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Assessment in History


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#1 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 01 November 2003 - 05:16 PM

Assessment in History
There have been a number of threads in this forum on the subject of assessment and I have no desire to repeat the contents of any of them. In fact they could probably be usefully merged and placed here.
Instead I encourage posters to read them and my summary of what I regard is good practice below.
http://www.schoolhis...?showtopic=2278
http://www.schoolhis...?showtopic=2268
http://www.schoolhis...owtopic=854&hl=
I didn’t come into teaching to assess I came into it to teach. At the start I even wondered whether marking work served any purpose at all. My role was rather to inspire and enthuse in the classroom and to scaffold the reading and learning of my students so they would go away and do the real learning on their own. In principle I still hold true to this ideal. Most real learning does take place outside the classroom. Our job is to inspire the little buggers to do it and also to direct them to the most appropriate learning resources to support them. (Incidentally this is one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about the hypertext curriculum).

However as the shadows lengthen in ones career there does come a time when you have to mark something. After the first few hundred thousand essays and books I became of the view that marking only appeared pointless because of the way we do it (then it was marks out of 10 or the mystical A-E classification). It is important to let the students know what the grades they are given mean, and how to travel from one grade to another. In the context of the National Curriculum it seemed sensible to me to work within the framework laid down in law. Thus I use the “Attainment Target” as the basis of my assessment of work in key Stage 3. In the absence of any attempt by the DFES to write the Attainment Target in accessible English I duly translated it for student use thus. The first question I ask pupils when I observe classes in my department is what level are you on, followed by what does this mean?

I try always to make sure that assessment takes part after some meaningful historical enquiry. The logic here being that the skills we are trying to develop are skills of the historian and as such are best assessed in the context of the students “doing some history”. Not for me then paper and paper tests of the “What can you see in the sources?” “It’s a soldier” TICK level 3 using sources! A bigger load of nonsense I could not conceive of and yet this sort of skill isolation and assessment which still seems very popular in some schools and in many textbooks.

Indeed the value of testing and examining at all would appear to be severely limited given that ultimately you can only assess memory by such a method. Memory of facts or memory of how to answer sources questions or reliability questions etc.

Key Stage 3 students in my classes have 3 major assignment a year through which I assess each strand of the AT at least twice each year. An example of a Year 8 one can be found here. These are major pieces of work and as such take a great deal of time and thought to mark. Students are taught through each section using a broad a range of methods as my small brain can come with, but at the end of the cycle pupils know that they have to present their work for assessment. I also find that I get a much better response setting extended homeworks of this nature than I do with the weekly grind of exercises and textbook activities.

Pupils also know they are going to receive detailed feedback, assessment levels and targets to move forward at the end of the process. Given the time consuming nature of this I do not expect my department or myself to do very much assessment or marking other than this. Books are checked for homework and comments written on them.

As a nation we are hung up on assessment to a large extent. We are rapidly approaching the time when there is no teaching time in any year group at all in term 3 as we will be too busy sitting and marking external tests. This I suppose is our choice however let’s recognise it for what it is – an exercise in managerial control of schools and teachers by government. Tests do not educate students, teachers do.

Finally I would encourage teachers to make sure their assessment does not impinge on the precious little time they have to teach.

Edited by andy_walker, 02 November 2003 - 02:21 PM.


#2 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 02 November 2003 - 03:30 PM

Another interesting posting Andy, I am very sympathetic to alot of what you have said. When I joined my current school I inherited an invaluable set of posters that are proudly displayed above my board. These are what we call 'critical steps' and they break down the key skills that the students need and most importantly how they can improve and progress to the next level. This year I have managed to reduce this in size so it can fit into the front of every student's book. We do a formal levelled assessment roughly once a term and also use the end of year exam to give the boys a level. Obviously I also use some classwork questions to help my assessment.
I think one of the interesting comments that were made by John Simkin, on another thread about preparing teaching materials, is about 'assessment for learning'. Although this is another of those jargonesque buzzwords coming down from DFES I think it is very important. The best teachers understand the needs of their pupils, and this can only come about as a result of formal and informal assessment. As a consequence they can prepare the appropriate material / ask the right questions / offer the best support to raise the achievement of their pupils. This is far more effective than imposing a strict assessment regime, which inevitably takes the creativity and freedom away from the teacher. You only need to look at the restrictions imposed by GCSE and A Levels to see how different teaching is after KS3.
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#3 John Simkin

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Posted 03 November 2003 - 08:17 AM

I didn’t come into teaching to assess I came into it to teach. At the start I even wondered whether marking work served any purpose at all. My role was rather to inspire and enthuse in the classroom and to scaffold the reading and learning of my students so they would go away and do the real learning on their own. In principle I still hold true to this ideal. Most real learning does take place outside the classroom. Our job is to inspire the little buggers to do it and also to direct them to the most appropriate learning resources to support them. (Incidentally this is one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about the hypertext curriculum).


My views on assessment are very much influenced by my own experiences. I entered teaching after a long gap (17 years) from by initial schooling. I had done very badly at school so I did not value the assessment system that I had experienced. However, I had done well at university and valued highly the kind of things that my tutors were interested in developing. True they also had to assess and you had to learn the rules of the game, but I did not let it get in my way of my education.

I was therefore rather shocked when I returned to the classroom in 1977. The whole system seemed to be dominated by the need to prepare the students to pass exams. This was especially a problem as the exams reflected a very narrow view of education. In history we only appeared to be measuring factual recall and an ability to write in an “academic” style. I immediately raised this issue with my fellow teachers. They did not see it as a major problem. This is not surprising as nearly all of them had been successful at passing these exams when they were at school. They had been good at it and after a spell at college they went back into schools to show students how to do it. When questioned about what was being assessed they usually resorted to the argument that “we measure what we can measure”.

Soon after I began teaching the head of department agreed to introduce the Schools History Project. We started with our Y7s and eventually introduced the ‘O’ level. SHP was a controversial course at the time and was taught by very few schools. It was disliked by right-wing politicians who saw it as both politically dangerous and something that would lead to the lowering of academic standards. Aspects of the course, such as the teaching of empathy, was actually discussed in the national press and on television.

Although I welcomed the introduction of the SHP I had doubts whether things like empathy could be measured accurately. I remember attending my first SHP INSET course. One task was to assess student work using the chief examiner’s mark-scheme. We then discussed our assessment of the work. I was very disturbed that a group of intelligent people could disagree so much about the quality of work we were assessing. It soon became clear to me that those teachers had been right when they said “we measure what we can measure”. I came to the conclusion that you could not measure empathy in a scientific way. However, what was you to do? You valued empathy and you wanted to do what you could to teach it.

I came to the conclusion that like university I would have to learn to play the game. I studied past papers and chief examiner’s reports. I discovered the phrases the examiners were looking for in order to obtain the higher levels. I taught my students to do that and they got the best grades available to them. Marking was very time-consuming and therefore I always refused the offer of marking national SHP exams. However, another member of the department was short of money and agreed to do it. After marking his first batch of exam papers he told me something very interesting. He said he was amazed at the wide variety of different grades that different schools were getting. He said that some schools appeared to have no idea of how to prepare their students for the exam. In fact, he had come to the conclusion that the exam was most a test of teaching than it was of student learning.

When the government set up its National Curriculum History Committee it expected to bring an end to the radical things that the SHP had been doing. However, this was not to be and the SHP emerged as the winners in this struggle. This of course did not resolve the problem of assessment. In fact it made it worse as the committee had now to come up with the idea that the system needed 10 levels of response. This was a nightmare job (I think I am right in saying it was Tim Lomas and Chris Culpin who were given this impossible task).

I am still of the opinion that assessment in history cannot be carried out in a scientific way. However, we have no choice. It has to be done. We also have a responsibility to help our students to get the best grades possible. What we need to do is to constantly remind ourselves that we must not let a flawed assessment system completely control what we do in the classroom.

#4 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 06 November 2003 - 09:59 AM

I agree with the bulk of what John says here. I would however like to add that I have become increasingly aware of the yawning gap between the principled noises on assessment and school history generally that come from academic circles (for example John) and the practical reality and external pressures day to day in schools.

In a wide ability secondary school it is essential to "reduce" the historical concepts and skills used in assessment sometimes to "can do" statements just so pupils (and parents, and sometimes colleagues!) can begin to understand them at their level.
Also in any secondary school teachers are now held accountable to the eighth degree for their exam results and assessments. Salaries and career progression can depend on them. Teaching to the test/exam has become the norm. We certainly see this very clearly when new Year 7's come into school after having been drilled in factual recall so the primaries successfully meet their government imposed targets. It is also interesting to note that there has been some criticism from academia of quiz based interactive web pages as though this was all that we do in terms of teaching and learning rather than being seen as part of a broader context and approach.

#5 John Simkin

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 07:52 AM

I agree with the bulk of what John says here. I would however like to add that I have become increasingly aware of the yawning gap between the principled noises on assessment and school history generally that come from academic circles (for example John) and the practical reality and external pressures day to day in schools.

In a wide ability secondary school it is essential to "reduce" the historical concepts and skills used in assessment sometimes to "can do" statements just so pupils (and parents, and sometimes colleagues!) can begin to understand them at their level.
Also in any secondary school teachers are now held accountable to the eighth degree for their exam results and assessments. Salaries and career progression can depend on them. Teaching to the test/exam has become the norm. We certainly see this very clearly when new Year 7's come into school after having been drilled in factual recall so the primaries successfully meet their government imposed targets. It is also interesting to note that there has been some criticism from academia of quiz based interactive web pages  as though this was all that we do in terms of teaching and learning rather than being seen as part of a broader context and approach.

I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by your comment that I come “from academic circles”. My experience in education has been in the classroom and not in a university lecture hall. However, while training to be a teacher I was always encouraged to take an academic approach to the subject of education. I have also attempted to think deeply about things I have been ordered by the government to do in the classroom. Of course, as we have a responsibility to get our students the highest grade possible, we have to look adapt our teaching methods to the requirements of the exam system. At the same time we should use whatever influence we have to constantly question the idea that what we are doing is actually leading to the development of intelligent and active citizens.

When you refer to the “criticism from academia of quiz based interactive web pages” I assume you are talking about Terry Haydn’s article, “Working towards genuine interactivity with history and ICT” in History, ICT and Learning in the Secondary School (edited by Terry Haydn and Christine Counsell). I think that the passage in the book is worth quoting at some length.

In the UK, the development of 'interactive' online quizzes has been a feature of many history website activities, using 'quizmaster' technology to enable pupils to mark it themselves, work out which questions they answered correctly, and have further attempts to 'get it right' before moving on. Together with Shockwave graphics (see for instance the BBC's 'History of Medicine' materials at bbc.co.uk/education/ medicine/swcontent.html or the 'Schools History Site' at schoolshistory.org.uk). These offer a very attractive mode of testing for recall, compared to pencil-and-paper testing, but they work only for straightforward retention and comprehension questions.

If we think in terms of recent ideas about 'hierarchies' of learning skills (see, for example, Krathwohl et al. 1964; Taylor 2000), we can see that the sort of interactivity involved in such exercises addresses only the lower 'rungs' of the learning hierarchy.

At the lowest level are what are termed 'reactive-passive' activities such as listening, copying, reading, repeating and observing; recall, recapitulation and comprehension. It is at this level that much current ICT interactivity operates. Beyond this are 'reactive-processual' activities such as extracting, recording and translating data, 'proactive-processual' activities which involve interpretation and application, and the 'high-order' skills (proactive-analytical and proactive-synthetic) of analysing, hypothesising, inferencing and synthesising.

How big a problem this is, in terms of ICT's ability to provide interactive learning experiences in history, depends on two things: first, ideas about what constitutes effective learning; and, second, ideas about what school history is trying to achieve.
(Terry Haydn)

Terry adds there “is nothing wrong with online ‘interactive’ quizzes: they have their place when checking to see whether pupils have retained and understood the information which we want them to have, but we must explore other ways in which ICT can provide helpful learning experiences for pupils.”

I share Terry Hadyn’s concern with the emphasis being placed on quiz based assessments on educational websites. As he correctly points out, these quizzes are only dealing with low-level skills and ignore the high-level skills.

As someone who has used these quizzes in the classroom I am aware that they are very popular with students. They are also popular with teachers as they both assess and mark their student’s work. Understandably, teachers like using strategies that make students happy. However, like the recent debate that took place on Jack the Ripper coursework, teachers have to ask hard questions about this new tendency to try and please the student. Being a teacher in the classroom is not like running a focus group. If it was, teaching would be fairly easy. You find out what they like and then you give it to them. Students know what they like, but they do not know what the need. It is the responsibility of the teacher to work out what information and skills they want their students to have and then to develop the strategies to make this possible. Of course, where possible, teachers should develop strategies and teach topics that the students find enjoyable. However, the desire to provide enjoyable lessons should never dominate the teacher’s thinking.

The production of online quizzes mirrors what happened when computers first entered the classroom in the early 1980s. At first there were several programs published that asked factual recall questions. This reflected the philosophy of the time: “we measure what we can measure”. The main attraction of these programs was that the students enjoyed doing them and teachers did not have to mark them. However, the teachers of the “New History” were highly critical of these programs for the same reasons that Terry questions the quizzes on websites today.

The challenge of teachers involved in the early computer programs for history was to create teaching resources that helped develop those higher level skills. For example, in the program Attack on the Somme, we provided the students with a great deal of evidence to look at about the conditions on the Western Front in the summer of 1916. They then had to make a series of decisions about how to attack the German front line. There was no way of course to stop the student guessing what they should do. However, the program had been developed in a way to encourage the students to think critically about the information they had received and for this to guide their decisions. Students then received feedback based on their decisions. This was in fact an assessment of their performance and of the learning that had taken place.

The challenge today for teachers producing online assessments is to find ways of developing and testing these higher level skills. There is no reason why multiple choice type questions could not be part of that strategy. For example, Russel Tarr uses them in this way in his Trenches simulation.

In his article Terry refers to the work of Jim Schick, someone who has carried out research into the way ICT has been used by history teachers in the USA. Schick argues that teachers should “think of interactivity more in terms of what goes on in the mind of the learner, rather than what happens on the screen, and in terms of learners’ general ideas about the past, rather than their specific recall of particular facts”

Terry then makes this vitally important point: “The real potential of ICT lies not in the “bells and whistles” of multimedia, to provide “sugar-coating” for learning, but in its ability to access resources which would otherwise be inaccessible, and to manipulate and process those resources much more efficiently. Even these assets are only of real worth if we can think of historically valid activities for pupils to do with these resources and processes.”

There is no doubt that the government will be looking to discover ways of using the web to assess student performance. After all, it can provide a cheap way of providing this activity. The government will obviously save money if it does not have to pay teachers to do the marking.

I believe we should encourage the use of the web as a means of providing resources to help student carry out assessments. However, if we are going to assess these higher level skills, these will have to be marked by a highly trained human being. Otherwise we will be back to the 1970s and will be “measuring what we can measure”.

#6 alf wilkinson

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 02:17 PM

In a sense John, you are asking the most important question of all - what should be going on in the history classroom, and then, how do we assess it? We also need to be clear what ICT can do, and what it can't do. We seem to have a government that thinks of ICT as a one-way knowledge transmission belt - in which case multiple-choice quizzes, etc, do test that acquisition of knowledge - after a fashion.
History is not a linear subject, and sometimes what pupils have learnt cannot be measured, or only becomes apparent after many years, and we should not be afraid to say we cannot measure it. But we must try.
I agree with Terry - we have to think hard about what we are asking pupils to do, and what ICT allows them to do that they could not otherwise do. The skills we regard as important - understanding, interpretation, sifting evidence and so on - are much harder to measure and require precision in drafting of assignments to be able to measure changes. There are no easy answers to this. How do you measure emotion, feeling, understanding of 'why' things take place? It is no wonder history examiners argue so much, and that there is so much disquiet over the new AS and A2 grading systems. We must do the measuring, not ICT do the measuring.
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#7 Andrew Field

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 05:00 PM

Terry then makes this vitally important point: “The real potential of ICT lies not in the “bells and whistles” of multimedia, to provide “sugar-coating” for learning, but in its ability to access resources which would otherwise be inaccessible, and to manipulate and process those resources much more efficiently. Even these assets are only of real worth if we can think of historically valid activities for pupils to do with these resources and processes.”

Surely this is the key point behind all this. Use of ICT in history is all about developing the historical skills with effective use of ICT. This is the quote that I use the most and think I have done already here.

Any automated assessment will be severely limited. I dislike the tone of criticism about the interactive games as those criticising such games don't know how are they used in lessons. Assuming that such games are used as automated assessment is laughable.

They have never been portrayed as a method of assessment - they are for plenary, reward and entertainment purposes. I think it is vitally important for anyone finding limitations in interactive games and online work to see their practical use in schools. You have to be in the classroom day in day out to find out the reality.

I believe what will become commonplace are controlled 'learning environments' where students have to take decisions and react to online situations. These are great for history when a history teacher prepares them, but is also very aware of their limitations.

The government plans for ICT assessment seem to be focused around a controlled environment with a wordprocessor, database and so on.... The computer then records their actions and returns a score. This is the PGCE ICT test. Such a situation would be awful for history.

A history teacher will always have to mark work. An automated ICT-based alternative can help in situations, but cannot be a teacher-replacement.


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#8 John Simkin

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 08:04 AM

I dislike the tone of criticism about the interactive games as those criticising such games don't know how are they used in lessons.  Assuming that such games are used as automated assessment is laughable.

They have never been portrayed as a method of assessment - they are for plenary, reward and entertainment purposes.  I think it is vitally important for anyone finding limitations in interactive games and online work to see their practical use in schools.  You have to be in the classroom day in day out to find out the reality.

Is it being argued that someone who is not currently working full-time in the classroom is not in a position to comment about the way ICT is used in the classroom? I would have thought that people like Terry Hadyn and myself, who have had many years experience of teaching in the classroom, are fully qualified to comment on such matters. I fear this anti-intellectual approach to teaching, not uncommon on this forum, is very dangerous.

It is true that I am not currently in the classroom. However, at my last school I saw web quizzes, including your own, being used in the classroom. In fact, I used them myself and encouraged other members of the department to do the same.
The students obviously liked using them. They found them enjoyable to use. I suspect they also liked them because they were easy (in the sense they did not have to think too deeply about history when they used them).

I suggested they should only be used at the end of a unit of work or at the end of term as a treat. Some members of the department disagreed with me. They refused to use them at all as they felt the students were guessing the answers and were not learning anything. I did not agree with this judgement but accepted it because it was based on their own professional assessment of the situation.

As I said in my original posting, “quizzes are only dealing with low-level skills and ignore the high-level skills.” I went onto argue: “Students know what they like, but they do not know what the need. It is the responsibility of the teacher to work out what information and skills they want their students to have and then to develop the strategies to make this possible. Of course, where possible, teachers should develop strategies and teach topics that the students find enjoyable. However, the desire to provide enjoyable lessons should never dominate the teacher’s thinking.”

I stand by that statement. The task for classroom teachers (and former classroom teachers) with educational websites is to explore ways of creating activities that develop high-level skills. Hopefully, this debate will contribute to this process.

Edited by John Simkin, 08 November 2003 - 08:06 AM.


#9 Andrew Field

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 08:36 AM

Is it being argued that someone who is not currently working full-time in the classroom is not in a position to comment about the way ICT is used in the classroom?

Seems to have been some misinterpretation here - I'm not arguing anything. I don't work full-time in the history classroom. If entire post is read it can be seen that this isn't a personal attack on anyone at all. Nor is it an anti-intellectual attack - despite current teachers also being intellectual from time to time. My issue was that activities are being seen and criticised for uses that they aren't intended for or used for. I'm trying to explain my viewpoint from my current position, which is all anyone can do.

As can be seen I share the concern of using multiple choice quizzes / games for assessment - which is why I never use them as such. I haven't disagreed at all with the previous statements. In fact I think it would be very difficult for anyone to disagree, there isn't really a debate on this matter.

This seminar is about assessment. I was concluding my thoughts saying that any ICT-based assessment will always be severely limited. The way forward is to use ICT to encourage higher level thought in history lessons - and this is where ICT becomes the facilitator to history, not the other way around. This links to Andy's initial point about

to scaffold the reading and learning of my students so they would go away and do the real learning on their own.




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Posted 08 November 2003 - 10:21 AM

There are a number of important issues emerging in a rather muddled way in this seminar for which I take full responsibility :) .
The one that is likely to cause heated debate is the suggestion that current history "interactive" website provision is rather limited to low level skills of recall and comprehension. The "interaction" being on the screen and not in the pupils heads. This is very important debate in its own right which is clearly worthy of much consideration. My view on this as a provider of a recall/comprehension/revision site in HistoryGCSE.org is that this was entirely intentional and is both a reflection of my aims to provide a resource for "borderline" and below "borderline" students preparing for an examination and a reflection of the technology used to build it viz. hot potatoes, radio button style quizzes and templates from schoolhistory. What tends to raise such characters through the magical threshold is an increase in their factual knowledge, and some straightforward advice and practice at GCSE style activities. Thus the implied criticism certainly in the case of my resource is justified as the site was never intended as something that would fulfil the true promise of the internet as a learning tool. I do agree with Andrew however that those who do make these criticisms are not able to observe and judge the context in which they are used. The implication would appear to be that students are just set down plugged in and told to work through it with no opportunities to access and encourage higher ranking thinking skills and historical challenge being provided. This I believe is probably what grates most for those of us actually at the coal face.

The second major issue that has been touched upon is the potential of IT to offer digital assessment and progress tracking. Here I think we will find more agreement across everyone. The only automated assessment system for school history I am aware of has been provided by Samlearning.com and I don't want to precipitate another nosebleed for Dan Moorhouse by pointing out the obvious limitations of their system. Automated assessment in history clearly will not work and is not appropriate given the nature of our subject.

The third major issue I think touches closely on the first and regards the potential or promise of the internet as a stand alone learning tool. Much huff and puff is blown about web based learning transforming the way we organise learning, reduce the reliance on teachers, "learning being brought to the pupil" and not vice versa. Some have even suggested that web based learning could deschool society.
This I believe is where the next challenge for providers of learning materials really rests. And it is in this challenge that I think they will benefit from working closely with colleagues in University education departments.

Perhaps if this is indeed the future as regards how children will learn then the whole issue of assessment and tracking progress by professionals will become an even more important issue???

Edited by andy_walker, 08 November 2003 - 01:35 PM.


#11 Richard Drew

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 10:34 AM

This posting is not about ICT and assessment, but assessment in general (sorry if that makes it more muddled).

For me assessment is part of the planning process. i do not see it as a bolt on at the end of a learning process, i do not see it as a paperwork/record keeping exercise, i do not see it as keeping my lords and masters happy. Testing is something completely different and this fuliflls those criteria.

Assessment is for me at the core of my planning process and fulfills 5 main objectives:

i) it lets my pupils know in a concrete manner how much they have learned, how far they have progressed and where they still need to make progress - allowing them to make this their forcus in future enquiries and tasks: careful target setting ensures this

ii) it creates a coherent structure through which my pupils can reflect in a synoptic manner on their learning throughout an enquiry, and as such takes many forms - essay, presentation, mind-map, 'speech-bubbles' exercise, speech, letter etc. as such it is part of the learning process itself

iii) it gives me guidance on the progress of my pupils and where i should concentrate my planning for future enquiries, ensuring that my teaching with these pupils is targettted where it needs to be (if my pupils are across the board displaying interpretations skills at level 6, i do not want my next interpretations enquiry to be pitched at level 5 or 6, but at level 7 or 8.

iv) it gives me gudiance on the success of the 'current' enquiry for future amendment of the enquiry. the pupils assessed task will indicate to me which concepts/skills/what understanding has been gained very successfully and very poorly, ensuring that my 're-jigging' for duture classes is far more effective

v) i can confidently say that my pupils really enjoy completing a well planned assessment


if assessment is part of the learning process itself it is not a waste of any time at all

Edited by Richard Drew, 08 November 2003 - 10:36 AM.

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#12 John Simkin

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 10:42 AM

Thus the implied criticism certainly in the case of my resource is justified as the site was never intended as something that would fulfil the true promise of the internet as a learning tool. I do agree with Andrew however that those who do make these criticisms are not able to observe and judge the context in which they are used. The implication would appear to be that students are just set down plugged in and told to work through it with no opportunities to access and encourage higher ranking thinking skills and historical challenge being provided. This I believe is probably what grates most for those of us actually at the coal face.


But as I explained, I did observe these quizzes being used in the classroom. Both in my lessons and in my colleagues’ lessons. Are you saying I can only comment if I have been in the classroom of those who produced the quiz? If that is the case, is that true of comments about other teaching resources?

I am not sure how you got the impression that by pointing out the limitations of quizzes that I was somehow implying that the students were not being encouraged to access and encourage higher ranking skills. If I did say that I would understand why people on the coal face are getting upset. However, I would point out that people on the coal face don’t always get it right. Sometimes their face is so close to the coal face they only see darkness.

Edited by John Simkin, 08 November 2003 - 10:48 AM.


#13 m242

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 10:53 AM

To clarify my views on online quizzes/games etc; I absolutely agree with the point that these are not just or primarily assessment instruments, but things that help motivation and engagement in the subject. As Sue Hallam once said, 'They must want to learn; if you lose that, you lose everything.'

Martin Heafford distnguishes between high and low value activities in classrooms, pointing out that there are some activities (the 'high value' ones) which are the crucial ones where the substantial gains in learning take place, and others which are not as crucial to advancing learning. People who don't know anything about pupils, classrooms, lessons etc don't understand that you can't have high value activities all the time or kids get turned off. Skilful teachers mix high and low value activities to make learning enjoyable, get a good working atmosphere, provide access to learning for all pupils etc. The clip of Martin Williams from last year's teaching awards was a good example of this; it includes 'Who wants to be a millionaire?' games in the lesson, but he also does more serious work with ICT so that pupils get a mixture of work that is challenging and difficult, with some activities which are mainly for fun.

I just feel that some politicians and policymakers who see computers as unproblematic educational miracles think that interactivity is just the bells and whistles multimedia stuff, and that crap history CD-roms are in some way wonderful just because they've got whizzy graphics. The HiDES software packages for 'A' level students were a good example of more meaningful interactivity. Another example if history teachers are doing anything on political positions/education (left and right, public opinion, democracy, reliability of the internet etc) is 'The world's shortest political quiz', www.selfgov.org).

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 10:54 AM

But as I explained, I did observe these quizzes being used in the classroom. Both in my lessons and in my colleagues’ lessons. Are you saying I can only comment if I have been in the classroom of those who produced the quiz?  If that is the case, is that true of comments about other teaching resources?

Not at all (slap!?)
I was merely trying to explain how criticisms like Terry Haydn's might well be taken.
Clearly any resource can be badly and inappropriately used in a lesson. I'd prefer that not to be assumed however!

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 01:42 PM

However, I would point out that people on the coal face don’t always get it right. Sometimes their face is so close to the coal face they only see darkness.

I agree! Which is why I said

The third major issue I think touches closely on the first and regards the potential or promise of the internet as a stand alone learning tool. Much huff and puff is blown about web based learning transforming the way we organise learning, reduce the reliance on teachers, "learning being brought to the pupil" and not vice versa. Some have even suggested that web based learning could deschool society.
This I believe is where the next challenge for providers of learning materials really rests. And it is in this challenge that I think they will benefit from working closely with colleagues in University education departments.


I am suggesting that for the full promise of online learning to be realised it will be desirable for both classroom practitioners and educationalists in teacher training and elsewhere to work together, bringing as they do very different skills and insights to the process.




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