Thursday, 1 August 2013

Brief Overview of the use of AfL in English Schools

It appears that despite the overwhelming evidence that effective use of AfL has on improving pupils’ learning, with ‘effect size’ (the ratio between the average improvements in pupils’ scores on tests and the range of scores for typical groups of pupils on the same tests) between 0.4 and 0.7 (Black and Wiliam,1998), where a gain of effect size of 0.4 equals to improvement of 1 – 2 grades in GCSEs (public examinations at 16), the use of AfL in everyday classroom practice is still quite patchy.

The strategies seem to be poorly understood by the teaching profession, and despite investment in training and Ofsted requirement for evidence of AfL in practice, its effective use is still in very early developmental stages.

In a recent interview, Dylan Wiliam (TES, July 2012) expressed his disappointment with poor implementation of the AfL principles, after 14 years of government initiative, by stating:

There are very few schools where all the principles of AfL, as I understand them, are being implemented effectively.

 The problem is that government told schools that it was all about monitoring pupils' progress; it wasn't about pupils becoming owners of their own learning.

Dylan also expressed his regret at using the word “assessment” (in AfL):

The big mistake that Paul Black and I made was calling this stuff 'assessment', he said. Because when you use the word assessment, people think about tests and exams. For me, AfL is all about better teaching.

My research also confirms that teachers are reluctant to implement it fully mainly because they lack the in-depth knowledge of what it involves and can be satisfied from their own ends of using tried and trusted methods.  As any change involves a certain shift in trusted methods, teachers can be reluctant to make this change for fear of ‘letting go’.

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