Accountability games

Assessment and data is confusing everyone, often because it is based on a lazy and silly use of data to predict and ratchet up grades. It is curious how it keeps coming back and it is the same question.

Art teachers don’t understand the basis of the data and so they are unable to develop strategies to engage with it. They keep on hitting their heads on the wrong brick wall.

SLT may, or may not, understand the basis of the data but they don’t care anyway because they just need leverage to impose higher targets in the name of accountability. “We are going to motivate our teachers by challenging them to do better.” Is about as far as they go.

The sad issue is that the assessment structure based on the silly use of data completely undermines the credibility and integrity (reliability and validity) of assessment practice in the classroom. It makes the assessment strategies children and teachers use to raise standards unfit for purpose, but nobody cares because the system (or spreadsheet) is  based on data and so must be right.

I used to think that art teachers can be supported by good explanations about what the data means and how it might be used properly i.e. combining it with professional teacher assessment, discussing and agreeing personal, realistic and challenging targets. It won’t stop art teachers being forced to do silly things but at least they will be able to explain to SLT the real reasons why it is silly.

Papers about targets and assessment were written, a few years ago, to support and inform the department v SLT dialogue about targets. They are still pertinent and can be found by searching ‘assessment’ here. But I am surprised that the questions are still being asked and it seems with an ever increasing air of desperation as logic left the building some time ago. It seems that it is OK for managers to parrot slogans and half truths to justify their accountability games. Well that may be OK for American presidents but it shouldn’t be OK in our school system.

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What do we want?


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This is not about puppets

This is an experiment to see how easy it is to use Adobe Spark Pages to share ideas and information quickly and easily. The answer is very easy. The pages below took about an hour to create. However, the content drawings (and thinking) had already been done for another project (with teachers in Kazakhstan). So it was just the text to be written and the pictures to be put in place. The whole thing is done within very well defined and designed templates. This is really helpful because the design choices are limited so I didn’t spend hours deciding on formatting and just focussed on content.

This idea came from discussions with colleagues (in the ESAG) about ways that the new generation of Facebook using teachers may use new media to support sharing within a new understanding of how teacher communities work together.


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Learning objectives are NOT enough

Wing to Heaven I do like this educational blog. It’s the sound of sacred cows falling over that appeals. It forces you to think whether it is worth helping them up again, or is it better to find some new cows to deify.




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Great ‘A’ Level art from St Marylebone’s School

It is always good to see what ‘A’ level students do. Here is a link to St Marylebone’s exhibition.

'A' Level Exhibition 2016

‘A’ Level Exhibition 2016

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Reasons to do art part 1: Creative Industries

NSEAD posted this – well good.

‘This fantastic new film explains why studying art and design and/or design & technology have value – value both in terms of learning and in terms of career choices.

The film will be helpful to students, parents and carers, careers advisors and senior leadership teams. The CreativeJourneys website also has links to mini films of designers, architects, engineers and other creative professionals who explain how their careers started.’

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Academies, Art Express and Abebooks

The government is set to announce the academization of every school. This means the national curriculum, certainly for all but English and Maths, is no longer compulsory. It also means, perhaps more significantly for teachers, that national conditions of service and pay bargaining is also a thing of the past. Yesterday I was at a meeting of the ‘Expert Subject Advisory Group for Art’ . This includes representatives from organisations such as  the NSEAD, the Arts Council, and gallery educators as well as teachers, lecturers and hangers on like me. We discussed the changing nature of advocacy, and the way that, from now on, change would be generated at school, or academy chain, level. Politicians have, in effect, left the room, followed by local authorities.

The structural changes in secondary education are already underway, but the structural changes in primary education have yet to be seen. The world will not come to an end and new generations of subject champions will come to populate new networks. But in the short term it is hard to see how subject support and leadership can be provided for primary schools. In our meeting we discussed developing guidance for primary subject leaders in developing a programme of study, and I think we will produce this.

But we also noted that the publication ‘Art Express’ already provides a complete scheme of work. (See details of this elsewhere on this website.) I noted, with regret, that it was expensive and had not been taken up widely and it was no longer actively promoted by the publisher – so probably not a solution. However, this morning (and this is the belated point of this post)  I wondered whether it was still available – perhaps on Abebooks, and a quick search revealed that it was readily available online and at considerably reduced prices. The publisher is still selling individual year group books at £31.49 each whereas on Abebooks they are available for as little as £4.60 – brilliant. (note I was on the editorial board of this publication so have a vested interest)

If you have not heard of it Abebooks is the equivalent of Amazon in secondhand and remaindered books. It seems to have just about everything I can remember reading on their lists at remarkably low prices. Remember the book you had as a child that you would now like to read to your grand daughter – try Abebooks.


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Art advocacy is important

Once again art is important because…

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The weight of creativity

There is an intriguing twist in this simple tale. It comes from the book ‘Art and Fear’, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. At the beginning of term a ceramics teacher divided the class into two groups. He told the first group that they would be graded on the quantity of work that they produced – the amount of clay used. He explained that at the end of term they should bring to the assessment all the work they had produced and that it would be weighed. Students would get an ‘A’ for 50lbs of work, a ‘B’ for 40lbs and so forth.

The second group was told that they would be graded on the quality of their work and that at the end of term they should present for assessment just one pot of the highest quality they could achieve.

Apparently the results were very clear. the highest quality work, that which was most orginal, effective and creative was all produced by the first group.

Bayles and Orland explained that: “It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the ‘quality’ group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

I like the story because, although we know about the value of creative play, of taking risks and failing, much of our actual pedagogy seems to reflect the experience of the second group of students. We tend to follow a risk averse process of developing and refining an idea in pursuit of a single fully resolved outcome. It is a very different process to that of the first group who just make stuff – lots of it.

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Teacher assessment is less fair – discuss

Daisy Christodoulou’s blog is always interesting, and often infuriating – well she is young, right wing, a teacher and popular educational expert. But she goes for the jugular, attacks our treasured myths and bases her arguments on research not dogma.

The latest post on her blog ‘The Wing to Heaven’ argues that the research tends to suggest that teacher assessment is inherently less fair and accurate than we fondly imagine and certainly less so than exams. Basically she argues that research indicates that teacher assessment is subject to unconscious but persistant prejudice against children already disadvantaged. Read the blog here Blog Post.

So far so interesting, and I guess and I would recommend ‘The wing to heaven‘, just because its challenging. But it does occur to me that it may add something to the debate about the gender gap in our subject. Perhaps teacher assessment is less fair and accurate, and more prone to inherent prejudice in favour of girls’ approach to the subject than we would like to believe. So does this mean we should be more open minded about exam reform?

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