A timely earworm for me this week as I am marking philosophy exam scripts. The lyrics are actually about our broken society, but the title of the song speaks to me as I try to decipher scrawly handwriting and make the best sense I can of the jumbled thoughts written under pressure. Education could, and should, be more kind, in my opinion.
This semester has been particularly hard, with the strike action and weather leading to lost teaching time – and the need to be lenient yet fair while marking seems all the more important. This way of assessing students doesn’t seem at all kind to me.
The Scottish Government has commissioned Gaelic Medium Education Scottish National Standardised Assessments (GME SNSA) as part of the National Improvement Framework. The GME SNSA will assess children and young people from Gaelic Medium Education in reading, writing and numeracy during P1, P4, P7 and S3.
Giglets Education is developing the GME SNSA for launch in schools in August 2018. We are now bringing together a team of educators with experience of CfE in Gaelic Medium Education to develop content for the GME National Standardised Assessments.
In response to a discussion about assessment on the IOP Sputnik email forum for Scottish Physics teachers, I posted some thoughts on what the SQA could do differently. Some replies to the post suggested I should share these ideas further.
It's a bit 'sassy' in places, as one of the replies put it, but here's the post, sass and all -
Alasdair replied to an earlier post saying ' If only the SQA had a big bank of questions in single page word format, say 20 for each key area, and some kind of random test generator software. '
At the risk of this opening a can of worms and with apologies to anyone who has ever had this discussion with me in the past...
If the SQA had a bank of questions they could relatively easily use it to automatically generate unique assessments that candidates could complete entirely electronically, that could be marked, totalled and graded automatically, either as individual key areas/units or as a full course assessment. Any such system could probably automatically certificate the candidate at the appropriate level, and award tariff points too. And if such a system were live all year round, candidates could learn at their own pace, within reasonable bounds, and choose the date and time that they took the assessment. Dare I say it, a bit like a driving theory test...
Such a system might also allow candidates a number of attempts at an assessment, until they achieve a pass (perhaps with a period of time between to consolidate and revise), rather than writing them off after two attempts. A bit like a... oh, you're there already...
For those candidates who *need* an exam grade for Uni entry (they could just do their own entry exams), or those so ingrained in the 'exams are the only thing of any importance' culture that pervades all discussions of education, there is no reason why terminal exams could be not be continued - perhaps with those candidates gaining extra tariff points for the additional attainment. A bit like a driving licence awarded after a practical test...
Granted, schools would need to verify the identities of the candidates attempting assessments (so their big cousin isn't doing it), have a dedicated suite of PCs on which these assessments could be done where online access is limited to only the assessment site, and have a reliable internet connection with sufficient bandwidth. A bit like those places where you do your ..., oh, and again...
These arrangements would require a significant investment, but might go some way to allowing all candidates to achieve at a level that is appropriate to their abilities. There's every chance they could contribute to reducing the attainment gap (if not the poverty that causes most of it) and no doubt whatsoever that they would significantly reduce teacher workload.
If only the SQA had such a bank of questions...
And if they do, then why aren't we doing things better by our kids and for ourselves?
A blog by Jamie Farquhar Deputy Head Teacher of Dumfries Academy
I am a QAMSO.
Increasingly – in the second year of there being QAMSOs – colleagues know what that is. Good; it saves me unpacking the acronym to its full glory of Quality Assurance and Moderation Support Officer and it suggests we* are having an impact.
My role is to support colleagues in their understanding and application of Moderation in its widest sense through the lens of a particular Numeracy or Literacy level. In my case, this is Third Level Writing.
I am not an English Teacher. However, I am a passionate advocate for the Teaching Profession and of the Responsibilities of All as key priorities for our learners. I believe the Broad General Education (BGE) provides the platform for teachers to co-create a curriculum that meets the needs of individual learners, in individual schools.
To achieve this we need the confidence to spurn the false panacea of centrally distributed WAGOLLs (What a Good One Looks Like) and resist ‘mimetic isomorphism’. In other words; it’s not about teachers doing the same thing, in the same way, either through decree or by the copycatting of perceived eminence. Rather, we should aim for the contextualised consistency of quality; as a QAMSO I advocate achieving this through planning, professional dialogue, reflection, sharing, experimentation and evaluation i.e. through Moderation.
Moderation is about skilled professionals working together to plan, evaluate, feedback and feed forward learning to all learning partners. Moderation is groups of teachers subjecting the entire learning process to rigorous professional scrutiny and so trusting and being trusted in their judgements. Through collaboration we empower a move beyond consistency of practice to an increased confidence in individual judgements, planning and interventions.
The Moderation Cycle provides a framework through which to embark on this process. In my own school, we accessed the cycle through the Evaluation stage by leading engagement with the Literacy Benchmarks and developing professional confidence in making judgements of CfE-levels. This starting point was chosen due to a familiarity, within a secondary context, of judging work against set standards in the Senior Phase. The challenge is to move thinking and practice from summative evaluation of output to include moderated planning of input; to ensure we are teaching and supporting what we later assess.
We have begun. Our Literacy Strategy produced Evidence which, as well as debate over CfE-levels, led to dialogue about the evidence’s relevance and validity. This demanded we reflect on our Assessment tools; which asked questions about the effectiveness of our Learning and Teaching and learners’ understanding of what they were learning and how well they had learned it (Learning Intentions and Success Criteria).
Colleagues then began to revisit their planning (Es and Os) to reflect learning and the Learner more holistically. This provided a range of on-going and holistic Evidence which demonstrated strengths, successes and nextsteps which informed Feedback, Reporting and planning of the next learning experience and so on. The principles of the Moderation Cycle as applied to Literacy have started to impact on practice in other curriculum areas and beyond the BGE.
The Moderation Hub provides an incredible resource to support this work. I will use it extensively in my QAMSO role to support Professional Learning in schools. The Hub provides off-the-shelf material for Professional Learning Workshops and e-learning. I recommend it to all Literacy / Numeracy Leads and Professional Learning Coordinators. I also commend the Moderation Cycle and Hub to all school leaders as a means to lead and evidence genuine Quality Assurance of Learning and Teaching.
The workshops take a little time as they work through each stage of the cycle, asking colleagues to reflect on examples and craft improvements collaboratively. A commitment to mutual engagement and knowledge creation through the Moderation Cycle should lead to a sustained shift of culture and improvement in outcomes for learners that simply being ‘given the answers’ cannot hope to achieve.
The Moderation Cycle provides the framework to be autonomous, contextually-aware, professional leaders of learning.
This QAMSO’s advice: Follow the Cycle – Co-Create – Trust your Judgements.
*There are lots of us: Each Local Authority has a QAMSO for each CfE Level from Early to Fourth in Numeracy, Writing and Reading.
The Moderation Hub on Glow contains materials which will assist practitioners in GME to develop a shared understanding of standards and expectations in the BGE. They can also be used to support teacher professional judgements.
Practitioners are invited to register for this conference that is organised by Stòrlann. Education Scotland is delivering workshops at the conference to which you are warmly invited. Please visit www.storlann.co.uk/an-t-alltan to register.
The workshops we are delivering at the conference are:
effective leadership of 3-18 Gaelic in schools and nurseries;
using a well-structured and designed curriculum to raise attainment;
immersion, interaction and high-quality pedagogy through play;
using assessment to inform progress and attainment;
creating schools and nurseries which have a mutual understanding and inclusive ethos for Gaelic.
E-Sgoil: A digital solution for Gaelic Medium Educationcurriculum
We are delighted to invite e-Sgoil to co-present this workshop with us. The development of an effective secondary GME curriculum requires creative planning of the contexts of Curriculum for Excellence. E-Sgoil offers a digital learning solution for curriculum planners’ consideration. In this session, practitioners will gain an insight into what it is like to be a teacher, facilitator and a learner in e-Sgoil. The session will support practitioners of the 3-18 curriculum to
become familiar with the digital technology that is used by e-Sgoil;
focus on effective pedagogy to support learning through technology;
plan the primary curriculum to support transitions to learning which is partially delivered through digital technologies.
Please also refer to our Advice on Gaelic Education, some of which is statutory, on how to structure and design a curriculum for GME.
Benchmarks for Literacy and Gàidhlig
The purpose of this session is to promote an understanding of the national standards described in the Benchmarks for Literacy and Gàidhlig. There will be a particular focus on listening and talking.
Key themes for presentation and discussion will include:
using the Benchmarks to support professional judgements of achievement of a level;
developing progression in literacy and Gàidhlig using the Benchmarks;
gathering a range of evidence to demonstrate breadth, challenge and application;
developing an effective cycle of moderation in which practitioners have a shared understanding of standards and expectations.