A hugely enjoyable day on Saturday at the Huili Institute of Learning ‘Inspiring Learning’ Forum in Shanghai – thank you to Wellington College in China for organising it! Bringing together teachers and leaders from across Shanghai, the rest of China, and further afield too – Abu Dhabi and the U.K., to name but two – the aim of the forum was to prompt thinking and discussion about contemporary issues in education … and it certainly met its goal. What a thought-provoking day!
Amongst the stimulating speakers was Professor Rob Coe of Durham University, who took us through contemporary thinking on assessment … and his key message was that we have a lot, lot more thinking to do about assessment if we are to be able to use it effectively to support – and drive – student learning. Assessment tasks should ideally elicit precise information which enables the teacher to take action that will create learning opportunities in the future. The precision of the assessment purpose and format (and our understanding of what the outcome of the assessment really means) really matters – not always, of course, especially if the purpose of the assessment is simply to motivate students to learn, but in most cases it really does. And as part of this understanding, educators need to have a very sophisticated grasp of the prerequisites, precursors and successors of specific learning objectives … and – above all – time to reflect on all of this.
Time … this was the real message that came out of Professor Coe’s musings. If teachers are truly going to support their learnings, they need to have time to reflect, and to consider what their students have or haven’t learned, and why, and what, these students might best benefit from. One of his messages was that ‘good feedback causes thinking’, and it is obvious, if we pause and step back, that this applies just as much to teachers as it does to students. Yet time to think is often the first thing to disappear in a teacher’s day, what with the pressure of racing through a predetermined curriculum, with umpteen classes and reams of paperwork … ‘so much to do, so little time’ is the perennial cry of the teacher, after all. Without focused, dedicated time, however – and exposure to the kinds of professional insights which forums like Saturday’s provide – then how can teachers really, really provide our young people with the quality of education that they deserve, and that will enable them to thrive?
New half term’s resolution … take time.