Assessment for Learning is much vaunted and many faceted. If we break down what it means in its constituent parts, many of you will feel that you do most of that already, and you probably do. What the Primary Strategy is pushing is a more consistent, coherent, whole-school approach so that AfL becomes embedded in everyone’s practice: it pervades the ethos of the school, the attitudes that are shown, the quality of the learning environment and even the basic routines and behaviour.
What has this got to do with history specifically?
To my mind, the most important feature of AfL in history is the use of curricular targets that are history related. If we get these right, and share them with children in a way that they can understand, then we can more easily design opportunities for learning that move children on significantly.
How much of this are we doing already in history?
If we look at our strategies for day to day assessment we will most likely be asking questions, observing, discussing, analysing and checking understanding. To a lesser extent we will be giving feedback and only very rarely will we be setting history-specific targets.
What do we need to be doing more of?
If I had to choose four big areas for development they would be:
a. Sharing the objectives of the lesson in terms of what the pupils are going to learn not what they are going to do. I believe that we spend too long describing and supporting the activities rather than the learning that arises from them. We also need to spend longer discussing with children at the start of a unit of work what they already know about the topic and what they would like to know or learn about. Concept mapping and mind maps are often useful here.
b. Sharing success criteria. What would make this a good postcard home from a Victorian seaside holidays? So what do you need to remember to do or include in order to..? Pupils’ responses are written up and USED by the children as criteria for their answers and for later feedback. This is bound to make children less fearful of making mistakes.
c. Feedback, written as well as oral, as children move through the key stages.
d. Peer and self-assessment. Which of these plans for the re-building of London after the Great Fire do you think is the best and why? Children need to be encouraged to evaluate. They should focus on the positive features of each others’ work. They also need time to review and feedback to each other.
Developing peer and self-assessment
As the children develop greater confidence of working in this way, so you will be able to use techniques such as
find one word you are really proud of and underline it, show the person next to you
you have 2 minutes to identify 2 places where you think you have done this well and read them to your partner decide with your partner which of the success criteria you have been most successful with and which one needs help or could be taken even further.
More detailed advice on the 10 principles of AfL, and your very own classroom poster!! can be downloaded from the QCA site OFSTED’s evaluation of AFL October 2008 can be downloaded from the OFSTED site