Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Friday, April 17, 2009


The workshop yesterday went well. I think. In the morning session people were chatting with each other and with me. People wanted help setting up chat rooms and blogs and the room was buzzing with activity. The afternoon group quietly surfed and clicked. It was a little harder for me to tell what they were getting out of the time. On the other hand, when I reminded them that they had been working for an hour without a break and that they should take one if they felt the need, no one did.

The contrast in the responses of these two groups reminded me that a big part of assessing for learning means enhancing our observation skills so that we can see the subtleties and complexities. And then learning to accept that, in the very best way, there will always be some of it we can't know. I will never know exactly all the ripples that were started yesterday, but I do know that I can trust the wisdom of literacy workers and that they will create something fantastic with and for learners.

Before I went into the workshop, I had been listening to a BBC interview with Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, and Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham about Sats (standardized tests) for seven and 11-year-olds in England.

Ms. Blower discussed the teachers' position that these tests result in a teaching-to-the-test that has narrowed the curriculum and puts unnecessary pressure and constraints on teachers and students. She made an argument for assessment for learning as opposed to assessment of learning. She quoted an interview in The Independent with Professor Peter Tymms who warns that the Sats are having "a serious negative impact on the education system" and that they mislead parents as to the performance of their children's schools.

Professor Smithers posited that teachers are too close to students to assess them properly, that the proper people to be determining the shape of education are elected officials, and that it is not the place of providers of education "to attempt to bully their way into having their interests put before those of pupils, parents and the general public."

Whew. The objective testing mantra again. I guess we will be hearing this as long as we work for people who refer to us as service providers, the people who come to learn as clients and the work we do together as service delivery.

You may wonder why I think this video belongs here but somehow this man in wolf's clothing chasing a papier maché pig around his apartment seems appropriate to me.


Wendell Dryden said...

"On the other hand, when I reminded them that they had been working for an hour without a break and that they should take one if they felt the need, no one did."

Ah... the classic sign of successful learning support. Real learning is fun and need satisfying, and human beings do want to do it. (Which relates, I suppose, to why my GED learners often take breaks, but my basic literacy learners rarely do.) Congratulations and well done!

risky mouse said...

thanks wendell. it is so need-satisfying to be in a room when need-satisfying learning is happening. and it is getting harder and harder to find those opportunities. those TDSB LBS co-ordinators did a great job planning this PD day last week.

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