Embedded formative assessment – Dylan William

Holidays is always a good time to catch up on some reading and make plans for putting any useful recent ideas into action for the following year. I find that very few of the ideas I come across actually get fully implemented. I don’t think this is a bad thing necessarily as when you read fairly widely it would be impossible to follow up every idea or approach that is presented. For me what is important is finding those things that have the potential to make a big difference to my students and giving them a go.

There is plenty of research to suggest that assessment for learning (formative assessment) approaches have the potential to have a big impact on student learning. I read ‘inside the black box‘ by Dylan William and Paul Black 7 or 8 years ago which is considered a key document by many, that helped sharpen the focus of many education systems on the value of formative assessment. I was pleased to come across one of his recently published books ‘ embedded formative assessment’ which I purchased during term 4. I managed to highlight some points that I thought were worth reading over a number of times and so I thought I would store them here for easy access!

Formative assessment is something that I am well aware of but believe there is plenty of scope to improve my implementation.

Google doc with selected quotes below (A little too long to dump all here).



Professional accomplishment – Why?

There are probably a few key reasons why I have chosen to complete the professional accomplishment process.

1. For further formal professional learning to help reflect on my development as a teacher.

2. For acknowledgment of the skills and knowledge I have developed over my teaching career.

3. To go through the process to be better able to help others who may wish to undertake it.

4. Wanting to complete some formal professional development to complement the informal professional development I have completed over the years.

5. Inevitability of having to go through the process eventually so get in early!

On point 4. the amount of informal reading/learning i have undertaken over the years is difficult to quantify. I feel that this informal learning has been extremely beneficial to my teaching and see this as being a critical aspect of my future professional learning. I also find myself seeking some external feedback and on my thoughts and practice that  I guess is difficult to achieve in informal contexts.

On point 5. there has been talk about linking ‘performance pay’ to the Australian Institute of Teachers (AITSL) Standards. The risk in undertaking the NSWIT accreditation now is that it may be redundant very shortly or require some additional work to meet the AITSL requirements. I guess my thinking is that there are likely to be a range of changes in this area over the coming years and I think the process will be beneficial regardless of whether there is long term benefit with the AITSL framework.

2012 – professional accomplishment

I have noticed myself being drawn to reading about nuts and bolts, nitty gritty teaching blogs and figured that it might be an interesting exercise for 2012 to begin writing along these lines. 2012 will also see me begin a journey towards professional accomplishment with the NSW Institute of Teachers and so I figure that the 2 should align nicely for a focus in 2012. (These may help me actually post regularly which is something I have struggled with the past few years).

I have been thinking about further study for a few years now and completing my masters is something I think I will complete in the very near future. I am just not sure of the exact course I would like to complete and so I think the professional accomplishment process should still help my professional development and help me reflect on my current teaching practice while I decide what course to complete.

I plan to post and develop some web based evidence of my own teaching and the steps I have taken towards professional accomplishment and figure this may be useful to others who are thinking about completing this process. I am planning on using the holidays to organise myself and get started with a plan of attack as once the year begins I know how hectic it gets and time will fly by.

At this stage I have completed the preliminary application and I am about to pay the full application fee to officially begin the process. My first post will be about the first steps of the process.

How much ‘stuff’ do we need to know?

I read regularly that now we have access to information at our finger tips we don’t need to focus so much on remembering facts because we can always look them up. So…

How much ‘stuff’ do we need to ‘know’ to be able to be fully functioning in society as an educated human being?

What are the facts we need to know and what facts are dispensible?

Is general understanding on a broad base and look up the details if required our goal?

Most of the interesting and educated folks I know actually ‘know’ a lot of stuff and can draw on that in a variety of situations and contexts. The broad fundamental knowledge allows them to think critically and challenge ideas and assumptions because they have a strong knowledge in a range of areas. Are the ‘higher order skills’ enabled because they have a strong fundamental knowledge of a broad range of areas?

For me I think it is the balance between the ‘higher order skills’ and the ‘memorising’ that we have got wrong with far too much emphasis on memorising – particularly in areas like the HSC. But I think there is also a big risk in downplaying the importance of ‘knowing’ things and as usual for me I come to think that there should be a nice spot in the middle. Enough facts and basic skills to be able to develop the ‘higher order skills’.

photo via http://www.brainandlearning.eu


A nice little presentation I stumbled across. A lot resonated so thought I would keep a copy here to stumble over every now and again.



Challenges of instructional and curriculum leadership

I was asked to answer some questions around the challenges of my current role as Curriculum Coordinator. I though I would post my responses here to be able to reflect on them when I have been on the role longer to see how my thoughts and perceptions may develop and change.

What are the main challenges faced by curriculum and instructional leaders?

Multiple & conflicting goals School priorities – schools can often have a range of strategic goals they pursue and these can be conflicting goals. For example, curriculum goals can compete with other goals and lose the focus required to achieve them.

Developing a focus for school improvement – identifying and implementing strategies for school improvement that are focussed enough to have an impact. Can be easy to try and improve too many things and then not really have an impact on any.

Time and resources to implement strategies – schools and teachers are extraordinarily busy and implementing strategies that can have an impact and also work within the busyness of the school is a particular challenge. Most strategies will require collaborative work in faculties and across faculties and scheduling this time can be problematic and a barrier to successful implementation.

Demands of the role – (depending on teaching allocation and role description)- curriculum leaders role can be a very busy role with a high administrative component. Curriculum and instructional leadership is easy to be lost as a focus as the high demands of the administrative component are more pressing. The leadership aspect has the potential to make a far bigger difference but is the easiest to overlook.

Ongoing professional learning – the role requires an ongoing commitment to learning and the development of knowledge, skills and understanding of the latest research and its impact for learning. The busy nature of the role can make this difficult to prioritise.

Developing a strategic plan for school development – teaching and learning is complex and there is no simple formula for improving the learning outcomes of all students. Developing a strategic plan and implementing this over the long term can be challenging. Well researched and intentioned strategies may not have the impact desired and there is always risk in any strategy that is implemented. Deciding on the strategy and implementing it effectively is therefore a considerable challenge.

What do you consider to be the most important attributes, which a curriculum leader should possess if she or he is to be effective?

Learner – continually seeking information, evidence and research to support current practices or develop new approaches within the school.

Strategic thinking and long term vision – the ability to step out of the busyness of school and the role of curriculum leader to assess where the school is at and what long term initiatives will have an impact on improving student learning.

Relational – ability to develop effective relationships with teachers, students, leadership and other stakeholders to be able to work effectively and communicate with all groups within the school. This is essential for any strategy to be implemented well.

Action based – the ability to make decisions and act on them. Having knowledge is important but unless we act on this knowledge than it is pointless. Developing plans and actions that are implemented is crucial to being successful.

Learning styles don’t exist

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