Apple RTC Teacher Learning Community

This year, the West London Apple RTC is running a series of Teacher Learning Communities to discuss developments in pedagogy and help teachers continually improve and refine their practice. The communities meet face-to-face once per half term to feed back, discuss new learning, and plan next steps.

First Meeting: October 2019

summary by Jonathan White

This year in our Apple Regional Training Centre (RTC), we have expanded from a single Teacher Learning Community (TLC) focused specifically on technology, out to a wider range of TLCs with pedagogical focuses where technology will be a contributing factor. This meshes well with our school's overall goal of seamlessly integrating our 1:1 iPad program into teaching and learning, avoiding "iPad lessons," gimmicks, and the potential for technology to become a distraction.

I have joined the Assessment TLC, and will occasionally blog here about its activities in order to share our RTC's activities with the wider world. We have begun our program with a chapter from Daisy Christodoulou's recent book, Making Good Progress? The Future of Assessment for Learning.

In our first meeting, we discussed some of the ways in which each of our departments used assessments - both summative and formative - and how and when we administered them. The group contains teachers from Classics, Chemistry, English, Geography, History, and Maths, so a wide range of perspectives are on offer. A particular area of focus was so-called "baseline assessment."

We discussed the ways in which each of our departments looks to gather information about pupils at the start of the course - be that in Year 7, Year 10, or the Lower Sixth. Methods ranged from discussion questions about current events for history and politics, to surveys, to written/performed demonstrations of skills (e.g. a colleague in art asked students to draw particular shapes in two and three dimensions). Teachers felt that what they most wanted out of these assessments was a sense of students' writing fluency, their pre-existing subject knowledge, a self-assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as a sense of their attitude from the subject and expectations of the teacher. The merits of commercial, standardised baseline assessments were also discussed, and it was commonly felt that these provided the opportunity to make some formative inferences, but in very broad strokes, and may be particularly useful to pastoral staff looking at students' performance generally across subjects.

In general, our discussion focused more on the use of formative assessment as a means of learning about our students and shaping our teaching in response. Colleagues each put forward an action plan at the end of the meeting, some of which focused on taking baseline assessments of certain groups, and others of which focused on the use of assessment tools more for retrieval practice and interleaving. We look forward to our second meeting coming in in late November, where we will discuss an excerpt from Dylan Wiliam's book, Embedded Formative Assessment (2011).

New Learning

“Making Valid Inferences.” Making Good Progress? The Future of Assessment for Learning, by Daisy Christodoulou, Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 55–77.