation at this year's Teachmeet SLF 'Breakout' event held at CitizenM, Glasgow back in September. This post is an attempt to summarise and explain the issues which cause me, and many other people in education, huge concern and why I believe assessment must be reformed.

As I outlined in 'Do Exams Pass Under CfE?', the system of assessment and certification has remained largely unchanged after the significant changes brought to the Scottish education system by Curriculum for Excellence. Course content may have been reworked in most subjects, with many now including an extended research and presentation task (assignment) which contributes a proportion of the final exam score, but the framework of unit tests and final exam remains at the heart of how students are assessed.

In many ways what has been put into place for the new CfE National 3-5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses, with the unit tests becoming more high-stakes than the NABs they replace - candidates receive only two opportunities to 'pass' these tests unless under 'exceptional circumstances', but cannot receive a grade for the final exam unless all course units have been passed.

In my own subject the old NAB unit assessments, where pupils had to achieve a score of 60% to pass, have been replaced by assessment which are broken down into two main parts -

  • 2.1 Knowledge & Understanding (KU) - which is broken down in to individual Key Areas described in the SQA arrangements documentation. To 'pass' this component students must respond correctly to at least half of the questions - i.e. if there are 14 questions, 7 must be answered correctly. If a student doesn't meet this requirement they can be reassessed, but they need only to attempt questions from Key Areas that they did not 'pass' in their first attempt. If they do not succeed at a second attempt, they have not met the minimum standard and cannot progress unless there are 'exceptional circumstances' which would allow a third attempt.
  • 2.2 Problem Solving (PS) - which is further broken down into four skills - Predicting, Selecting, Processing and Analysing. In these tasks student must correctly respond to at least half of each type of question in order to 'pass' that problems solving skill - i.e. if there are 6 processing questions, 3 must be answered correctly. Students who don't meet this requirement for each of the problem solving skills do not need to be reassessed, as other unit assessments will allow opportunities to demonstrate the same skills. Each skill need only be 'passed' on one occasion across each of the three unit assessments.

Teachers giving these assessments must record each students performance in terms of 'pass' or 'fail' not just for each unit, but for KU and each of the four PS skills for each unit. This applies to courses at all levels from National 3 to Advanced Higher. The collating and recording of students' progress through these assessments is both complex and time consuming. However, more is required both of students and teachers.

In all courses except N3, students achieving passes in KU across each unit, and across each of the four PS skills must also complete two further tasks before they can sit the final exam -

  • Outcome 1 - practical experimental report. This tasks is broadly similar to the LO3 task in the old Higher course where students perform an experiment and write up a detailed report meeting criteria set by SQA. This task is broken down into a number of individual outcomes, each of which can be achieved in any number of different activities. Students need only achieve each individual outcome once across the whole course - these must also be recorded by the teacher.
  • Research task - The detailed requirements vary between courses, but in general this is an extended research task which is conducted by all students.
    • At N4, the 'Added Value Unit' (AVU), which is internally assessed, contains a number of individual criteria all of which must be met in order for the student to 'pass' the task and achieve a course award. Students may receive feedback from teachers to ensure all the criteria are met.
    • At N5, students conduct an 'Assignment'. This research task, which may or may not include experimental work, requires them to collate information as they progress through the task. At the end of the 'research phase' of the task, students are required to compile a report, including items demonstrating a variety of information processing and presentations skills 'under a strict degree of supervision'. The student can not be given any feedback on their report, which is sent to SQA for external assessment. The assignment report is given a mark out of 20 which counts towards the final grade.
    • At Higher, students complete the 'Researching Physics' half unit within the course. This is assessed internally by teachers against criteria set by SQA and must include evidence of both research and practical work conducted by the students. The Researching Physics unit can be used as the basis for the students' remaining assessment task - the 'Assignment'. As for the N5 assignment, students must compile a report 'under a degree of strict supervision' demonstrating a number of information processing and presentation skills, and no feedback can be given. The completed report is sent to the SQA for external assessment with the mark out of 20 counting towards the final grade.
    • At Advanced Higher the arrangements are similar to those for Higher, though pupils conduct extended practical work as part of their 'Investigation'. This is assessed both internally as a half unit, and externally through their investigation report which is compiled by the student through out the task. Students are allowed to be given feedback at all stages throughout this task.

Only when a student has successfully completed all of the internally assessed components of their course are they allowed to sit the final examination. At the end of all of this detailed and highly involved assessment the final grade awarded to the student will depend mostly on their performance in during the two to two-and-a-half hours spent in the examination hall, with no recognition at all of the tasks that have been successfully completed on the way.

Bearing in mind that students may be following as many as seven N5 courses, in which various other combinations of assessment tasks and arrangements may be in place, there is no doubt that the new CfE courses have significantly increased the burden of assessment on both students and teachers. This is clearly unsustainable and an alternative must be found.

In my next post, I will detail my proposals for reforming the process of assessment to reduce some of this burden and the certification of courses to allow greater recognition of the achievements students assessments throughout their courses.

Why we need to reform assessment⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

Following on from my post back in May 'Do Exams Pass Under CfE?', I have given the issues of assessment and certification some further consideration, which I outlined in my presentation at this year's Teachmeet SLF 'Breakout' event held at CitizenM, Glasgow back in September. This post is an attempt to summarise and explain the issues which cause me, and many other people in education, huge concern and why I believe assessment must be reformed.

As I outlined in 'Do Exams Pass Under CfE?', the system of assessment and certification has remained largely unchanged after the significant changes brought to the Scottish education system by Curriculum for Excellence. Course content may have been reworked in most subjects, with many now including an extended research and presentation task (assignment) which contributes a proportion of the final exam score, but the framework of unit tests and final exam remains at the heart of how students are assessed.

In many ways what has been put into place for the new CfE National 3-5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses, with the unit tests becoming more high-stakes than the NABs they replace - candidates receive only two opportunities to 'pass' these tests unless under 'exceptional circumstances', but cannot receive a grade for the final exam unless all course units have been passed.

In my own subject the old NAB unit assessments, where pupils had to achieve a score of 60% to pass, have been replaced by assessment which are broken down into two main parts -

  • 2.1 Knowledge & Understanding (KU) - which is broken down in to individual Key Areas described in the SQA arrangements documentation. To 'pass' this component students must respond correctly to at least half of the questions - i.e. if there are 14 questions, 7 must be answered correctly. If a student doesn't meet this requirement they can be reassessed, but they need only to attempt questions from Key Areas that they did not 'pass' in their first attempt. If they do not succeed at a second attempt, they have not met the minimum standard and cannot progress unless there are 'exceptional circumstances' which would allow a third attempt.
  • 2.2 Problem Solving (PS) - which is further broken down into four skills - Predicting, Selecting, Processing and Analysing. In these tasks student must correctly respond to at least half of each type of question in order to 'pass' that problems solving skill - i.e. if there are 6 processing questions, 3 must be answered correctly. Students who don't meet this requirement for each of the problem solving skills do not need to be reassessed, as other unit assessments will allow opportunities to demonstrate the same skills. Each skill need only be 'passed' on one occasion across each of the three unit assessments.

Teachers giving these assessments must record each students performance in terms of 'pass' or 'fail' not just for each unit, but for KU and each of the four PS skills for each unit. This applies to courses at all levels from National 3 to Advanced Higher. The collating and recording of students' progress through these assessments is both complex and time consuming. However, more is required both of students and teachers.

In all courses except N3, students achieving passes in KU across each unit, and across each of the four PS skills must also complete two further tasks before they can sit the final exam -

  • Outcome 1 - practical experimental report. This tasks is broadly similar to the LO3 task in the old Higher course where students perform an experiment and write up a detailed report meeting criteria set by SQA. This task is broken down into a number of individual outcomes, each of which can be achieved in any number of different activities. Students need only achieve each individual outcome once across the whole course - these must also be recorded by the teacher.
  • Research task - The detailed requirements vary between courses, but in general this is an extended research task which is conducted by all students.
    • At N4, the 'Added Value Unit' (AVU), which is internally assessed, contains a number of individual criteria all of which must be met in order for the student to 'pass' the task and achieve a course award. Students may receive feedback from teachers to ensure all the criteria are met.
    • At N5, students conduct an 'Assignment'. This research task, which may or may not include experimental work, requires them to collate information as they progress through the task. At the end of the 'research phase' of the task, students are required to compile a report, including items demonstrating a variety of information processing and presentations skills 'under a strict degree of supervision'. The student can not be given any feedback on their report, which is sent to SQA for external assessment. The assignment report is given a mark out of 20 which counts towards the final grade.
    • At Higher, students complete the 'Researching Physics' half unit within the course. This is assessed internally by teachers against criteria set by SQA and must include evidence of both research and practical work conducted by the students. The Researching Physics unit can be used as the basis for the students' remaining assessment task - the 'Assignment'. As for the N5 assignment, students must compile a report 'under a degree of strict supervision' demonstrating a number of information processing and presentation skills, and no feedback can be given. The completed report is sent to the SQA for external assessment with the mark out of 20 counting towards the final grade.
    • At Advanced Higher the arrangements are similar to those for Higher, though pupils conduct extended practical work as part of their 'Investigation'. This is assessed both internally as a half unit, and externally through their investigation report which is compiled by the student through out the task. Students are allowed to be given feedback at all stages throughout this task.

Only when a student has successfully completed all of the internally assessed components of their course are they allowed to sit the final examination. At the end of all of this detailed and highly involved assessment the final grade awarded to the student will depend mostly on their performance in during the two to two-and-a-half hours spent in the examination hall, with no recognition at all of the tasks that have been successfully completed on the way.

Bearing in mind that students may be following as many as seven N5 courses, in which various other combinations of assessment tasks and arrangements may be in place, there is no doubt that the new CfE courses have significantly increased the burden of assessment on both students and teachers. This is clearly unsustainable and an alternative must be found.

In my next post, I will detail my proposals for reforming the process of assessment to reduce some of this burden and the certification of courses to allow greater recognition of the achievements students assessments throughout their courses.

Advanced Screenshots⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

sites I take a lot of screenshots. Mostly I use the standard mac keyboard shortcuts or the home + sleep buttons on iOS or less frequently the snipping tool on Windows. These are all covered on How to take a screenshot. I find the mac ones to be the best for general purposes, lots of options at your finger tips.

Occasionally I’ll use other tools:

webkit2png a command line tool if I need to get a lot of webpage screens quickly or to do some automation.

Paparazzi a mac app gets images of full pages including the off screen sections.

Firefox’s Developer Toolbar is a new one to me. The Developer Toolbar gives you command-line access to a number of developer tools from within Firefox. One of the things it does is take screenshots, which can be of full pages. I used it to take this screenshot of the Glow Blogs Sites page (resized for display here).

To use the firefox tool you open the Developer tools (Shift-F2) and this opens a wee box at the bottom of the page where you type commands. For example

screenshot dev-tools.png --fullpage

Will save a png of the full pages into your downloads folder, the file will be named dev-tools.png

Numeracy and Mathematics Resources⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

National Numeracy and Mathematics HubESLogohub

 

The National Numeracy and Mathematics Hub is a virtual learning environment for all practitioners. The Hub provides an innovative approach to career-long professional learning for all practitioners in all sectors. It is an interactive, virtual learning environment which offers practitioners:

  • Professional learning in different aspects of numeracy with a focus on progression, numeracy and mathematics skills, numeracy across learning, assessment and moderation and teaching.
  • Career-long professional learning opportunities of various types such as broadcasts, professional reading and action research.
  • An easy to use environment where you can share and work with colleagues from across Scotland as well as those from your own school or authority​.

Education Scotland website:

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/curriculumareas/mathematics/index.asp

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/learningacrossthecurriculum/responsibilityofall/numeracy/index.asp

Provides practitioners with excellent resources and guidance to help develop learning and teaching in Numeracy and Mathematics including;

 National Numeracy Progression Frameworkprogression – This resource has been created to deepen practitioners’ knowledge and understanding of progression within the experiences and outcomes for numeracy and mathematics. It included progression pathways with key milestones and building blocks for each of the numeracy organisers. Mathematics pathways coming soon, along with previous knowledge and understanding and exemplification.

Professional Learning Resources – These professional learning resources provide guidance and advice to help inform learning and teaching practices in line with the main objectives of the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN). There are PLR’s for;

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/curriculumareas/mathematics/index.asp

Other key links and websites to support the development of Numeracy and Mathematics;

Numeracy in Social Studies

Higher Order Thinking

Skills in Maths

There is also information on Assessing progress and achievement available which includes professional learning activities and key documents on significant aspects of learning and making good assessment decisions.

The Journey to Excellence: Examples of innovative and interesting practice. Search ‘mathematics’ or ‘numeracy’ in to the search facility.

TWIG Film list for National 4 and National 5 Qualifications

TWIG Films from website

stem logoSTEM Links

STEM e-bulletin   http://bit.ly/STEMeBulletin

(Up to date news, information, resources and professional learning)

STEM Central in MOTION blog   http://bit.ly/BlogSTEM

(more up to date news on STEM)

STEM Central website http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/stemcentral/

(high quality resources, teaching ideas, videos etc to develop learning experiences relating to sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics

Main Contact for Numeracy and Mathematics Team at Education Scotland:

Lorna Harvey, Senior Education Officer

Optima Building, 58 Robertson Street

Glasgow

G2 8DU

Tel: 0141 282 5119             lorna.harvey@educationscotland.gsi.gov.uk

 

 

Invitation to evaluate ‘Recognising and Realising Children’s Rights’ resource⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

RRCR-banner

Recognising and Realising Children’s Rights is a professional development resource which was developed by Education Scotland and launched in September 2013. The stated aims of this resource are to:

  • raise awareness and develop knowledge/understanding of the UNCRC;
  • individuals and establishments to self-evaluate their practice in light of the UNCRC;
  • support improvement planning within establishments;
  • support children to know, understand and claim their rights.

Education Scotland would like to engage colleagues in evaluating the effectiveness and impact of this resource, and would appreciate your contribution to this evaluation.

The findings will be used to evaluate the current resource and to inform future developments. It should only take a few minutes to complete and all contributions will remain anonymous.

Click here to complete the evaluation.

What even is teacher leadership?⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

I’m so excited to be joining the SCEL team on secondment to work on developing approaches to supporting the development of teacher leadership. But, when you stop and think about it, that’s quite a colossal task! That’s why I was incredibly relieved when Gillian and Lesley made it clear to me that actually the main purpose of my role is to engage as widely as possibly on ‘teacher leadership’ and then use this engagement to inform the development of approaches to support.

So, I started with my own reflection…

“What is teacher leadership?”

That’s a harder question than you might at first think. Before I tried to answer it I was confident that I knew what teacher leadership was, but now I’m not so sure. Is it being a Principal Teacher? Is it mentoring an NQT? Is it leading a session on an in-service day? Is it leading the learning of your students? Is it being an expert in your subject specialism? Is it being an SQA appointee? Is it sharing your practice in your school, online or at TeachMeets? Is it all of these things? Is it something else entirely? Is it about agency? Is it about autonomy? And if it is all of these things and more, how on earth can we support teachers to develop as leaders? And, crucially, why is it worth supporting teachers to develop as leaders?

And so I’m currently at that stage when you’re starting a new post when your head is full of more questions than answers. As much as I now relish this stage in my learning, I will at some point soon need to move past this stage and take these questions, and more, out and engage as widely as possible.

So, what do you think? What is teacher leadership to you? And how can we go about supporting it? Ideas welcome in the comments below…


In the meantime, did you know SCEL have recently launched their impressive new framework for educational leadership? Check it out now: scelframework.com

Why blue sky?⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

At some point while thinking about our approach to education we asked children 1 question: What would you like to find out from scientists? What happened is we received thousands of absolutely amazing and unexpected questions about everything! (How you weigh the Earth? Why is the sky blue? Can people melt down all North Pole? Why do […]

For Your Eyes Only⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

Driving to the Early Years ( EY ) conference this morning I couldn’t help being inspired by the colours of Autumn here in Argyll, around the shores of Loch Fyne. Ironically, Sheena Easton was singing ‘For Your Eyes Only’. This was certainly not a sight for my eyes only but one that would be shared […]