Seek and Ye Shall Find

What do we want to know about a child after they have been taught?

As a result of a post by Harry Fletcher Wood, I think that the above question is being answered wrongly. Harry wrote about formative assessment and touched on an idea that I have been mulling for a while. Harry’s blog was in response to David Didau’s repeated and correct assertion that we cannot judge learning over the course of a lesson. This assertion is annoying as it is the very thing we want to know about. Or is it? Do we really want to know what a child has learned?

Imagine some sort of perfect teaching where each child learned precisely what the teacher intended. Would we need to assess what was learned in that ideal situation? I hope you see that the answer is no. We just pile on with the next lesson and learning continues like a steam train chugging along the line.

No, if we knew that what had been taught was what had been learned then we would not need to asses.

So that made me ponder why we even tried to assess what they had learned. How about we assess what they had not learned? rats! That then falls into the DD trap. Can’t do that. All we get in a lesson is performance can do or performance can’t do.

But Harry to the rescue. What he suggests is really what we want to know is if any child is leaving the lesson with wrong information. Do they have any misconceptions?

That is then what we assess. We seek wrong stuff. Teachers of any experience know the typical misconceptions children have and that is what we are seeking. We seek so that we can correct, as soon as possible. It can form the basis of our planning for the next lesson.

It can also tell us that we need to alter how we teach the same piece of work the next time, with a new class. In a few weeks time, we can have our first attempt at assessing what has been retained. What has been learned.

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