Monday, 17 September 2007

Yet another idiotic education proposal

Pupils should mark their own class work and decide what their school tests should cover, according to the Government's exams advisers.

Teachers should train secondary school children to set their homework and devise mark schemes, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) said.

Pupils should then assess the results, grading their own efforts and giving "feedback" to their classmates, the latest National Curriculum guidance said.

The QCA, which devised the new secondary curriculum, said such an approach helps children support each other and develop independent study skills.

It said: "Peer assessment and self-assessment are much more than learners simply marking their own or each other's work. In order to improve learning, self-assessment must engage learners with the quality of their work and help them reflect on how to improve it.

"Peer assessment enables learners to provide each other with valuable feedback so that they can learn from and support each other."

The guidelines suggested teachers in schools that decide to adopt the system would need to train pupils in marking techniques.

The suggested "strategies" for developing pupils' peer assessment skills could include asking pupils in groups to write five questions on a topic and, following whole-class discussion, pick the two best questions from each group. "Then ask learners to answer all the selected questions for homework."

Pupils could be asked to "analyse mark schemes and devise their own for a specified task", or to "mark each other's work but not give them the answers. Instead, ask them to find the correct answers from available resources".

The QCA proposed that pupils should also be involved in drawing up internal school tests and assessment tasks, which are separate from the official National Curriculum "Sats" tests and GCSEs. The QCA's guidance said the approach had "fundamental implications for the learning ethos in a school" and should be adopted across all subjects areas.

These "fundamental implications" presumably consist of screwing the final nail into the coffin of the British education system.

Let's get this straight: children are not adults, and pupils are not teachers. The ability to set, and, more especially, to mark, work in an objective and impartial manner requires a certain level of maturity; a level of maturity which the average schoolchild is unlikely to possess. Are they really going to be willing or able to give poor marks to their fellow pupils (particularly those with whom they are friends), for example? (I appreciate that this question may be academic, since the concept of "poor marks" seems to be disappearing rapidly from our exams system).
Equally, whatever training children may be given in marking, will not come anywhere near to equalling the years of training and experience possessed by the average teacher. It is an essential part of a teacher's job to be able to set exam papers that relate directly to the most important parts of the syllabus, and to mark them in an appropriate, objective, and at the same time constructive and helpful manner. A good teacher is an expert at doing this; a child, no matter how intelligent, is not. And on that note, I wonder how children of below average intelligence will cope when it comes to marking and providing feedback? Are we supposed to believe that they will be able to do it anywhere near as well, or as usefully, as a trained teacher?

Why, oh why, must educationalists insist on foisting this rubbish on teachers and pupils? What, may I ask, is so very wrong with the idea that pupils should just be taught? Not taught by self-assessment, not taught by "analysing mark schemes" but taught by a teacher who stands up at the front of the class and teaches them things they need to know. That's what used to happen in schools, and standards were far higher then than they are now. Proposals like this, if put into practice, would simply waste good teaching time.

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