Progress or Learning?

Progress or Learning

Ofsted – do they really want to see progress over 20 minutes?


I think we would could agree on one definition/description of learning. That would be a behavioural change as a result of an activity. We would need to be clear that “activity” needed a general and open description that included thinking as well as manipulating real stuff. It is also not enough for the learner to have simply completed the activity; we need some evidence of the behavioural change in the learner.

Do we have to evidence the learning or does it exist before we evidence it? That is a little like does a tree make a sound if it falls in the forest with no one to hear it fall? I want to assert that the learning has happened before we evidence it. the learning is not a function of the evidencing but we only know it has happened by evidencing – getting a student to demonstrate something new that uses that learning.

If we take that as true then we can define progress as evidenced learning. I think that is what Ofsted mean when they say they are seeing progress.

The other way in which schools use progress is to evidence learning over a longer timescale. A child moves from level four to level five. This is progress. I guess it will be possible to see the moment in a lesson when the last piece is put into place by the learner that completes the move from level four to level five but that would be a much rarer event and most lessons would not provide that evidence. Also how would an external observer know that for that child that was the last piece in their jigsaw? The teacher would know, I expect. One could see it in the planning if the plan was student specific.

So, my view is that Ofsted do not want to see progress over the short timescale of a single lesson. But what is looked for is evidence of learning over a lesson, or part of a lesson, and when that is seen often enough in a variety of lessons in a school that provides evidence of likely progress. Looking at students’ books will provide evidence of a learner using their earlier learning to further learning. That is evidence of progress over time.

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