Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Think You've Implemented Assessment for Learning?: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Think You've Implemented Assessment for Learning?: News

Article excerpt

Think again - most schools are doing it wrong, says its creator.

It is seen as an essential classroom technique, taught in teacher training colleges and inspected by Ofsted. But despite the seeming ubiquity of Assessment for Learning (AfL), the strategy is largely missing from England's schools, according to the two academics who popularised it.

It is a situation that Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor at the University of London's Institute of Education, views as a "tragedy" - one he blames on the interference of government and on himself.

Fourteen years have passed since Professor Wiliam co-authored Inside the Black Box, the booklet that introduced a generation of teachers to the concept of using assessment to help pupils improve, rather than to grade their knowledge (see panel, right). Tens of thousands of copies have been sold and most teachers and schools are familiar with the term. But the problem, says Professor Wiliam, is that they have not understood it properly.

In his first comments to the media on the failure of the technique to take hold in schools, Professor Wiliam has laid much of the blame at the door of the Labour government for launching its own Pounds 150 million AfL scheme in 2008. And he believes the impact is still being felt in schools today.

"There are very few schools where all the principles of AfL, as I understand them, are being implemented effectively," Professor Wiliam told TES. "The problem is that government told schools that it was all about monitoring pupils' progress; it wasn't about pupils becoming owners of their own learning.

"We have (DfE officials) saying: 'We tried AfL and it didn't work.' But that's because (they) didn't try the AfL that does work."

Professor Wiliam's comments follow a similar admission from his Inside the Black Box co-author. In 2010, Professor Paul Black from King's College London said that the technique was not being used in a "very large number of classrooms", also blaming government for emphasising the measurement of pupil progress. …

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