Forget about assessing learning after lessons

Today I not only have my first ever article published by the TES, it’s made the front page!

Those of you familiar with my output will recognise the arguments and be familiar with the thinking that’s led to these conclusions. But for anyone new to the blog, a little background wouldn’t go amiss.

The first and perhaps most important brick in the teetering edifice I’ve been constructing over the past couple of years is the idea that learning and performance are not the same thing. Maybe this sounds obvious, but it rocked my world to its rotten foundations. Read this post if you want to find out more.

Then, I started trying to get my head around the concept of ‘desirable difficulties’ and Robert Bjork’s work on memory, learning and forgetting. Again, maybe this all sounds a bit trite now but when I first encountered the ideas they took my breath away. This is the first post I wrote on the subject.

And so, with no further ado, here’s my TES piece: Classroom practice – Forget about assessing learning after lessons.

Naturally it’s undergone the brutal process of sub-editing, but it still retains a solid kernel of what I think. And if you’re interested in Dylan Wiliam’s response, he very kindly went to the trouble of commenting on my blog here.

11 Responses to Forget about assessing learning after lessons

  1. “However, there’s no meaningful way to assess what pupils have learned during the lesson in which they are supposed to be learning it.”

    David I like that quote, so very true. It should be at the top of every lesson observation form!

  2. mark says:

    Hooray! Another citadel of the educational establishment breached. Now get into the Guardian education pages. They havent had anything worth reading about actual teaching since Phil Beadle stopped writing for them.

  3. Is it feasible to argue that in-lesson assessment might assess initial understanding, as in, ‘ have you grasped the basic concept?’ but not learning – ‘can you remember, recall, make connections to and make use of said concept in a future, novel situation?’ If so, there might be some use to assessing during lessons, but as it doesn’t tell us what it’s meant to or we’d like it to, we should be wary of making assumptions. An equivalent might be a driving instructor asking you to work your way through the gears whilst static as opposed to seeing you use them on the road – good to check you’ve grasped the basics before letting you loose in traffic. Not the best analogy, but in my defence it is Friday night.

    Also, those assessment tasks often require students to recall (aiding learning) and think – so arent they part of the learning process? I guess what I’m asking is, is the issue with the tasks/actions or with what we as teachers presume to learn about our students from them?

  4. debaser says:

    Where do you stand on the thorny issue of plenaries? Does the impossibility of assessing learning after lessons make them redundant?

  5. Mr Longden says:

    Can’t find the response from Williams. Can u please provide a link. Thanks

  6. Splendid article … we’ve got to keep questioning conventional wisdom! After reading that I have decided that the talk I am meant to be doing this week on “Assessment and Feedback” is now going to be called “Making our kids think”

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

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