On Friday I went to Reading to attend the ASE (Association for Science Education) conference and one of the sessions was run by an OFSTED HMI. I took some notes and these are as below for your interest (!).
Looking at books to monitor progress
Apparently, since they rarely see any actual science going on, they tend to look in pupil books to see what science is happening. Hopefully we can point them in some more directions than that, e.g. pictures and videos etc. Talking to teachers and pupils would be nice.
Levels or not – so what?
They don’t care what we call the levels/degrees/grades/points etc. They want to know how we use assessment to identify whether or not individuals are making progress, how we identify those falling behind and what we do about it.
Evidence of feedback making a difference
It’s crucial to allow time to feed back to pupils and for them to respond in a way that shows that they have overcome misconceptions or improved understanding. This really needs to be built into the time we give to lessons. I know I have to do this, but I still tend to start ‘new’ lessons sometimes without thinking about whether I have finished the previous one and done all the follow up properly. My junior school teachers were brilliant at this. Why do we still need to be told?
General statements to parents will be fine.
Just like the ones we gave out after parents’ evening last time. We wrote a descriptive summary on each of the core subjects, instead of just giving them the level. They actually preferred it.
Heads up on schools paying lip service to evolution.
They’ve been given instructions to look out for schools teaching evolution but only because they ‘have to’ and giving any kind of weight to ‘alternative theories’ – these are not scientific theories – they are religious indoctrination by the back door.
Detailed formative and summative information
Show high expectations
Be careful in any ‘differentiation by task’, since this frequently consigns the lower attaining pupils to lower expectations. Pupils should have access to the curriculum relevant to their age. Good – because I’ve been saying this for years. Differentiation by preplanned task is counter-productive.
We need to have local cluster moderation
Or we’ll deceive ourselves about our assessments (?).
Make sure pupils finish what they start
Unfinished work is a dead giveaway that we’re not allowing for follow up time. Make sure we allow for pupils to finish in subsequent sessions.
Make sure the work is by and from the children
There should not be work by the teacher in the pupils’ books. Think about it – how much of the content of the books¬†(backgrounds, printouts,¬†learning intention decorations,¬†worksheets, proformas etc.) is currently produced by you?
It should not look all the same
Avoid ‘production line’ outcomes. Pupils’ work should demonstrate individuality.
Writing up science is literacy
I think we knew that.
Use past papers to assess units
Interestingly – the use of ‘test’ papers in a constructive way and to give good feedback etc. is recommended.
He also said that OFSTED inspectors were not allowed to say how any teacher ‘should have’ done anything. That’s considered giving advice. He said that they should only say what happened, what was successful and what was missing or not successful. Hmm…

‘We haven’t the time’ – the problem of teacher CPD in England

It is an expectation on teachers around the world, that they maintain and develop their subject knowledge and understanding through professional development. This is often a matter of personal choice with management support for what is seen as a priority. In some countries, teachers are expected to document their commitment through a reflective portfolio. Access to CPD (continuing professional development) couldn’t be easier than it is now. In addition to the ubiquitous search engines that can lead to a fractal exploration of any subject or question, are a range of high-quality online courses proffered by reputable institutions. In the last couple of years, I’ve accessed several, myself. But how likely is it that teachers in English schools are even contemplating their own CPD, never mind systematically and seriously pursuing it?

Not very likely, I think, from my recent experience of trying to engage teachers in committing to improving their own subject knowledge in essential, key areas of the curriculum. These are otherwise dedicated professionals working in a school with an ‘outstanding’ reputation, but advancing one’s own knowledge and understanding, independently in one’s own time is a step too far. This is a problem. Much research points to the quality of teacher subject knowledge as a key factor in pupil attainment and yet it is known that this falls far short of what it should be in primary schools, particularly in subjects such as science and technology. I was party to a discussion recently about how this could be addressed, given the fragile state of science education in England and our desperate attempts to stabilise it before we lose it altogether. Teacher CPD was seen as a major issue. This led me to thinking about how CPD could be better embedded in real world practice.

So many unhelpful directives are forced upon the profession and the workload has genuinely become excessive (yes really!), that it’s not surprising that teachers are resistant to anything that hasn’t actually been demanded in black and white. We are all expected, however, to undergo a yearly process entitled ‘appraisal’ and I think it might be time that subject knowledge became a central feature of this process, with time being dedicated specifically to CPD. Would it be too much too expect for teachers to identify and demonstrate through certification, a level of knowledge appropriate to the teaching of the subject and for school leaders to commit to resourcing this in time and materials?