Strategies for Reshaping Practice: The habits of the classroom #19

Check what you give significance to, test and reward

What we reward sends strong messages about what we value. If we stress meaning and significance in a lesson but then only test for recall of information, we send a message about what is important. Teachers can give significance by what they notice and give time to in class, the questions they respond to, the behaviour they reinforce. For example, do we reward those who win at any cost in sport? Forms of assessment can be adapted to suit a new perspective. Evaluations in history can reflect people holistically and include their spiritual legacy as well as the political, social and economic.

  • Teachers can work round restrictive forms of assessment, such as required electronic quizzes, missing words exercises and simple recall questions. These can be limited by using them for some parts of a unit/lesson only. Assessment that requires engagement with meaning and significance or open ended questions can be used on other parts of a unit.
  • Teachers can explore grace in personal development (PSHE) or English/literacy and use a creative assessment such as drama to demonstrate understanding. They can reward effort and perseverance not just high scores in class, and adjust their own behaviour in PE to reward winning well or handling referees' decisions well.
These examples show that assessment does not have to be a straightjacket; we can adjust it. They also show that the informal way we give rewards and give significance matters.
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