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Assessment, learning and standards in vocational education Combating the rise of instrumentalism and compliance Kathryn Ecclestone, Professor of Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Assessment, learning and standards in vocational education Combating the rise of instrumentalism and compliance Kathryn Ecclestone, Professor of Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Assessment, learning and standards in vocational education Combating the rise of instrumentalism and compliance Kathryn Ecclestone, Professor of Education and Social Inclusion, University of Birmingham

2 Outline the effects of policy amnesia –the aims of outcome-based assessment –30 years of repeated reforms recent research on content, teaching and assessment in vocational education –standardisation –attitudes to teaching, learning and assessment –knowledge and curriculum content –professional expertise challenging instrumentalism and compliance

3 Policy amnesia the aims of outcome-based assessment –democratising assessment processes and outcomes –widening scope of learning outcomes –promoting validity as the first principle of standards – parity of esteem –separating theory and content from skills/competence 30 years of repeated reforms –TEC and BEC, BTEC Nationals, CPVE, BTEC 1 st, NVQs, GNVQs, AVCEs, Diplomas, the Wolf review, separating vocational education, work-based and academic qualifications?

4 Policy amnesia (2) turf wars –the creation of the QCA in 1997 –control of independent awarding bodies competing vested interests: a camel designed by committee (and pastured on a water meadow – chief exec AQA, 2000) dominance of employer representatives –overloaded, prescriptive specifications –decline of professional expertise – awarding bodies, teachers –incoherent curriculum –skills, more skills and yet more skills a highly politicised curriculum –formal yet empty consultation and representation

5 Recent research some high quality, in-depth studies –academic, awarding bodies, LSDA, NRDC exploring effects of political regulation, control and lack of clear direction over 30 years –standardisation –attitudes to teaching, learning and assessment –knowledge and curriculum content –professional expertise

6 Standardisation standards and parity of esteem –image of normal curves of grade distribution to match those of general education –summative assessment homogenous with moderatable evidence for QA –the end of genuine applied learning? –endless guidance (compliance requirements) –teaching to the assessment requirements, coaching to the criteria the effects of the QCF

7 Attitudes to teaching, learning and curriculum content endemic instrumentalism –the instruments (methods and processes) become ends in themselves –institutional achievement cultures teachers assume extrinsic motivation assessment for learning, assessment of learning - assessment is learning and teaching! –content and input are ever-smaller tasks, class time is assignment working –coaching and support, learning management to raise rates of achievement turning content into skills (personal, social, attitudinal, learning, studying) –the demise of subject-specialist knowledge (theory, concepts etc) and the rise of learning to learn and employability –content is an instrument/vehicle for skills

8 The exception of AVCE Science confident, well-qualified teachers educational values and beliefs –refusal to coach to grades –creative use of specifications a coherent syllabus strong subject culture high expectations of students motivation

9 Im a lot more comfortable with saying, Youre actually getting a grade that is much more appropriate to what youve done, rather than one which we could have forced you to get, by making you do exactly what we know needs to be done, which obviously we know happens more and more in education because its all results driven… Theres no point in jumping through hoops for the sake of jumping through hoops and theres no point in getting grades for the sake of getting grades. I know thats not the answer, because the answer is – no, we should be getting them to get grades. But thats never as Ive seen it and it never will be

10 Professional expertise training in the same compliant, instrumental formats –socialising teachers into forms of assessment to use with students skills, skills and more skills –decline of content and chances to develop constructive critical engagement –policy-determined learning and focus questions about subject expertise of vocational teachers, particularly in schools but also in FE

11 Challenging instrumentalism and compliance? compare our system with other countries –international framework bring together research and expertise –awarding bodies, academics, others show effects of 30 years of instrumental compliance challenge assumptions of reliability and rigour explore how knowledge and content at different levels are defined, and clarify who are legitimate stakeholders explore how teachers translate specifications into teaching and assessment promote better professional development –problem-based, expert-led, content-driven

12 References 2010 Transforming Formative Assessment in Lifelong Learning, Open University Press 2007 Commitment, compliance and comfort zones: assessment and learning careers in vocational education, Assessment in Education, 14, 3, (co-authored with John Pryor) Learning Careers or Assessment Careers?: the impact of assessment systems on learning, British Educational Research Journal, 29, 4, Learning Autonomy in Post-16 Education: the politics and practice of formative assessment (London, Routledge) Torrance et al (2005) The impact of assessment systems in the Learning and Skills Sector, Learning and Skills Development Agency


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