Last year we established Research & Development Communities at St. Mary’s Catholic College. The members of the communities were self-selecting and the aim was to develop and embed best or emerging good practice within the College. Each R&D Community was set up to take forward an idea, innovation or approach by a group of staff that would lead to improved standards of attainment, levels of achievement, student well-being or student personal development.
- A R&D Community could be set up by any member of staff.
- Each R&D Community had a named leader who would be responsible for the community, its outcomes and for leading a group of staff of between 3-8 people.
- Funding of £100 per person in the R&D Community was made available to fund the community’s work.
- The leader of the R&D Community must commit to knowledge capture and transfer at the college, local and regional level as required. The leader has a small reduction in teaching commitment to give her/him additional time
This mid-year report is from Katherine Ireland who is leading a R&D Community looking at the Use of SOLO based Success Criteria in Maths. Katherine is in her second year of teaching.
The opportunity to participate in a more personalised and self-directed approach to professional development arose at the tail end of last school year. The opportunity was in the form of an R&D (Research and Development) Community; a group of colleagues that looked at improving an area of their teaching that was of a joint interest to themselves.
On a personal level, I had been struggling to motivate and encourage a group of Year 9 students to take ownership of their learning, and felt that this was having an impact upon the progress (or lack of progress) they were making. I question whether they truly understand what is being asked of them each lesson, and whether my feedback, written or verbal has the impact that I would want it to? Having participated in a Fylde Schools Coaching Project during my NQT year, in which we began to develop models of self and peer assessment, I was keen to assess the impact of such models on students’ progress. I had also become interested in the use of SOLO taxonomy in determining the level of cognitive understanding of students, and wanted to tie this into the research.
Our initial research proposal focused around the following question:
How can we embed SOLO success criteria into the classroom in a way that encourages pupils to take ownership for their learning?
During the first term myself and three other colleagues began to review current research literature on self & peer assessment techniques and alongside this began to implement SOLO success criteria into our schemes of work. At the end of the term we were in a bit of a pickle! The initial research had become so broad, we were confused as to the direction our research was taking and we needed a narrower focus. We were introduced to the #5MinResearchPlan, a copy of which can be found below.
The plan enabled us to revisit our initial problem, come up with a more specific research question, and design a simple, manageable research process. We wanted to implement a new form of assessment that took minimal input time, but had a big output in terms of effectiveness. After all, time is of the essence for us teachers!
Our original research and discussions highlighted how and where schools are using assessment to increase attainment. This following paragraph contains a brief overview of current research literature on classroom assessment.
Research published by Black and Williams (1998) claims that formative assessment carried out by both teachers and pupils within the classroom is essential to raising standards of achievement (Black, William, 1998, p1). Their belief is that ‘assessment becomes formative assessment when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet student needs’ (Black, William, 1998, p2). Following this publication, the Assessment Reform Group (1999) published recommendations for improving formative assessment methods within schools. Their research indicated 5 key factors that improved learning through assessment: providing effective feedback to pupils, actively involving the pupils in their learning, adjusting teaching to incorporate assessment results, recognising the impact of assessment of pupils ‘ motivation and self-esteem, and the need for pupils to understand the self-assessment process (ARG, 1999, p4). Further studies have found that pupils who regularly and actively assess their own work become more aware of the learning goals and take ownership of their learning (Harris et al, 2002, p94). Other research by Cowie (2005) showed that pupils prefer feedback in the form of suggestions as this allows them to continue to make sense of ideas (Cowie, 2005, p149).
The research suggests we need to implement an engaging self-assessment process that enables students to identify strengths and weaknesses in their work, in order that they can review their progress. Our final research question is
We intend to implement SOLO exemplars as a form of self-assessment with 9y1, to investigate the impact of such on their progress as they take very little ownership of their learning.
As a group, we are keen to use a lesson study approach, in which we will use direct classroom observations and discussions with students to derive whether they feel the intervention is having an impact upon their learning.
We also need to use some sort of quantitative measure as evidence that student progress has improved over the intervention period, and have chosen to measure effect size. We are currently in the process of carrying out our baseline assessments and designing a set of Key SOLO exemplars in each of our subject areas. We hope to begin the lesson study process over the next few weeks, and will review our findings during the final term.
It is hoped that by the end of the whole process, the students in our target cohorts will develop a greater understanding of what is expected of them from a particular piece of work, and from this be able to identify the things they are doing well and the areas in which they need to improve. Overall, we hope to see a visible improvement in self-assessment techniques within the classroom, and a measurable improvement in students’ progress by the end of the intervention period.
More to follow…
Assessment Reform Group (1999) Beyond the Black Box ARG
Black P, William D, Harrison, et al (2002) Working Inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Classroom, AferNelson, London
Cowie, B (2005) ‘Pupil commentary on assessment for learning’ in The Curriculum Journal, Vol.16, No.2, June 2005
Harris, A, Allsop, A, Sparks, N (2002) Leading the improvement department. London: David Fulton
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