Tag Archives: assessment

Highers – Follow up.

Since writing about my step-daughter and highers last week, I’ve received some good feedback from and MSP, parents, teachers and educationalists.

Before I go into that, an update. It’s now Wednesday of the holidays and my step-daughter has been into school on ever weekday of the holiday, apart from Easter Monday. She’s also done lots of work when at home. She’s not really her normal self, is a bit tetchy and showing some signs of being fed up. (I offer cups of tea, hugs and chocolate feeling a bit helpess)

I have found out that the school my step-daughter attends is paying staff to work in the Easter holidays. For me that raises many, many questions. What else could be done with that money? What if your family have already booked a holiday in the Easter holidays (because booking in term-time is strongly discouraged by schools, but encouraged by pricing structures of the holiday sector), surely you don’t have equality of opportunity for this use of public money? Are the teachers being paid a universal teacher rate (i.e. teachers daily rater or supply rates) ? How much pressure is put on teachers to do this? Do the public know teachers are being paid overtime to get the grades which will be trumpeted as a triumph for Scottish Education/ Government / Political Parties when the results are announced? Do we have a true financial cost?

Feedback: You can read Amanda Wilson’s feelings in the comments below the original post. Thanks again for your time

Mark Priestley said:

and

Iain Gray MSP said:

Angela Constance replied:

I will publish her reply in full when I receive it.

Jak tweeted:

As well as these reponses I have received a long and sincere e-mail from a teacher who sympathises and dislikes the current system.

I have also received many favourable comments on FB as well as face to face when meeting parents of children of all ages in person.

I ended my initial post thus: This isn’t progress. This isn’t creating an education system better than the oft-mocked English system I described earlier. This isn’t good enough.

It seems I’m not alone in those thoughts.

Highers? The best we can do?

It’s Easter Monday, (Bank holiday in the UK) and it’s 8:47 PM. My step-daughter is holed up in her room. Listening to music? Watching YouTube vloggers? Reading? Watching Games of Thrones via illegal feed? None of the above. She’s studying. This time for English Higher. Saturday it was for Art, Friday for RMPS.  Wednesday night she was up until 2:45 AM working on her Graphic Communication project which was due in. (She was up against a wholly unrealistic time scale, as the previous teacher ‘misunderstood’ what was required for the exam. I wonder if they were up at 2:45 and then ready for school next morning??) To be fair to her she didn’t start work until 10:00 PM on the Wednesday night.

 

Would you like to guess why she began work so late? She was organising a music concert at her school along with other S5’s. This wasn’t part of her course: It was over and above. It was her and her friends taking a leading role in school life. The Curriculum for Excellence says this is a thing to aspire to for schools and pupils, yet due to some inadequate work from a teacher, her reward for this was working until 2:45 AM.

 

Well at least it’s the holiday now. Except it’s not quite the holidays, as my step-daughter is attending revision classes in the school on different days of the holiday. These are being provided by teachers who are clearly committed to their pupils getting the best grades they can in their exams, so committed in fact that they are ignoring national guidelines on holidays for pupils and teachers to deliver them.

 

Perhaps she’s having to cram as she’s not done enough work previously? Maybe she slacks off and works hard in the ‘exam season’. I can tell you she’s not angelic. She leaves the toilet lid up, doesn’t wash her food pots and has even been known not to replace the butter in the butter in the butter dish! She does work very hard at her studies however, pushes herself hard, as well as trying to develop other areas of her life (like attending animation classes, organising concerts for the school, volunteering in a hospice shop when she can).

 

Our ‘new’ Curriculum for Excellence (published in 2004) has strong ideals and ethics in it. It aims to create “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.” I’m not sure how these fit with holiday revision classes, weekends where homework is all that gets done in a household, time taken off school to complete ‘vital’ homework tasks. To my mind they don’t. The conditions of work my step-daughter is working to are likely to turn our young people away from education for a lengthy period of time. I dare not think too long about the effects this amount of work and pressure has on her (and her many friends) mental health. This was not the aim of the 2002 consultation paper on education, yet this is where we are.

 

Charlie Love wrote a great blog post about National 4 exams and the effect that working Nat 4 courses had on pupils, it’s well worth a read. It is not just Highers, it’s the National 4 and 5 exams which don’t appear to be working also.

A quick google for problems with Highers brings up a few news reports but nothing too recent. It seems that the political will to create a system where our young succeed and lead balanced, healthy lives is not there. When I did my ‘A’ levels (in England), I (like everyone else) took two years of study to pass them. It was a wonderful time of my life, some hard work, some enjoyment of a different side of school life, even some maturing! The key was the time afforded to work, think and develop inside the school week. I had at least one 1hr 15 period of study time each day. Sometimes more. My step-daughter gets nothing, it’s wall to wall teaching.. Yet, apparently this amount of teaching time isn’t enough, she still has to work so much ‘extra’ time in the evenings and holidays.

 

I’d be delighted to hear from Angela Constance and Iain Gray about pupils being overworked in order to pass National Exams. I’d also be interested to hear of anyone else’s experiences. Please tweet me @robertd1981 or e-mail me at robertdrummond@gmail.com if you wish to contact me, but not leave a public comment.

 

This isn’t progress. This isn’t creating an education system better than the oft-mocked English system I described earlier. This isn’t good enough.

 

Assessment.

Assessment. It’s difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. I read this blog post and it became a bit less difficult. I really like the 7 questions Michael has written down.  Whatever method we use for assessment, these questions provide ideas about why we are doing it and most importantly the impact the assessments are going to have on our learners. Have a read, leave a comment for Michael.  What do you think?

 

Bloom’s Taxonomy in Music.

I’m creating a wall of Bloom’s questions for my music room at school. I love using these questions with the children. Really makes them think and I find the level of answers the children give me challenges the ‘ ability groupings’ they find themselves in for many aspects of schooling.

Here is the resource to share and discuss as well as a couple of pieces of reading I used when creating my display.

My Bloom’s questions for display.

Use of Bloom’s in a unit of work. (includes questions I added to my display)

Wendell Hanna’s piece about the implications of Bloom’s in music education.

     AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano


Attribution  Share Alike Some rights reserved by Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano

 

 

Guy Claxton – 5 things to try.

I was able to attend a talk by Prof Guy Claxton yesterday. Despite the room being way too warm and forgetting to take my bottle of water, it was a really thought provoking talk and left me with some things I want to try in school on Monday (and beyond) and certainly made me want to find out more about the Building Learning Power programme.

1. Distraction fingers. Probably 1 to use with my younger classes. When a distraction occurs, ask the children to show fingers for how distracted they were. 1 to 5. The idea behind this being to raise the awareness of the effects of distraction across the class. The children then develop their own awareness of the distractions the make and adjust behaviour accordingly.

2. A learning diary needs to be an ongoing tool, almost like an artists sketchbook, by the child’s side every minute, ready to jot down ideas, things they find hard and how they tried to overcome those things. I’m teaching across the school music and RCCT cover currently. If I was in class I’d definitely being using learning diaries more in this way.

3. More open feedback, encouraging the child to find the improvement point more. So, rather than highlighting the words to be improved, the teacher (or peer ideally) would leave a comment such as ‘You could improve a part of this paragraph, can you find out which part, and try to improve it’. That seems a more powerful statement to me as it requires that extra bit of work from the writer.

4. Once again, the important role of questions was spoken about – this is an ongoing theme across many educationalists I hear and read. It’s something I try to work at, 3 question answers, lollipop sticks, the basketball approach, using higher level questioning. Something I would like to create in my room is a display of questions children could ask about pieces of music -published and their own music- to further their understanding about music. I also love the idea of a questions wall with ‘wonder questions’ about anything. Some may be answered, some may not, it’s not the answering that matters it’s the asking of the question.

5. A diving mark scheme. I thought this idea was simple and clever. Children choose their ‘level’ to work at and that ‘level’ has a tarrif which the final score is multiplied by. This encourages children to stretch themselves and moves them away from a ‘safe haven’ whilst offering an encouragement for this. I can see this needs careful observing but it’s something quite close to a techniques I’ve used before in maths lessons. I will have a range of sums for the children to do on addition, subtraction etc. The children choose their start sheet, but are allowed to move in lesson between sheets as they feel. If they are finding it too hard they can go to a sheet with smaller numbers and consolidate and if they’re up for it, they can go straight for the harder challenge. The children are soon able to talk about their choices and any moves they make in lessons.

 

I have made more notes than this so please get in touch for more information or visit Guy’s sites.

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Badger, badger, badger, badger.

There’s a lot of work going on at the moment about using badges for crediting skills, experience in education and the workplace. I came across this template for designing your own badges and shared it last night in the #dlchat. People in the chat seemed to like it, so I thought it might be worth posting it here also. Getting my Digital Leaders becoming badge creators and awarders is an aim for my Digital Leader project next year, as it has multiple benefits. I hope they’re keen to be badgers.

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Weeknotes 2013 – Week 7

Here’s what’s been going on this week.

 

  • My Ukulele arrived. Whoop. Sounds great even with someone as ham-fisted as me playing it! I also attended the next Uke course. It was a bit meh as we didn’t cover anything new, just recapped the previous songs and chords we have done. Also, I get that not providing a tea or coffee saves cash in the short-term, but would the cost of providing a biscuit and a drink be repaid in the work and attitudes of the people taking part in a course? I’d be interested to see if there’s any research into it.
  • I had my half-term holiday, or a day off as it has reverted to. No-one has explained why the week has become one day again and why six weeks has become seven in the summer, but I’m sure there’s a well reasoned argument behind it. However, what seems to have been well researched and documented is the effects of summer holiday learning loss which suggests that “Two-thirds of the academic achievement gap in reading and language found among high school students has been explained through the learning loss that occurs during the summer months of the primary school years.” and “In general, low-income students lose around 3 months of grade-level equivalency during the summer months. Middle income students lose about 1 month of grade-level equivalency over the summer. Thus, the achievement gap widens, due to out-of-school influences and lack of summer learning opportunities” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_learning_loss
  • On our training day our maths guru Alison Earnshaw shared some more of her excellent work on calculation with us. Again, thought provoking ideas about how children learn (and are taught) number.
  • I developed my use of evernote to assess/evidence a piece of reading from a child. Simple to do, I photographed the page and the child recorded themselves reading it. The next step is to work with the child and discuss the reading and begin to create targets for reading development.
  • Digital leaders have been busy planning an in school minecraft club. It is hugely popular with loads of our children. What impressed me about our Digital leaders was their thoughts on how to make the club more than a ‘free play’ minecraft experience. Hopefully they will blog about it on our DL page.
  • Dannielle has published her nursery resources wiki. I am really pleased with the effort she has put into this in her own time and I hope it proves useful for our nursery staff.
  • I have begun working on the Learning Creative Learning MOOC and as part of this I’ve been looking again at Scratch and how it can be used as a creative tool. Clearly it can, but along with that I feel that some of it’s rigour (i.e. you have to be precise in your scripts, careful where you save it etc…) add to its value as a tool for use in the classroom.
  • As part of the LCL MOOC I also created a google+ group. This was so easy to set up, manage and use. The more I use Google+ the more I like it. It’s been a slow burner but it’s beginning to prove really useful for work ideas, storing photos from my phone with the instant upload feature, and even using Hangouts with my Mum!!
  • Finally, and sadly I completed season 2 of Borgen. Great series, great characters and storylines. Bring on series 3.

Weeknotes – Week 6

Here’s what’s been going on this week.

  • I bought a ukulele. This bad boy is winging its way to me as we speak. It’s a bit of a risk as I haven’t played this model, but Ukulele Hunt highly recommend it and it’s not stocked in any shop in Scotland. Hope it’s as good as it sounds on youtube!!
  • Digital leaders are nearing completion of episode one of our podcast, which will be available to listen to from here.
  • Another of our digital leaders has completed her wiki of useful websites for nursery!
  • I had an attainment meeting with my brilliant HT Fiona discussing my forward plan and attainment within the class. This was great, so much better than being given a feedback sheet about my forward plan and as the meeting was in real time, rather than paper 2.0. If there was anything either of us were unsure of we could discuss it…there and then! Simple, but so effective.
  • Sadly I missed our CPD about probability with John Sexton the staff who were able to attend said it was really good, and I’m looking forward to the next CPD session, and looking at the presentation which went along with John’s CPD.
  • I had a lesson observation this week for which I was really nervous. That too was about probability, and for me the most interesting thing was using a ‘What do we know..?’ type questions in the starter and subsequently changing my groupings ‘on the fly’ as one child answered brilliantly and could clearly do a more challenging task. This ‘what do we know?’ start is one I also used in an IDL lesson on Monday – and helped me to create an independent working group who developed the task further and at a greater pace.
  • I discovered that if your Step-Daughter is involved in a house fire, and the person whose house she is in doesn’t give you any details about the fire, you can request and receive a copy of the fire report from Lothian and Borders Fire Service by e-mailing them. A really efficient service, albeit one I hope you never need to use.
  • I was really pleased with 8 of my children choosing to present their poetry work in a poster/book style this week. At the start of the year, they would all have chosen to use a computer, as I feel it was a bit of a novelty. Now they are viewing ICT as the tool it is in their learning toolbox and are making decisions for themselves on whether it is the tool they want for a particular task! You can see the work, ICT based and paper based here.

I’m on half-term break next week – well I’m off on Monday anyway.

Weeknotes -2013, week 4.

Here’s what’s been going on this week.

  • I attended some training about teaching fractions, decimals and percentages and was introduced to the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy. It was interesting looking at the survey and discussing it’s implications. However, having taught in a top down system for many years, I wonder if there is a case for national expectations for attainment being made more explicit.
  • I also attended lesson two of our Ukulele training. This was great fun again, and I loved playing on the concert Uke – watch out music shops of Edinburgh – it had a wonderful tone. I’m looking forward to beginning the lessons with my class.
  • I’ve been reading a lot of work on the Learning Spy. I’m finding it thought-provoking stuff and it’s fitting in nicely with the work we are doing with the raising attainment group in West Lothian. I tried out the who would lessons from this page and was pleased with the resulting discussions in the class.
  • I have had some good discussions with colleagues about differentiation (maybe on the back of my reading of the above). I feel differentiation is not about groupings in a class,  it’s more about having different expectations of outcomes from different pupils and creating opportunities for more ‘open learning’ and sharing of learning. Children need to be given the chance to experience all the learning available, not have it ‘trimmed down’ to ‘suit their needs’ (whatever that patronising, yet often heard, phrase might mean).
  • I have signed up for a MOOC Elearning and Digital Cultures which begins next week – hopefully time will allow me to complete the course watch this space!
  • Digital leaders have decided to create a podcast, rather than vodcast and have made up some great interview questions to ask the teachers. Hopefully we will launch episode 1 soon!
  • Sadly Frank Keating died this week, adding to CMJ and Tony Greig dying within the last month. Whilst not knowing them personally I know their work intimately and I will miss reading and listening to them.
  • I updated our school resources site to include the SSLN work and also the Ukulele presentations we have been following in our lessons.

Weeknotes – 2013, week 3.

Here’s what’s been going on this week.

  • I’ve developed the learning log my class are using. It now has four sections – content, skills, how skills could be applied elsewhere and targets. At the moment we are writing our thoughts in these areas, mainly as a whole class, but we will develop this over time. I feel highlighting the areas makes the learning more easily explained by the children, thus allowing them to set more specific targets and develop areas of need and interest.
  • I’ve written most of my forward plan for term 3. Quite a bit of work to do here as we have created a new topic area of Dr Who. I have also added some objectives to the school maths planner in measurement and shape, as part of my forward plan.
  • I’ve been using evernote more. The more I use it the more useful I find it. Photographing ‘notes’ on my phone and evernoting them means I can’t lose them and I can easily find them using the tags I create when required. I wonder how this can develop for moderating work? 🙂
  • I’ve downloaded ‘Mr Reader‘ onto my iPad and use it to read and share content from the totally awesome google reader. As well as using this I use Zite to read a wide range of content based on google reader, twitter and previously ‘liked’ blogs.
  • I’ve begun encouraging children to highlight examples of where they have fulfilled the success criteria with a note in the margin of their work. I can see how this works well in written tasks, but am still struggling over how to develop this in maths and ICT tasks. This is a task I am developing as part of the Raising Attainment Group.
  • I attended the Raising Attainment Group meeting. I’m really enjoying this and finding having a specified amount of time to focus solely on using feedback to raise attainment very useful. It’s also introduced me to the work of John Hattie, whose work Ewan McIntosh mentioned in a few tweets this week. There are great people in the group and I’m picking up loads of great things to raise attainment in class.
  • I added some resources to www.commentsbykids.com and many people expressed an interest in adding examples of great comments to the site via the google form interface.
  • Digital leaders continued to work on podcasting/vodcasting, and our school podcast channel is up on iTunes and ready to receive their work.
  • The digital leaders and I are going to comment on the 5 sentence challenge blog and help raise attainment in writing across the globe.
  • I’ve listened to 6Music’s greatest hits on spotify, read two great articles on Lance and cycling, on the live blog is some brilliant journalism from Matt Seaton and Dr. Hutch and a great farewell interview from Nicole Cooke loved watching Borgen again, enjoyed Silent Witness and despaired at England’s ODI cricket team. I’ve picked up the spin class after a 2 month break due to illness…great to know it’s still so painful, yet enjoyable.

 

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