Post-mortem or medical? Quality v quantity?

In thinking about feedback I really like Douglas Reeves idea that authentic feedback should be like a medical rather than a post-mortem. Like this, feedback shouldn’t be about what went wrong, but about how to get better. Focusing on what went wrong is the traditional transmission method of feedback where the teacher is centre stage, passing judgement on the pupil’s demonstration of knowledge acquisition. We know now this only widens the achievement gap, it makes low ability pupils shrink back and the more able ping forward – so for a while now we’ve known we need to turn around in the road and face the other way.

This is why ‘next steps feedback’ should really drive the new curriculum and any new assessment systems put in place. It is this kind of system that should govern summative assessment too, indeed even school tracking systems. In this way, the ‘where are they now’ snap shot is a moment in time that is looked in on, ‘snapped’ and then used to understand the field of play, and by this I mean children who are not locking into and benefiting from the next steps pathway.

Like this, a school tracking system should work for (not with) the next steps assessment system to create a strategic overview that can then drill down to groups or individuals who need more attention within the context of the whole school. In this way, a tracking system will support in-class assessment and support a teacher’s ‘aerial view’ of what’s going on. This is important because we’re really close up and personal in class aren’t we? Yet really, any teacher worth anything should know which individuals are not moving and making those next steps.

Systems like new Learning Ladders and Classroom Monitor seem to be on the right track here, but my one worry is the old quality v quantity problem. Some systems seem to try to provide next steps assessment pathways for anything and everything, which will mean stressed out teachers who get squeezed into a corner where they have to tick things they’re not really sure of because of time. This is what was wrong with the last system, overkill! Really, if we’re taking on a mastery curriculum we should take on a mastery assessment system too where less is more and we cut out what we can do without and focus on the vitals.

So, next steps: good; each and every next step: bad.  We need to be careful the accountability shadow doesn’t needlessly spoil it all and make us ‘panic assess.’

Anyway… just some quick thoughts on how it might just all fit together. You never know…it might just work!

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