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February 15, 2012

Homeless Man – May not be a stakeholder, but he does know the 'Big Issues' with assessment

This week was quite MA-rvellous. Now I was questioned by a member of the class on Saturday why the devil I am doing a Masters considering I have an MPhys and a PhD already...

Well there are a number of reasons. Firstly, you do not spend as long as I did in education if you do not have a yearning to learn as much as you can. I enjoy learning, and I want to test myself. Going into an MA is a whole new challenge for me. In this seminar-esque system, small groups, lots of discussion, forming opinions etc. It is a whole new way of learning for me. I got a good taste of it during my GTP and having earned 30 CATS towards one already (confirmed in a letter this week) it is an opportunity I cannot turn down.

I left a successful post-doc life, which was in many ways a dream job as it was very flexible, with numerous opportunities and perks, for perhaps a more stable, but more importantly in my opinion, a more rewarding career in teaching. Now I am not very good at settling for being ok at something. When I take up a hobby, a sport, a job, my competitive streak doesn't let me be second best. I see the MA in Educational Innovation as a stepping stone to help me improve my pedagogy and my understanding of the education system.

Which brings me to 'Issues in Assessment'. Now I am in my NQT year, and in charge of probably a disproportionate number of GCSE groups compared to others in my position, my exposure to the cut-throat nature of summative assessment and people's interpretations of them is extremely high. The session on Saturday was really interesting, and I think a few of the cohort heard a couple of my gripes I have with the application of 'assessment' by some. I can safely say I am in the teaching profession to make a difference to the lives of the students I teach, and to hopefully promote a subject in physics which has given a lot to me. I guess as a consequence, my employers will benefit with improving 'league table' position.

It is a shame, but because of the external pressures from stakeholders (and from this, we can deduce that means every single person, bar a homeless man deep in the woods), the general concencus suggests the emphasis of making a difference is the other way round. 'Improve the school, and as a consequence the students' prospects will improve'. So in effect, do what is best for the school, what makes the school look good, and then worry about the students second. It is a fine dividing line, and I appreciate it must be ridiculously difficult as a senior member of staff to make decisions. My experience as a student at school was not amazing and is a case in point.

The school I attended were on a downward-spiral results wise, and as a consequence, the decisions made when I was in year 11 were a tad ludicrous. I, along with 30 others, sat a double GCSE Science at Foundation level in November, got our CC grades, and then sat two single science GCSEs in the June. Awesome. Except for the fact I have no qualification above a double C grade in Chemistry now. Stopped me being able to take all the Sciences at A-Level. Made my degree in Physics more difficult as a consequence. Meant I spent a lot longer understanding X-ray crystallography during my PhD, and appreciating surface polishing methods. Also means as a teacher, I have had to complete refresher and subject-enhancement courses, and prove continuously I can teach Chemistry in particular. So a rash decision by a head of Science to boost the number of C's the department got that year has shaped my future somewhat. As a teacher, I am determined that I will endeavour to give every student I teach the best possible opportunity to achieve after school.

Anyway, am starting to so some research for our group presentation. Methods of Measuring Standards. Have a nice group, though one is choosing to spend the presentation day at her Gran's 98th birthday. Unbelievable :-)

See you on the 3rd.


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