Thursday, February 27, 2014

Assessment on a post-it

EYFS is built upon a bedrock of continuous assessment. Every child's needs is catered for, for at this early age every child is recognised and valued as an individual. Assessment informs everything we do and with 5 adults in my EYFS team we need to be consistent in our approach to ensure every child's needs are met. 

In term 1 I did this by having daily conversations and exchanging notes each of us built up throughout the day. Unfortunately, a daily conversation can sometimes be cancelled, late or forgotten. This led to '10 minutes before the start of the day quick recaps of the learning that happened the day before' which once again fell victim to other pressures of daily school life. We needed a system that would be simple to use, provide instant assessment opportunities and be as failsafe as possible. So I've devised this Assessment Wall.

I focused on Writing, Number and Phonics as the main 3 assessment opportunities that would lead to most impact. During Adult focused and Adult initiated activities, all EYFS staff would use a post-it pad to jot down quick assessments on those children in their group. The note would contain the child's name, concern and adult's initials. This post-it would then be placed into the corresponding day/assessment focus box and during the same day, or later in the week, assessment post-its would be picked up by any member of staff to follow up the assessment with a repeat activity or enhanced activity depending on learning needs noted. This post-it would then be stuck into the child's work book (or Learning Portfolio) alongside the additional learning activity giving us a highly effective way of demonstrating assessment for learning; one that's not based on smiley faces, traffic lights, lollipop sticks or any other manner of mumbo jumbo voodoo assessment nonsense.

After one week, we have found this system to be a simple yet highly effective way of ensuring assessment throughout our EYFS class is acted upon quickly, that it not only informs our planning but ensures each and every child's learning needs are met. 

And one more thing - we don't use pink pens nor green pens in our EYFS team because we firmly believe that the use of such a marking scheme is nonsense in EYFS. It's also a nonsense throughout KS1 and KS2 but that debate's for another day.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My latest lesson observation feedback

This was the outcome of my latest lesson observation - I received Good with Outstanding features (whatever that actually means). The form is based on the 2013 Ofsted criteria for a whole school observation, such criteria is not meant to be used to grade individual lessons so why are schools doing exactly that?

To achieve an Outstanding grade on this form I would have needed to do the following in the length of time the lesson observation took place. 
  1. Almost all pupils make rapid and sustained progress across the curriculum
  2. Marking and feedback from the teacher and pupils is frequent and of consistently high quality
  3. Teaching of reading, writing, communication and maths is exceptional
  4. Use of well judged and often imaginative teaching strategies that match individual needs
  5. Time taken to develop skills in other subjects
  6. Appropriate and regular homework
Now to pick some of these apart.
  1. No teacher can possibly be expected to ensure all pupils make sustained and rapid progress across THE CURRICULUM in one lesson.
  2. To ensure marking is of an effective and high quality it takes more time than one observed lesson affords.
  3. I'd like to see this actually happening, a teacher teaching all of these exceptionally in ONE observed lesson.
  4. So if there are 25 children in my class, do I need to provide 25 individually well judged and imaginative teaching strategies? I didn't think so.
  5. During one observed lesson a teacher has barely enough time to breath never mind develop skills in other subjects
  6. This is just nonsense.

Teachers and pupils deserve better than this. 

Once again, WHY do schools resort to a rehashed version of whole school Ofsted inspection criteria to grade individual lessons? 

Does your school use a similar type of lesson observation form? Perhaps you teach at a school that has developed an observation system that teachers look forward to, I would love to know.

Note - I spent no additional time preparing for the above lesson, I prepared no additional resources nor did I go through my previously planned lesson with a fine comb to ensure grade descriptors were met. My 'lesson' was barely 20 minutes long as I teach in EYFS. Make your own mind up.

Ofsted’s grade criteria state: “These descriptors should not be used as a checklist. They must be applied adopting a ‘best fit’ approach which relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.”

Additional Reading
I recommend you read the following blog posts (and blogs on a regular basis)
'Meeting Ofsted : The game has changed' by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher)
'On grading lesson observations' by Alex Quigley (@huntingenglish)
'Has lesson observation become the new brain gym?' by David Didau (@learningspy)

'Beyond lesson observation grades' by Mary Myatt (@marymyatt)