Ticked Off with Ticking Boxes?

by Louise Young
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Assessment seems, in the main, to have become one big box ticking exercise hasn't it?!

For school leaders it ticks a box for the Local Authority or MAT or Ofsted....it often gives an illusion of progress which is alluring. Most systems offer graphs which show flight paths and similar pretty line graphs all based around ticking off competencies on a curriculum. All too often, since levels were supposedly banished in 2014, this has led to teachers filling their time with ticking off curriculum statements too numerous to mention. Page after page of objectives. This has become the very epitome of micromanagement. For every objective, in standard assessment systems, teachers must decide if a child has completed that objective, or is working towards it, or has exceeded it. FOR EVERY OBJECTIVE. For maths in Year 4 in some curricula that could be up to 120 objectives. Per child. And they review these termly usually.

Once these objectives have been assessed in minute detail, the system then creates a level of some sort. Yes yes I know it's not a level anymore. Except it is. And that is fine but let's be honest about it!

These levels are then analysed and maybe even printed onto paper to go home to parents. Students are given curriculum statements to work on pulled from the objectives still listed as "Working Towards" in the system. Teachers are doing this, yes, but how much are teacher judgements being trusted? And how many times does a teacher tick a load of the boxes just to get the job done as they struggle under the weight of all this workload?

In Kinteract we also have schools asking to put their whole curriculum into the system. It's doable yes. But it seems to kind of miss the point of what we are aiming for - which is to look at assessment in a whole new light.

Kinteract isn't purely an assessment system although it neatly covers what is needed there.

But let's have a look at this from a teacher perspective, not from ours.

As a teacher you have your school curriculum to work from. Whether that is one you have created or a bought-in commercial one doesn't matter. You use it to plan your lessons. You of course want to ensure your class cover everything the need to cover by the end of the year, and you want them to be secure in that.

As a teacher you plan your lessons, picking out your objectives for this week/today/this term. You teach it. During lessons you will ask questions, watch pupils, work with pupils, then do a plenary maybe to check understanding. You might also ask pupils to judge their own understanding. Already you know how to tweak the next lesson based on the class overall. Then you mark the books and you can see who definitely got it, who needs a bit more repetition, and who needs some 1:1. Perfect, now you can annotate the plans or decide where to go next with this. Tomorrow you repeat the process. You move things on for those who can, you repeat for those who need it, you provide group work for those who need more teacher time. By the end of the week, once you have taught all 5 lessons or however many lessons are in this term's block if you are teaching secondary or a specialist subject, you then make notes somewhere so that the next time you come back to this you know who needs what and what the class as a whole is ready to do next.

That all sounds great right? A professional doing the job they trained for. The job they do as naturally as breathing. They see every quizzical look from a child who doesn't want to admit publicly that they don't understand. They saw the child who finished ridiculously quickly and got them all right. They see it all.

So then we make them go and tick off every single objective they taught for every child to record it for....well what for? How will each of those objectives being ticked help? They already figured out what to do next. They already marked the work and adapted their lessons. They already did what was needed to get as many pupils as possible to be secure in that. What couldn't be done doesn't need to be examined at that level of granular detail does it? For some children it might. For one child it may be well worth noting that they found that unit really easy/hard/transformative in their understanding. It is worth noting that. But for the rest of the class that objective or set of objectives probably doesn't need to be that detailed in assessment terms. On Monday they didn't get it. By Friday they got it. That's the general rule!

In Kinteract we want you to do just that. Teach your lessons. Do what you do in class. DON'T tick off that objective for every child after every lesson. But DO make a note for a child or a few children if there is something notable to say. Maybe one child suddenly grasped something they have been struggling with all year. Note that down! Make an observation in Kinteract (As easy as posting on Facebook) so that you remember it, so that the parent sees it, and so the child can see it on their learning journey. That applies to Nursery all the way to Year 13. Everyone likes to savour those moments and put them on record.

For the child who struggled maybe you still cannot tick off that objective. So why go on a system where you have to just tick it as red? Why document that? Why not just make a note in an observation to say how hard that child worked and how proud you are, while noting that there is work still to be done (see fig 1). Maybe even attach some worksheets the parents can help with at home, or some links to useful videos online or a fun game to keep them practising when you have had to move on to the next set of objectives in class?

At the end of the term/half term/year you can still make an overall judgement on whether that child is secure/working towards/exceeding or whatever terminology you want to use to assess overall competence in a subject or strand (see fig 2). But with Kinteract you don't need to get ticked off by ticking boxes when it doesn't add anything to the learning or the home-school learning links.

Yes you can put your whole curriculum and every objective into Kinteract. Yes you could try and record something for every child against every single one if you want. Totally your choice. You can add as much or as little to every child's learning journey as you want. Up to you. But put the learning first. Put trusting the teachers first. Put the child first. And only tick the boxes you need to, not the 1,000s you don't! Teach them all of course, but you really don't need to assess them all.