High stakes testing *must* be reformed before systemic change can occur
The UK currently has a vast wealth of talented, passionate and dedicated teachers. The majority of them understand what good learning looks like, and have a range of innovative teaching strategies at their fingertips.
However, the gravity of current pressures to 'get better results' means that teachers are faced with little choice but to 'teach to the test'. Only when the nature of those tests change will teachers feel they have permission to teach in profoundly better ways.
Nick von Behr commented
If anything we are moving to a regime of even higher stakes assessment at GCSE with everything depending on a 3 hour exam. The positive side is that the accountability system is being reviewed though there is a concern that there will still be a huge focus on English and Mathematics and within them literacy and numeracy (I think assessing functional aspects is now only happening in non-academic quails?).
Emma McCrea commented
The practice of teaching to the test will continue to prevail unless the way in which school performance is measured changes. Currently the % of students gaining 5 A*-C GCSEs including maths & English is THE indicator of 'success' in the eyes of Ofsted and performance tables. The pressure to increase this statistic, year upon year, leads schools and teachers to employ short sighted strategies such as teaching to the test and intervention with students on the C/D borderline threshold only.
Peps Mccrea commented
Assessment currently defines the (real) curriculum. What you measure is what you get, and so this will continue (whether you decouple or not) until we begin to measure learning ways in more sophisticated, less visible and more representative ways.
Part of me feels that policy has such inertia in this area that a grassroots movement might be the best way to influence both central policy and examination practices. A bit like the Open Access movement is currently disrupting traditional journal publishing infrastructure.
David M commented
Thanks, Pep. Concerns over teaching to the test are widely shared (the Royal Society included). The question is how to deal with this. Perhaps the solution lies in decoupling the curriculum from assessment and making the latter a smaller and unpredictable component of the former. This might help free teachers to, in effect, create their own curricula, ensuring that students gain a much richer experience and appreciation of the sciences while also being prepared for their examinations. What do you think?
Absolutely! Understanding moves on and practice in schools develops and evolves despite a comparative lack of evolution of assessment tools and their associated motives.