Over on Google+ I have conducted a short survey to further explore the challenges that educators face when attempting to implement assessment for learning strategies in schools. By which I mean a focus on the process of learning, improving student’s metacognition, sustained opportunities for reflection and a general effort to assess “for” learning not “of” learning.
With over 100 responses this short straw poll indicates that it is not the lack of time or issues around timetabling that make this process a challenge, but a cultural focus on levels and grades. 58% of those who responded felt that it was this single factor that was influenced assessment implementation within schools.
I was surprised that this proved so conclusive (even within such a small sample) – I was expecting the other more practical factors to play a part for educators such as timetabling, a lack of training or indeed a curriculum that does not flex to accommodate changes brought about by assessment for learning.
In fact the second highest response again is a reference to summative assessment – taken together nearly 75% of responses point the finger at the ongoing fascination with summative assessment, grades and levels.
But how do we alter such an entrenched view? When we think of our own schools, is there a lack of appetite for anything other than grades and levels?
I think that one thing that would begin to change this perception of what is important in the classroom would be a concerted effort to better understand assessment in total. This is especially important for parents and pupils so that they do not skew the value they place on end of year assessments or reports. Also the message that the school puts out about what is important and how this plays out day to day.
This is not so clear cut the older children get and the further they get into education – you could argue that as a student gets older the focus on their grades and levels becomes more intense. It becomes less about how they have learned something or what the journey was like, and more about the net result – the grade.
What do you think? There is no overnight fix, but what steps could teachers and schools take to shift the focus away from simply a grade or level? If this is such a clearly perceived barrier, how do we change it?