AfL: pie in the sky?

temp1.pngI was really upset when I missed the seminar Assessment and Learning due to a calendar clash, but thankfully presenter Andrew Watts has now published his slides so I can at least get some idea of where he was going.

And that’s very challenging. The message coming through is that true AfL is not really happening in schools, because the crucial intention behind the assessment remains to get pupils through exams. You will immediately see the irony of this coming from Cambridge Assessment, aka the OCR exam board.

Not that I am criticising Andrew Watts or (much) Cambridge Assessment.  They, in turn, are constrained by Ed Balls‘ gutless unwillingness to get rid of the geriatric, content-obsessed A-levels.

Rather than end this post on such a bum note, let’s just speculate on what hypothetical replacement for A-levels actually would promote AfL. The crucial components of AfL are that students should take control of their own learning, and that they should learn collaboratively. Well, those in themselves seem to me to be measurable and able to be evidenced.

Here are just two ideas for how one might do that:

  • Measurement of taking control of own learning: students should keep a blog in parallel with each learning project. The blog details how the student approaches each component of the learning task, including approaches they have considered but rejected. Exam moderators sample blogs at regular (but unannounced) intervals, and may engage directly into conversation with the student via the blog.
  • Learning collaboratively: once again the blog provides the perfect medium for collaboration to both happen and be seen to happen, through blog comments. This does require the students to maintain an awareness that written collaboration earns marks where spoken collaboration may not (so not pure AfL) but it is still a step forward. Audio and video could play a strong part here too, for example by videoing crucial group processes and attaching these for the moderator to view.

So, that was my mini-brainstorm. In the spirit of collaborative learning, what are your ideas?


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