The Northern Ireland Curriculum embraces the principles of Assessment for Learning by placing formative assessment at the heart of the learning and teaching cycle. The emphasis is on improvement, raising achievement in pupils' learning and celebrating success. Assessment for Learning has the potential to make a powerful contribution to the central aim of the Northern Ireland curriculum by empowering learners and enabling them to realise their full potential.In Assessment for Learning: a practical guide, they are using the same language as Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. As they admit: "Most of the world`s education systems are adopting Assessment for Learning approaches..." Their explanation for these changes leaves much to be desired. It is because they are focused on improving pupils` learning and raising their achievement.
So what were educators doing before this? Not bothering with children`s learning and achievements?
Information about formal assessments: the parent friendly version.
When your child gets stuck, don`t give him/her the answer, instead, encourage them to try different ways to become `unstuck`.
We will value all answers, because making mistakes is part of the normal learning process; and encourage them to be more resourceful and independent in their learning by equipping them with helpful strategies that they can use when they get stuck in their learning.
I cannot think of anything more frustrating for some children than to say: `You are on your own, you must get yourself unstuck.`
Think about thirty children in a classroom getting stuck at different parts of the curriculum - the time wasted on the formative assessment approach - how unworkable this is. Direct teaching has a good track record. Yet teachers are encouraged in this practice by learning from one another through ongoing whole school dialogue. What teacher is going to have the courage to stand out from the crowd to say: `This does not work in my classroom ?`
Formative assessment for teachers
As well as an emphasis on assessment for learning, the idea is promoted that children can be helped to become independent learners.
The more we can do to help them master the skills of learning, the more able they will be to manage it themselves.
Towards this end teachers are persuaded that children need to learn how to learn.
Using the same logic, if children cannot be successful learners without being taught how to learn, perhaps they cannot be taught these learning skills either !
Then we would need to teach children how to learn how to learn how to learn. There is an infinite regress here which exposes the nonsense. Children learn.
In addition, the outcomes of education, in terms of skills, dispositions and attitudes to learning, are emphasised throughout.
It is those skills, dispositions and attitudes which will become part of formative assessment.
Assessment for Learning: a practical guide:
The changes in education are politically motivated and parents are being deliberately bamboozled.
What is doublespeak ?
"Doublespeak is language which pretends to communicate but really doesn’t. It is language which makes the bad seem good, the negative appear positive, the unpleasant appear attractive, or at least tolerable. It is language which avoids or shifts responsibility, language which is at variance with its real or purported meaning. It is language which conceals or prevents thought. Doublespeak is language which does not extend thought but limits it ..." Lutz (1988)