I know its the holidays but I’m depressed. Over the last few weeks I have worked with a whole host of history teachers in many settings. Unfortunately the same depressing message seems to be coming through – we are all spending so much time tracking and analysing data, that we simply do not have enough time or energy to think about the important stuff: creating great lessons and resources for our classes. Has the world gone mad?
I might be out of date but I have this very old fashioned view about raising standards. If teachers teach better lessons and help their pupils learn better then attainment will increase, particularly if kids enjoy what they are doing. For this to happen teachers need to spend their time thinking about how to make lessons engaging, fun and thought provoking. They need to think hard about what good learning is in history.
Part of the latest ofsted framework for outstanding teaching actually agrees. It states, ‘Well judged and often imaginative teaching strategies match individual needs accurately.’ Coming up with these imaginative teaching strategies is to my mind the best part of the job – teaching is a creative process and this is the creative part. And this takes time, thought and effort.
Unfortunately many of us are so busy marking ‘assessments’, entering and analysing level data – which lets be honest for the likes of history has its foundations set in sand – that we have no energy left to think about creating the lessons and resources we nee to inspire and engage our pupils. It is a mad mad world!
I often think about it from a pupils’s point of view. Every half term they are going from subject to subject in which they are completing, what their teacher tells them, is a ‘really important assessment’. Imagine that, 6 times a day! High stakes and stressful. Where is the fun? Then, lets think about it from a teachers perspective: How depressing spending hours marking individual pieces of work and really deliberating over which made up level to put on it!(After all, a level is a best fit judgement about all of the history concepts and processes, not to be used for a one off piece of work). This data is then entered into some spreadsheet to be over analysed and used as a rod to beat us with by our line managers.
It isn’t just history teachers who think this is a little mad. Professor David Lambert of the Geographical Association summed up this process in 2010 particularly well. He stated,
‘…we have the commonplace absurdity of school teachers being instructed by senior leadership teams to create intermediate levels (e.g. level 3a, 3b, 3c etc). Fabricating such a quasi-scientific basis for reporting ‘progress’ to the SLT, parents and Ofsted has become in this way, let’s face it, an enormous professional hoax.’
If you want our view on what good assessment is, look here. If you want to stay sane in this mad mad world, try planning some thought provoking and engaging history lessons. For some inspiration, look around our website. After all teaching great lessons is the best part of the job.