Tuesday 22 January 2019

New Year's Resolution Series: Jacqueline Harmer


Jacqueline Harmer

International Curriculum Manager (IPC) 

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I am constantly amazed by human ability to explore, discover and go further. Recently NASA’s New Horizons images were the furthest ever taken in space. Then in January mysterious signals were picked up from distant galaxies which led to many people revisiting the question: ‘Is there anything out there?’ As always many are responding: ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’

Is seeing believing? Do we sometimes believe things we don't see? What about learning?

Some teachers plan a week’s worth of lessons and continue to teach them, regardless of whether learning is taking place. Some teachers think that as they have been teaching then learning must also have taken place. Yes, we should believe in ourselves as professionals, but formative assessment is the key to finding evidence to support our belief that learning is happening.  It helps us check for gaps and misunderstandings; it ensures that future learning is built on a solid foundation. But it doesn’t stop there. “assessment becomes formative assessment when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet student needs” (Black & Wiliam, 1998 p. 140)

Educators need to take action on their discoveries and to adjust planning accordingly. This may require designing a new approach to address learning that didn’t stick or finding an alternative resource. It may mean building in time for practise to help children consolidate new skills. If the formative assessment evidence shows us that a wealth learning has taken place, then we may need to adapt our lessons to be more challenging. For practical ideas I recommend any of Shirley Clarke’s many books on using formative assessment.

As we start a new term in the Northern hemisphere and prepare for a new school year in the Southern let us commit to discovering and responding to evidence of learning on our classrooms. 

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