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Assessment for Learning: A Lasting Legacy

13 February 2015

On a day when our esteemed and respected Vice Principal, Stuart White, moves on to new challenges, there are many things the school, past students and parents have to thank him for.

One of the most lasting and important, is a cornerstone of modern teaching that he has helped progress forward and embed in our school culture. This is the total belief in Assessment for Learning (AFL) and the impact in can have on the quality of children’s learning.

Britain’s standards in education inspectorate OFSTED, are school inspectors who visit schools to assess the quality of teaching and learning. Their vision for schools said that Assessment for Learning was of the “utmost importance” In helping children progress.  AFL is a teaching strategy in which students are constantly checked throughout the lesson for progression in their learning. It requires questioning and discussion that can prove that each individual in the classroom is learning what is expected. It requires teachers to think about the clarity of their lessons and yet have flexibility to realise that when things are not understood as expected, lesson plans can change to ensure that pupils are learning appropriately.

AFL covers many key areas of the school’s aims, students are encouraged to achieve through discussion, working with each other and feeding back to teachers and this helps students strengthen their communication skills and build self-esteem. A BISS Puxi classroom should follow the routine that 80% of the lesson hour is spent by the child learning with only 20% of the time spent on the teacher setting up the learning.

You may remember we  were lucky enough to have Professor Dylan William, the world leading expert on AFL, address and advise our teachers last year and his simple advice was the students have got to work harder in the lesson than the teacher or there is something wrong . The focus has to be on a partnership of expert planning and teaching. The teacher needs to plan step by step where they want the students to go with their learning, the classroom has to have the right materials for students to show they are learning, and we invested in AFL kits with individual whiteboards and traffic light cards to help assess student understanding, and the marking of the students work (sometimes to the surprise of parents who were used to something different when they were at school) has less written comments but  a few clearly focused targets for the child to improve upon to help improve the next piece of work or assessment.

There is still very much a need for assessments or tests that replicate the exams that students will take at the end of year or school, but as Mr White leaves the school today he knows that AFL is something that he has helped encourage and embed in school teaching culture. He helped bring the experts to train us, fund the equipment to carry out the teaching effectively and encouraged continuing ongoing discussions between teachers in their learning communities and in their professional development discussions with their heads of department. AFL can be seen as Mr White’s legacy in our school, it helps all our teachers to improve their practice and all of our students to achieve more effectively.

At the end of 10 days of wonderful Chinese New Year celebrations and concerts, I hope our students, staff and parents have an even greater awareness of the importance of next week’s holiday to our host country. Have a wonderful week off no matter where you are.

- Chris Share, Head of Secondary