Climbing The Hill
Why Pupils' Books Are The Best Evidence Base For Measuring Impact of Teaching on Learning
Much has been written over the past few weeks about moving away from grading individual lessons, taking a more developmental, holistic approach to measuring impact of teaching on learning. I couldn’t agree more with what’s been blogged, tweeted and spoken about.
One of the saddest things to see in schools is so little regard being given to the learning environment or the quality of learning evidenced in books. At my most cynical, my hunch is, too many schools play the OFSTED game where numbers and grades become the catch all for ‘good’ rather than a school culture which resonates with quality learning. I have long believed the learning journey being more important than one off lesson observations and am keen to see this translated and captured in pupil books. It is our best and most reliable evidence base.
When I am observing any lesson the three things I am most interested in connecting are:
- quality of learning environment and how this models and scaffolds learning
- the evidence of learning captured in pupils’ books
- progress made over time
Shared below is my own specific check list of evidence to support and scaffold learning discussions following lesson observations. It has never let me down:
With specific reference to the evidence of learning captured in pupils’ books, outlined below are some of the key features I would look for to help triangulate evidence that children are getting the best possible deal and making great progress. I have supplemented this with some visual reference as a guide:
1. Pupil Books Communicate School Values
What children commit to speaking, writing, drawing or sharing is special and important. How we value this communicates powerful messages about our learning community. There needs to be a balance between encouraging risk taking and mistake making, whilst also reinforcing the ethic of excellence that “if it isn’t perfect, it isn’t finished”.
Key Questions: Is presentation of learning valued in books? Do adults and children take pride in what goes into the books? Are expectations consistently high, taking into account learners’ needs and starting points?
I would also look carefully at school systems for ordering stationary such as pens, pencils and exercise books. Often the stationary we provide children with is sub standard and gives the implicit message that second best is okay.
2. Learning Journeys Should Be Co-Constructed With Pupils
Key Questions: Are pupils really involved in owning responsibility for their learning? Is there evidence in books of a learning dialogue between adults and pupils? I don’t mean feedback marking per se, but more explicitly the relationship between learners and teachers; specifically captured and valued as important in books. Here are some good examples of this in action below:
3. Books Provide Evidence of ‘Incidental’, Ongoing Learning Leading to Quality
Capturing the learning journey is critical. It provides evidence that the road map for progress and meaning making is designed in advance, planned with quality outcomes in mind and reference the need for ‘extended abstract’ thinking. Shown below are some examples of incidental learning opportunities that lead to quality outcomes:
The emphasis within the incidental learning, should be on the quality of language, its link to the purpose and audience for learning and the challenge within the task.
4. Its Not The Feedback But Its Impact Which Matters
Key Questions: Is feedback (orally and verbally) impacting on learning? Is there evidence that children have responded to feedback and then done something with the feedback to make a difference in their own learning? If this is happening consistently well then the evidence will clearly be visible in books. See examples below:
5. Learning Should Be Purposeful (Linked to Extended Abstract) And Make Connections With The World
Learning evidence in books needs to communicate that learning is important and has a purpose beyond the life of a single lesson. Photographic evidence is a good way to capture a sense of purpose when connecting drama and oral communication with learning. Ensuring the learning context is rich and linked to the real world is another. Here are examples of rich and purposeful learning linked to a real context (check out the Y2 vocab directly below):
6. Displays Provide The Setting For Quality: They Model and Capture Examples Of Excellence From Books
Building on the ‘ethic of excellence’ theme, when pupils’ books capture the evidence of a quality planned learning journey, it isn’t just seen in books, its everywhere. You can see it in the adult modelling, learning walls and of course, pupil outcomes on display. Here’s the link to my perfect primary classroom. Here are some examples of quality outcomes on display: