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Life Without Levels The Year of the Curriculum: Bridging Unit

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1 Life Without Levels The Year of the Curriculum: Bridging Unit
The programme consists of a Bridging Unit and five further units: (Have you done the Bridging Unit?) Bridging Unit Coming to terms with the new National Curriculum Measuring what we value Making use of assessment What is the new National Curriculum asking for? The new National Curriculum in context The tools of the trade © Curriculum Foundation

2 Life Without Levels The Year of the Curriculum: Unit 1
Measuring what we value © Curriculum Foundation

3 Oh, and there’s another key question:
And, what were all those things that we said we valued more than levels? There are two key questions: Will life without levels be better or worse? (And better or worse for whom?) © Curriculum Foundation

4 What have the Levels ever done for us?
If you are too young to recognise the reference (or any of the people above!), try: What have the Levels ever done for us? What have the Levels ever done for us? © Curriculum Foundation

5 © Curriculum Foundation
The idea that the Levels might have been doing something for us rather than to us has never really been very prevalent. It has has often been more a matter of: ‘How many sub-levels have they made this year (term, week, lesson!)’ For many schools, life has revolved around Levels. Never mind John Cleese’s question – the real question for most schools has been: ‘How many Levels progress have they made?’ And: ‘Will this be enough to satisfy Ofsted?’ © Curriculum Foundation

6 Even more importantly …. But what now?
The new national curriculum does not have any ‘Levels”. So, how are we going to know whether or not our pupils have made the right number of levels (or sub-levels) progress? And, come to that, how are Ofsted going to know? What are we going to do with all that expensive software that tracks our pupils’ progress in terms of levels? © Curriculum Foundation

7 Ofsted* reminds us that:
* This is in the Ofsted publication: Note for inspectors: use of assessment information during inspections in 2014/15 You can find the full document at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/379632/Note_20for_20inspectors_20-_20use_20of_20assessment_20information_20during_20inspections_20in_ pdf Ofsted* reminds us that: “National curriculum levels will be removed from September 2014.” (Except for Y2 and Y6 where the SATS will still be based on the old levels for one more year in 2015) © Curriculum Foundation

8 © Curriculum Foundation
The DFE States: “As part of our reforms to the national curriculum, the current system of ‘levels’ used to report children’s attainment and progress will be removed from September 2014 and will not be replaced. By removing levels we will allow teachers greater flexibility in the way that they plan and assess pupils’ learning. The programmes of study within the new National Curriculum (NC) set out expectations at the end of each key stage, and all maintained schools will be free to develop a curriculum relevant to their pupils that teaches this content. The curriculum must include an assessment system which enables schools to check what pupils have learned and whether they are on track to meet expectations at the end of the key stage” © Curriculum Foundation

9 © Curriculum Foundation
“Inspectors will not expect to see a particular assessment system in place and will recognise that schools are still working towards full implementation of their preferred approach.” But, what will Ofsted expect to see instead? The answer is in the same “Notes for Inspectors” document we referenced earlier: “In 2014/15, most schools, academies and free schools will have historic performance data expressed in national curriculum levels, except for those pupils in Year 1. Inspectors may find that schools are tracking attainment and progress using a mixture of measures for some, or all, year groups and subjects. As now, inspectors will use a range of evidence to make judgements, including by looking at test results, pupils’ work and pupils’ own perceptions of their learning.” © Curriculum Foundation

10 © Curriculum Foundation
So, do we say “Hooray, we can get rid of levels - and Ofsted will now never know whether anyone has made two levels of progress or not” ? We can now use whatever is our “preferred approach”. But what is our “preferred approach”? And what about John Cleese’s question – was there anything about the Levels that were useful and that we should not discard so lightly? So, Ofsted is not expecting to see any particular system being used – and schools are expected to develop “a preferred approach”! The DFE is saying: “Beyond the tests at Key Stage (KS) 2 and GCSEs at KS4, it will be for schools to decide how they assess pupils' progress.” Therefore, it’s official! We don’t have to use Levels. There is no prescription from Ofsted. We can use whatever approach we “prefer”. And where do we start? © Curriculum Foundation

11 © Curriculum Foundation
The new National Curriculum is the obvious starting point. Of course, it is set out differently from the old one – and the Programmes of Study take the form of learning expectations. These specify the learning expected from pupils at the end of a particular periods – and so form the basis of assessment to be carried out at the end of those periods. Here’s an example for Y5 Science: © Curriculum Foundation

12 © Curriculum Foundation
Year 5 Science © Curriculum Foundation

13 © Curriculum Foundation
For example: In Maths and Science, there are specifications for the end of each year from Y1 to Y6, and then at the end of the key stage for KS3 and KS4 In English there are end of year specifications for Y1 and Y2, then specifications for Lower Primary (end of Y4) and Upper Primary (end of Y6), then at the end of the key stage for KS3 and 4 For all other subjects, there are only end of key stage specifications. However, the periods for which learning expectations are specified vary across the subjects and years. So they do not provide a very satisfactory basis for assessing progress over regular periods of time. In some cases, the periods are whole key stages. How are we going to show “two levels of progress” with these, when there is only one “level” for the whole key stage? Either pupils meet the expectations for the key stage, or they don’t. There’s no higher level. © Curriculum Foundation

14 © Curriculum Foundation
There are two key implications here: Firstly, these end of key stage (or even end of year) specifications do not lend themselves to monitoring progress over a short period. So how is anyone going to monitor progress within a key stage when there are only end-of-key-stage statements? © Curriculum Foundation

15 © Curriculum Foundation
Secondly, because the specifications are both learning outcomes and programmes of study, the learning outcomes are related to the content of the programmes. To understand the implications of this, it is necessary to first remember how the old Level Descriptions operated. © Curriculum Foundation

16 © Curriculum Foundation
The interesting thing about the Level Descriptions as a system was that it was unique in the world by being distinct from the curriculum specification – and this give them a unique function. Because they were separate from the Programmes of Study, the Level Descriptions could be applied to any aspect of the curriculum content. This meant that pupils studying the same content could do so at a different level. Let’s look at what that means. © Curriculum Foundation

17 © Curriculum Foundation
Having separate programmes of study and Level Descriptions in the old curriculum meant that all learners in a class could follow the same programme (content) – but could do so at different levels. This was its unique feature. And this is how it worked: © Curriculum Foundation

18 © Curriculum Foundation
For example, the Programme of Study for Key Stage 1 Geography said that pupils should study: “ a locality either in the United Kingdom or overseas that has physical and/or human features that contrast with those in the locality of the school” Most schools interpreted this as a “village study” because this was suggested by one of the old QCA Units. © Curriculum Foundation

19 © Curriculum Foundation
But, what were the pupils learning during these studies? What were the “expected learning outcomes”? The Programmes Study specified what was to be studied, but not the learning that was expected. For these, we needed to look at the Level Descriptions. If we take those parts of the Level Descriptions relevant to the study of places, we find: So the whole class could undertake the same aspect of the Programme of Study: the study of a contrasting locality. There was a very similar requirement at Key Stage 2, phrased more generally as the study of “a locality in the United Kingdom”. Again, the whole class can follow the same “content” © Curriculum Foundation

20 © Curriculum Foundation
Level 1: They make observations about .. localities Level 2: They describe .. features of places Level 3: They compare and contrast features of different localities Level 4: They recognise geographical patterns in understanding places Level 5: They use geographical language to explain patterns …. © Curriculum Foundation

21 © Curriculum Foundation
And, of course, these are the questions that not only promoted learning – but also enabled assessments to be carried out. They also indicate what is the next level of challenge. So they had significant implications for curriculum design The Level Descriptions were for the most part “content free” and could be applied to any relevant part of the Programmes of Study for any Key Stage. This is what made them unique – and in many ways so very effective. So the Descriptions had a very useful role in setting out progression in terms of a set of skills (or competences) that could be applied to any part of the Programmes of Study. So all the pupils in the class could be taking part in the village study – but they could be doing so at their own level. Some could be writing simple descriptions (Level 2) - others could be making comparisons and contrasts (Level 3). Some could be being challenged to recognise patterns (such as that all the hill villages were tightly packed, whilst those at the bottom of hills were spread out – Level 4) or even give explanations for these patterns (Level 5). Of course, this did not happen by chance, but only if teachers understood the sequence, and used the Level Descriptions to plan learning. But when used this way, they were very effective. They also solve the problem of “differentiation” or as it came to be called, “personalised learning”. Geography is only an example here – the Level Descriptions worked like this across the subjects and the years. They meant that everyone could follow the same curriculum, but at their own level. They also enabled teachers to ask some good questions of their pupils: Can you describe what we saw in the village (Level 2 question asking for a description) How was the village different from where we live? (Level 3 question asking for a comparison and contrast) Have you noticed something about all the villages we visited? (Level 4 question asking for the recognition of a pattern) Why is that, do you think? (Level 5 question asking for an explanation) © Curriculum Foundation

22 What have the Levels ever done for us?
So, like the Romans, the Level Descriptions might have done something for us after all! What have the Levels ever done for us? © Curriculum Foundation

23 But how does the new curriculum operate?
© Curriculum Foundation

24 © Curriculum Foundation
The new curriculum is very different because the Programmes of Study and Level descriptions have been merged, so the learning expectations are specified in terms of the programme content. Let’s look again at the example for Year 5 Science. © Curriculum Foundation

25 © Curriculum Foundation
Year 5 Science © Curriculum Foundation

26 © Curriculum Foundation
And what about those pupils who fail to attain the learning outcomes for Year 5? In the old system, they would cover the same content at a lower level. But what will happen now? In other countries that have similar ‘end of year’ expectations, pupils who do not meet the expectations have to repeat the year. Surely, that is not the expectation here! Year 6 isn’t about materials at all! The content for Year 6 is: Living things and habitats Animals including humans Evolution and inheritance Light Electricity So, there is no guidance at all about a higher level in terms of materials. No-one can exceed the expectations. In terms of curriculum design, we assume that all pupils in a Year 5 class would be studying the same aspect of “materials and changes in materials” as specified. But what about the pupils who are making greater than average progress? What do they go on to? Without Levels, there is not a higher level at which materials can be studied in this specification. So we would need to look at the specification for Year 6. But what do we find? © Curriculum Foundation

27 © Curriculum Foundation
Many people pointed out the issue when the new curriculum was at draft stage – but went unheeded. This bolt-on remedy is not the ideal solution. However, the issue for schools is how to develop a system that can assess what our pupils have attained in terms of the national curriculum, but also provide information that will enable us to move their learning on. Even then, the “performance Descriptors” are only likely to apply to English and Maths in Key Stages 1 and 2. What about all the other subjects and the Secondary Key Stages? One might find it somewhat surprising that, having decided to introduce a new curriculum without the old Levels, the DFE is now thinking about introducing what is tantamount to a system of Levels! Because of this issue, the DFE have come up with additional “Performance Descriptors” which are intended to sort pupils in any year group into: Mastery standard National standard Working towards national standard Below national standard These are much more detailed and complicated than the old Level Descriptions and, like the new Learning Expectation, are based on the content and so can’t be applied to the next year’s work. These will be trialed in the Summer Term of 2015. © Curriculum Foundation

28 This, of course, is what this Assessment Programme is all about.
© Curriculum Foundation

29 © Curriculum Foundation
The examples we have looked at have been from Key Stage 2 – but the issues they raise apply equally to KS1 and to the secondary phases. KS1 has the additional consideration of building on the assessments made during the EYFS. We shall look at these in later units. Secondary schools may tend, understandably, to focus on GCSE grades and projections and these often give useful help in clarifying assessments. But whilst they are of key importance, they might not be all that we value. We shall also be looking more at this in later units. At all Key Stages, schools are required to develop a system that enables them to check what pupils have learned and whether they are on track to meet expectations. © Curriculum Foundation

30 © Curriculum Foundation
The DFE, in its “National curriculum and assessment from September 2014: information for schools”* says: “The curriculum must include an assessment system which enables schools to check what pupils have learned and whether they are on track to meet expectations at the end of the key stage” *Ref: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/358070/NC_assessment_quals_factsheet_Sept_update.pdf © Curriculum Foundation

31 But, what are these “expectations”?
This is also what this assessment programme is all about! But, what will this assessment system look like? And how will it enable us to to check what pupils have learned and whether they are on track to meet expectations at the end of the key stage? © Curriculum Foundation

32 But first – your homework!
Do you remember that we suggested that you think back to the lists of competencies we looked at, and then try to make your own list for your class or school? The idea was to take an element of the Programme of Study or syllabus you are going to teach this term, and design a learning experience that would put the two together. But first – your homework! © Curriculum Foundation

33 © Curriculum Foundation
Did you do it? How did it go? Did you come up with any ways of assessing the different outcomes that you had planned? Please post them on the website. © Curriculum Foundation

34 © Curriculum Foundation
When the new curriculum was introduced, the worry was that it was going to be entirely “knowledge-based” and would ignore the wider learning that we explored in the Bridging Unit (the things that we value!) and that you looked at in your homework. The early drafts certainly looked that way. But, is this the case? © Curriculum Foundation

35 © Curriculum Foundation
To explore how we can do this, we need to consider first the three “building blocks” of the curriculum – and therefore the building blocks of assessment. We looked at these in Unit 2 of the Curriculum Design programme. These next few slides are from that Unit – so if you have already followed the first programme, they may seem familiar! © Curriculum Foundation

36 The ‘Building Blocks’ of a curriculum: What is a curriculum made of?
© Curriculum Foundation 36

37 The ‘building blocks’ of the curriculum:
Knowledge Possession of information Skills Ability to perform mental or physical operation Understanding Development of a concept: putting knowledge in a framework of meaning © Curriculum Foundation

38 © Curriculum Foundation
Look at the following two questions and one instruction. Are they asking for knowledge, skills or understanding? What is the capital city of France? Find out what is the capital city of Mongolia. Why is New York not the capital of the USA? © Curriculum Foundation

39 Here are the answers below.
When we look at curriculum documents it is often helpful to look at the verb that introduces the learning expectations. Knowledge expectations often start with words such as: know that, identify, state, name, etc Skills expectations tend to start with active verbs: investigate, carry out, explore, construct, etc Understanding expectations tend to start with ways of demonstrating that understanding: explain, recognise why, etc. Yes, it was too easy really. However, we do need to bear these distinctions in mind when we design a curriculum. The types of experiences that pupils need in order to acquire knowledge are quite different from the ones they need to acquire skills. You can tell people information – they have to practise skills. Understanding comes from being able to put knowledge in a framework of meaning. Knowledge is essential to understanding, but knowledge without understanding would be merely disconnected information. A collection of such knowledge would be the curriculum of the pub quiz. What is the capital city of France? To answer this question, you need knowledge. You need to be able to recall a piece of information. Find out what is the capital city of Mongolia. This requires you to do something. You need to be able to perform an operation. In this case to look something up in an atlas, or google it, or ask someone. This requires a skill of some kind. Why is New York not the capital of the USA? This requires you to understand something in order to explain it. You need to have acquired the concept of a capital. You need to have to put your knowledge into a framework of meaning . In case you didn’t know – it’s Ulaan Baatar © Curriculum Foundation

40 Look out for these verbs in the new national curriculum.
Knowledge State, name, label, draw, identify, describe Skills Carry out, perform, find, investigate, explore Understanding Explain, justify, analyse, give reasons for These are the verbs that help us make the assessments. © Curriculum Foundation

41 © Curriculum Foundation
Now look again at the Science Programme of Study of the new national curriculum. Look at each bullet point (there are six). Is each bullet asking for knowledge, skills or understanding (or some combination)? The key verb will help. © Curriculum Foundation 41

42 © Curriculum Foundation
Look at each bullet point in turn – is it asking for knowledge, skills or understanding? © Curriculum Foundation

43 What did you think? Do you agree with the interpretations below?
Skill (compare and contrast are actions) Knowledge (“Know that ..) Skill (using knowledge.) Understanding (give reasons.) Skill and Understanding (see over) Understanding (explain) © Curriculum Foundation

44 © Curriculum Foundation
So, the new curriculum is not just about knowledge – and many of its specifications are skills and deeper understandings. The issue is that these are all very specifically related to a particular piece of content. Yet when we looked at the competencies in the Bridging Unit, they involved the development of approaches that can be applied in a whole range of learning. The Level Descriptions allowed this more general application – and in doing so enabled them to be used formatively to move pupils to the next stage of learning within the same content. We now have the freedom to develop our “preferred” system of assessment, and this needs to take account of those things that we value, and enable us to use assessment formatively (more of this in the next Unit!) But where do we start? We said that an obvious starting point is the new National Curriculum. But this does not have to be the finishing point as well. © Curriculum Foundation

45 © Curriculum Foundation
Ofsted’s advice on this is clear: “Schools are likely to use a combination of relevant national curriculum expectations and performance descriptors where they apply and expectations set by the school” © Curriculum Foundation

46 © Curriculum Foundation
Ofsted’s advice on this is clear: “Schools are likely to use a combination of relevant national curriculum expectations and performance descriptors where they apply and expectations set by the school” So this encourages us to set our own expectations – and it is here that we have the opportunity to ensure that we are assessing what we value. © Curriculum Foundation

47 © Curriculum Foundation
Of course, many of the aims we were looking at in the Bridging Unit were not even elements of knowledge, skills and understanding. They were attitudes and values. Some fell into the category of ‘21st Century competencies’ These things are what we value – so they must not be forgotten. But do we need to assess them in the same way as knowledge, skills and understanding? If so how? And how can we build them in as the school element of the learning expectations?. © Curriculum Foundation

48 Did the old Levels address any of this?
© Curriculum Foundation

49 © Curriculum Foundation
Level Descriptions for Mathematics Level 4 Pupils develop their own strategies for solving problems and use these strategies both in working within mathematics and in applying mathematics to practical contexts. When solving problems, with or without ICT, they check their results are reasonable by considering the context. They look for patterns and relationships, presenting information and results in a clear and organised way, using ICT appropriately. They search for a solution by trying out ideas of their own. Level 5 In order to explore mathematical situations, carry out tasks or tackle problems, pupils identify the mathematical aspects and obtain necessary information. They calculate accurately, using ICT where appropriate. They check their working and results, considering whether these are sensible. They show understanding of situations by describing them mathematically using symbols, words and diagrams. They draw simple conclusions of their own and explain their reasoning. Look at these descriptions sentence by sentence. Are they about knowledge, skills or attitudes? Now think back to the ‘Competencies” of the Bridging Unit. Do these descriptions refer to these competencies? Are there references to critical thinking, communication, co-operation, problem-solving or investigation? Do you see how these Level Descriptions were general in nature and could be applied across the range of mathematics ‘content’? They were intended to be a “best fit” approach and so the question was always, “Is this pupil more like Level 4 or 5?” This did not lend itself to accurate measurements and percentages – which is probably why they have been dropped. © Curriculum Foundation

50 © Curriculum Foundation
We know that the Levels became subverted over the years and pressed into providing information for which they were never intended. This, together with the introduction of “sub level” took us away from what we value, and a formative use of assessment. © Curriculum Foundation

51 © Curriculum Foundation
We now have a chance to re-think that approach. We have the opportunity to adopt our own “preferred” approach. We are able to develop our own learning expectations. © Curriculum Foundation

52 © Curriculum Foundation
The new national curriculum poses some problems (as we have seen) but also provides us with a different basis on which to develop the assessment approaches that suit our needs. In the next Units we shall be looking at the specific ways in which we can do this. We have the chance to take account of the things that we really value. We do not have to be slaves to the national curriculum specifications. We can add our own expectations, and take account of wider learning and deeper understandings. © Curriculum Foundation

53 © Curriculum Foundation
So that’s it – except for the homework! Spend some time looking at the section of the new national curriculum that is relevant to you (your year group or subject) and look at the requirements one by one in terms of knowledge, skills and understanding. Are you happy with the balance? Is there anything in them about the competencies? © Curriculum Foundation

54 © Curriculum Foundation
By the way, we said earlier that the Level Descriptions were unique, and you might be thinking the New Zealand Curriculum is also set out in Levels. However, they do not have accompanying Programmes of Study – so they operate quite differently. © Curriculum Foundation

55 One last piece of trivia.
© Curriculum Foundation

56 See you next month in Unit 2.
The word ‘assessment’ comes from the Latin “assidere” - to sit beside (originally, as an assistant-judge in the context of taxes). That implies that assessment is something that we do with and for our students rather than to them. See you next month in Unit 2. © Curriculum Foundation


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