A primary focus of our teaching and learning at Wandsworth Prep this year is how we effectively involve children in their own learning journey to promote progress and individual challenge. We need to ensure that each child knows what they can do, what they need to do next and, fundamentally, how best to get there. The disconnect can often be the how.
Making children aware of their strengths and areas for improvement, however, is a process that needs careful management. Approached without forethought given as to how children may respond to feedback can, unfortunately, negatively impact on motivation to learn. One of the factors that can influence and impact positively, however, is the way that assessment is perceived by learners themselves, serving to strengthen or break their belief in their capabilities.
Assessment needs to work for children as much as it does for teachers. As a starting point, teachers need to find out what children know, what they partly know and what they do not know in order to plan teaching and learning activities which advance learning.
Children need to be given ample time to question their own learning as they make sense of their own ideas. There needs to be planned opportunity for the children themselves to talk about their learning, with examples which make palpable sense to them in order for them to more accurately gauge what they need to do next. Alongside this process and a regular routine of carefully timed feedback, children themselves can solve small problems and unravel misunderstandings, develop as learners, yet not lose sight of longer-term goals.
The focus of our development this year is not solely to motivate children to approach areas of learning that they may find challenging but also to develop their identities as capable learners. We want to shape children’s attitudes towards assessment as something that can help them learn rather than a process that highlights their weaknesses or leads to them simply meeting targets.
Ultimately, we hope that this approach to assessment affects the motivation and self-esteem of all the children in our care, to develop and sustain a capacity to learn that not only sees them through their years of compulsory schooling but benefits them into their adult lives.