Saturday, January 23, 2010

If Ofsted was about praise

Following on from some Twitter chat last evening (started by @Missbrownsword regarding Gifted and Talented and linked into by @thegreatgar regarding Ofsted), I started to muse ....

It's probably virtually impossible to do all the time but when you are able to plan work geared to individual students' strengths and areas for development, we all know it goes well. Even if that isn't possible or even appropriate all the time, an ongoing 'log' (or register) of these strengths - regularly and frequently updated - must be helpful to both teacher and student. I remain to be completely convinced about learning styles but I do believe that a teacher should endeavour to present learning material in a range of styles wherever she/he can. I also believe that developing reflection can be a major (but not the only) way of promoting real learning.

In case I am sounding a little evangelical, I want to point out that I do think that some learners seem to do better with a didactic approach and that people might not become true learners until long after they leave a formal school environment - I know the penny didn't drop for me until I was in my late thirties. Then again - who knows if I might have got there sooner with a different approach of course?

What has all this got to do with Ofsted? Well, during the Twitter chat mentioned above, @thegreatgar pointed out that "g&t or sen we make them all sit the same outmoded exams which must be reformed!!!! Pen and paper exams for digital natives ?!?!?!"

I think one problem is we still try to 'catch people out' with exams, testing what they don't know rather than what they do. I don't see this changing any time soon. Earlier today on Twitter, I saw this from @jpallis001 referring to a comment from head of Harrow who said "Let us not deceive our children .. carrying their certificates around in a ­wheelbarrow" and then this "From 2013 only quals:Dips, Apprenticeships, Found Lrning, GCSE/A Level funded "

I wonder how different these qualifications will really be in judging learning?

And so to Ofsted. These school inspections still tend to be designed to 'catch us out' don't they? Have we made accurate judgements about our school - based, incidentally, on categories which we don't choose for ourselves? Have we forgotten anything - yes of course we have I expect. Have we failed to please all of the people all of the time ... ?

Wouldn't it be great if Ofsted was designed to let schools show off all the wonderful things they do and to acknowledge their areas for development? We could choose our own categories and we could be praised not only for doing well but for knowing where we can still improve.

It could all look something like this:

-- young learner builds up a portfolio of what her/his strengths and areas for development are, guided by exemplar learners (we used to call them teachers)

-- this portfolio is regularly updated and qualifications are awarded when progress is made

-- exemplar learners have the same professional development/performance management system as their charges

-- schools are rewarded and praised for what they do, not castigated for what they don't do

Ah well...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sir John Rowling

Sir John Rowling's talk at our school - has anyone else used Sir John's ideas? would love to hear how it went