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'Create something

interesting to show
that you have learned
Building and assessing learner
autonomy within the Key Stage 3
history classroom
Oliver Knight is an experienced Advanced Skills Teacher Assessment is an ideological battleground,
who has taught in four different secondary schools, three fought over by educational theorists, government
of therTi multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural and advisers and classroom practitioners. Positions
at least two wrestling with significant problems arising range from a desire to use assessment to maintain
tbe status quo and churn out Homo Sovieticus to
from social deprivation. Here he critically reflects upon his
tbe goal of constructing a new type of learner, a
own learning journey as he grappled with his desire to
Homines Novi, constructed tbrough autonomy
build autonomous learners. Attached to this desire to build and self-regulation. But tbe debates in educational
learner autonomy was his anguish at the state of current circles bave complex fault-lines; it is not a simple
assessment practices as they were not aligned with his dichotomy of extremes. It seems tbat tbose in
aspirations and vision for his pupils. The article starts with government strategy or management circles
an attempt to build a conceptual framework within which imagine tbat they are doing one tbing whilst
to analyse orthodoxies in assessment practices. In particular, actually doing another. Anyone who has been
he points out how 'AfL' has, in many schools, turned into tbrougb a recent Ofsted inspection will be aware
a set of procedures, rather than a process. The principles it of the drive to get pupils to set and monitor their
was designed to enshrine have been lost. He then explains own targets and to be involved in the assessment
process. It is easy to dress that up in tbe language
how he has used this framework to experiment with learner
of autonomy. My experience from several schools,
autonomy, giving an example from his practice as Head of
however, is tbat it leads to a reductive, teacber-led
History. Knight hopes this article will launch an extended approach that focuses on the 'critical steps' tbat a
dialogue between teachers on how best to enable pupils pupil migbt need to make to 'reacb' tbe next level
to become autonomous, lifelong learners - a professional- descriptor instead of developing pupil autonomy
academic dialogue that explores ways of taking assessment or 'deep' learning about tbe structure of a subject.'
beyond the repetition of procedures that some theorists, Tbus, not only is assessment a disputed practice,
managers and policy-makers expound. Teaching Histoty but the attachment of quite different meanings to
115, Assessment Without Levels Edition presented many particular terms often masks or distorts the lines
practical approaches to assessing without recourse to Level of debate. Tbus the dispute is not always visible,
Descriptions, Knight goes well beyond this, with a more lurking as it does under an imagined consensus
around Assessment for Learning (AfL).^
radical theoretical framework, one that he is exploring
through research into his own classroom practice.
Tbe value and meaning that a teacher attaches to tbe
word 'assessment' and its attendant processes will
always be derived from tbe conceptual framework
within which it is placed. Any analysis of tbe word
Oliver Knight is an Advanced Skills Teacher at must be seen as being a part of the values, assumptions
Drayton Manor High School, and tbeorecaltrameworkofthe practitioner. lames
argues that as our understanding of learning changes
(11-19 comprehensive), Ealing, London.
so then, in turn, must our conceptualisation and

History 131 June 2008 The Historical Associa

Figure 1 : " Hold on Sir, I have got a question ! " is an attempt to move towards a learner-centred environment. Pupils can
stop the lesson or just get up when they have a question, take paper and a pen from the plastic pocket pinned to the wall,
write their question and pin it up. The other students can then read through the questions at the end of the lesson. The
questions can serve as a plenary, as the basis for homework or as the the focus of next lesson - they decide. This might be a
way of beginning to change classroom relationships so that I am not seen as the sun around which the lesson orbits.


development of assessment practices. When learning was largely Thus there is a distinction between seeing AfL as a series of
seen as being a private and individual affair, classical test theory procedures and seeing AfL as a. process. Much AfL in schools
was dominant Our understanding of learning has moved on, has become procedure-led. In many instances it has even
however. Where learning is now seen as an interactive event turned into a series of tick-sheets to enable school senior
and the role of language in constructing learning is taking on managers to complete their Ofsted 'Self-Evaluation Form'.
greater importance, our assessment practices shift in order to For me as a teacher, AfL - when constructed within a socio-
recognise the importance of the processes involved in acquiring cultural framework oflearning - ought to become a powerful
and constructing knowlec^e.^ If leamir^ is a socially constructed means of developing real learner autonomy and transcending
activity, this will have implications for assessment. the ever-shifting requirements of the education system.

My initial understanding of AfL saw assessment as formative:

I treated the shortcomings which assessment revealed
as influences on the next stage in the learning flow. My
My view of learning
implementation of AfL was originally a simple application My view of learning is symbiotic with my theorisation
of procedures in the classroom, a formulaic process working of assessment. I see learning as a knowledge-building
within the framework of a summative, national examination process that is part of doing things with others. In other
structure - what Marshall and Drummond would label as words, meaning is constructed through collaboration and
the 'letter' of AfL.* My experience echoes Stobart's concern interdependence.^ Thus knowledge itself is constructed just
that teachers sometimes implement strategies without as the conceptual and theoretical frameworks that create the
understanding why they might lead to effective learning. basis of our practice are themselves constructed. For me, it
AfL, when viewed through the lens of a social-constructivist is helpful to see AfL itself within this framework. AfL could
theorisation of learning, would transcend simple procedures be seen as part of a polythetic framework of disputed and
and becomes a process that emphasises learners becoming competing ideologies revolving around a central issue of
self-regulated and autonomous. A social-constructivist pupil autonomy.
perspective might suggest that this can best be developed
through self-assessment and classroom dialogue.^

.ching History 131 June

Whilst working on my Masters, I found myself exploring relationship between assessment practice and the way pupils
these issues in my own classroom and grappling with trying learn. Thus the validity of an assessment practice might be
to move from seeing myself as knowledge-giver to 'learning measured by how far it aligns with the theory of learning
facilitator' - an expression with which I am not entirely happy that a curriculum is designed around. A danger exists when
hut one which helped me to think about my role and how I teachers use a model of assessment borrowed from elsewhere
might go about shitting the teacher-pupil relationship. This (usually from national, external examinations or prescribed
also helped me to think again about the nature of historical assessment frameworks) that does not fit in with their theory
knowledge and my aims for pupils studying history. How of learning and their curriculum model." One might argue
could I help pupils really to see the constructed and contested that in history, for example, assessment practices have to be
nature of historical knowledge? Ihat historical knowledge able to reflect pupils' growing understanding of second-order
is constructed and contested has been central to history concepts which characterise progression within history as
curriculum demands and to teacher debate and practice for an academic discipline. James argues that too many types of
many years, but if I was honest there was still a long way to assessment fail to take account of the way the subject domain
go for it to become a deep reality in my classroom.' is structured, the key concepts or 'big ideas' associated with it
and the methods and processes that characterise practice in
Assessment practices can change the relationship in the thefield.Without this type of construct validity, assessments
classroom whereby pupil and teacher work collaboratively to become valueless. Therefore, for assessments to have value and
improve progress. Black argues that for formative assessment to meaning it is important that social-psychological, sociological
be successful it must meet certain conditions. These are that it is and epistemological dimensions be taken into consideration,
criterion-referenced and not normative and that it must be tuned dimensions not only of the ciassroom environment but of the
to the needs of each individual pupil. Blame should be avoided nature of the subject s structure. In other words, it is necessary
and praise is most helpful when it is used sparingly and linked for teachers to have a view about the kinds of learning that
with objective advice about specific performance." This stance, are most valuable for their students and an understanding of
however, is only of limited value. I feel that it runs counter to how these relate to the epistemology of the subject discipline
the central aim of pupil autonomy and does not fit within the or subject practice that pupils are engaging with. Teachers
social*constructivist framework of learning outlined above. can then choose and develop approaches to teaching and
My main critique of Black is that in his framework, successful assessment accordingly.'^
assessment practices are sull, at root, a teacher-dominated affair.
The weakness of reliance on criterion-referenced assessment In the history community we have plenty of models of
is that feedback is related to criteria compliance. This seems this already being explored. For example, Burnham and

Evidence of some forward, linear march, rigidly sought

in the name of 'progress', will quickly become
a mask for no progress.
to result in the procedure-driven approach common in many Brown, two heads of history in contrasting schools, in
schools - for example, the target sheet in the back of their their argument against using the NC Level Descriptions as
book outlining exactly what pupils need to do to 'move up' one markers for progress, nonetheless have a well-developed view
level, sometimes even including phrases they should use and about how pupils might advance in thinking about history
tiny procedures they should follow related to sub-levels and and in historical consciousness. It is a view related to the
slices of levels. As Cottinghain argues, chasing non existent epistemology of history and its second-order and substantive
sub-levels can, at best, be a mere proxy for pupil thinking and concepts specified in the National Curriculum (such as
for growing confidence with subject complexity and, at worst, evidence, interpretation and forms of historical reasoning)
a grave distortion of it.^ Thus, although much of Black's work and one that stays faithful to the original guidance of SCAA
sought to show the dangers of measurement at the expense of and QCA in 1995 - that the Level Descriptions could
learning, this emphasis on pupils moving consciously through a never and should never be used to chart small increments
minutely structured pre-determined map can only undermine in progress and were certainly not designed for assessing
the original intention. Paradoxically, therefore, I would argue individual pieces of work. Burnham and Brown tie their
that Black's construction of assessment is actually misaligned understanding of the epistemology of the subject to a range
with his desire to allow each pupil to flourish. For Torrance, offlexibleprocesses, taking place over a long period of time,
this reliance on criterion referenced assessment removes the which can be monitored and developed without rigid tying
challenge of learning and reduces the quality and validity of of every stage to performance indicators. Such rigidity, they
outcomes achieved.'" argue, distorts and detracts from pupils' historical learning
as it cannot capture the riches of history as a practice let
alone the 'messy' and diverse ways in which diverse pupils
The relationship between necessarily encounter it. For pupils to deepen their grasp
of diflicult matters such as causal reasoning or evidential
assessment and learning thinking, tbey need to experiment with new concepts
How, then, could we construct assessment practices to best and take risks with new understandings. If being assessed
secure progression for learners that fits with the view of regularly in a linear, predictive way, true progress would show
learning outlined above? First, it is important to note the up as apparent dips and troughs in performance as pupils'

ry131 Jun
experiments will go wrong, their ideas may temporarily Achievement objectives versus
break down and their thinking can only be forged through
reflection on challenging exploration and experiment. expressive objectives
Evidence of some forward, linear march, Burnham and There is much research that points to the limitations of
Brown argue, rigidly sought in the name of 'progress', will instructional objectives and the fact that the notion of raising
quickly become a mask for no progress. achievement might not be best characterised in terms of
achievement objectives. I argued above that assessment
through teacher-defined objectives can lead to a limited
A governing flaw in Black and construction of knowledge. Neither excellence nor pupil
autonomy are likely to come from the measurement of
Wiliam's argument performance against externally set objectives. But what is
Black and Wiliam place emphasis on this notion of a teacher to do if all goals and objectives are problematic?
appropriate goals as discernible stages in mapping out future How can any sort of learning journey or validity be posited,
progress and whilst this is intended to be emancipatory, I discerned or valued? One answer is to re-conceptualise the
would argue that it has an inbuilt flaw and that it has led idea of 'objectives'.
to the very reductionism we now see in so many school
assessment/monitoring policies. Black and Wiliam argue Elliott offers an interesting way forward here. Elliott argues
that the main feature of effective assessment is to realise that, even where there is an intention in the curriculum to foster
that the learners task is to close the gap between the present thinking and reasoning, any externally constructed learning
state of understanding and the learning goal, and that self- objectives will lead to pupils viewing learning as knowledge
assessment is essential if the learner is to be able to do this. transmission and the curriculum as fact. Elliott argues that
The teacher s role, for Black and William, is to communicate excellence is unlikely to conform to predictable outcomes
appropriate goals and to promote self-assessment as but is likely to transcend prescription and be demonstrated
students work towards them. In this process, feedback in through imagination and creativity. Instead, teachers should
the classroom should operate both from teacher to student be encouraged to use 'expressive objectives'. An expressive
and from students to the teacher. This feedback has to be objective identifies a situation in which pupils are to work, a
based upon a teacher's understanding of Vygotsky s theory problem with which they are to cope, a task with which they are
of the Zone of Proximal Development and constitutes a to engage. In other words, it is an invitation to explore, evocative
sophisticated level of differentiation at individual level.'^ rather than prescriptive. It encourages pupils to challenge their
preconception that what is worth knowing can be reduced to
On one level this links into the work of Torrance and objective statements and the idea that progression is linear
Pryor who argue that for feedback to be effective it must and aggregative. Expressive objectives are far more likely to
not be teacher dominated with a focus on pre-determined lead to self-efficacy and higher motivation. In other words, a
objectives. They argue that for formative assessment to move away from instructional objectives is more likely to lead
be effective it should essentially be focussed on the pupil to self-monitoring, self-evaluation and goal setting. Learning
experience. In other words it must involve pupils reflecting can be seen as renewal and as working towards a central goal
on what they have achieved and how they have achieved it.'^ - that of pupil autonomy This move away from instructional
I feel, however, that for Black and William, pupil autonomy objectives leads to what Dann describes as self-efficacy in that
is still taking place within an aggregative, summative the more capable pupils believe themselves to be, the higher
framework where learning goals are connected to externally the goals they set for themselves. '*
set objectives. For Black and William it would appear that
the process of formative assessment is still largely teacher- Ail this could be seen to fit into a polythetic framework of
controlled, with teachers providing feedback to pupils on how AfL as it is working towards pupil autonomy but consciously
well they have achieved particular objectives at a particular selecting different themes of competing learning ideologies
point in hand and what else they might need to do in order to to meet the long-term central aim.
improve. For all their emphasis on pupil involvement, pupil
sharing of goals, peer-assessment and so forth. Black and
Wiliam's structure remains set by teachers and controlled by Self-assessment -
teachers. Thus the now all-too-common micro-management
of assessment by many SMTs - requiring teachers to hnk lip-service or reality?
every aspect of every lesson to some prescribed goal or This brings us to the learner's role in the assessment process
stage was perhaps an inevitable result of Black and Wiliam's in terms of creating meaningful self-assessment rather than
assumptions concerning the need for a 'map' setting out a simply getting pupils to mark their own work! The importance
pupils' way ahead. Once this became tied to externally set of metacognition as a tool for assessment is highlighted in
objectives, the current distortions of Afl^ were inevitable. Sarig's work on academic literacy. Sarig sees academic literacy
as the creative and reflective manipulation of knowledge and
For me, a more powerful construct would be to take the the learners' reflection on the act of manipulation is central
view that formative assessment should be focussed on to progression.'" Hacker expands this notion: a definition of
pupil experience, moving beyond political concerns for metacognition should include at least these notions: knowledge
accountability and focussing on educational concerns for of one's own knowledge, processes and cognitive and affective
learning.'^ Black and William would appear to be working states; and the ability to consciously and deliberately monitor and
with a reductionist perspective in that the metanarrative of regulate ones knowledge, processes, and cognitive and affective
their theorisation is the political compliance of education. states.'" A nascent example of this kind of self-regulation

20 Teaching History 131 June 2008 The Historical Association

Figure 2: Outline of Year 8 lesson sequence based on 'Create something interesting to show you have learnt something'

Lesson I Focus Resources

Introduce an enquiry question: Why were brothers fighting Pupils as journalists watch a pre-
brothers in 1642? and discuss how the question was recorded video in a PR style from the
constructed. Give pupils outline of major historical issues. Head of Year dressed as Charles. Pupils
Pupils start to create their own enquiry questions. then interview the king to help clear
up any initial misunderstandings.

Outline the focus-temporal, conceptual, substantive. Pupils Text books and articles for information,
given outcome for final lesson: examples of success criteria for
Create something that I can see, read or hear that proves
you have answered the enquiry question.
Pupils also discussed and created their own success criteria
through negotiation with the class and with me. Pupils choose
their own groups.

3- s Pupils working in small groups creating their final pieces of

work. Teacher is used as a resource and for guidance - such as
Whatever the pupils require - ICT
rooms, video camera, MP3 dictaphones,
reminding pupils of success criteria etc. sugar paper etc.

Pupil performances and evaluations against the success criteria. Inter-active whiteboard.

being fostered in the history classroom might be Burnham's Crucially, the student must somehow be centrally involved in
work on pupils generating their own enquiry questions and these feedback processes. As Donovan and Bransford point
building their own criteria for historical questions. She uses out, there is a diference between responding to feedback tbat
their reflection on the wording of their own enquiry questions someone else provides and actively seeking feedback in order to
as a way of enabling pupils to develop and demonstrate higher- assess ones current level of thinking and understanding.'*'
order understandings with the second-order concepts. Pupils
are encouraged to test the meaning and historical power of tbeir
questions. The whole class later works on a scheme of work
substantially framed by their own questions.''
Inside the Black Abyss
Now tbat I have tentatively set out a framework for critically
This focus on deliberately monitoring and regulating one's appraising and using AfL and how it might be applied within
own knowledge and processes links in well with the literacy tbe history subject domain, I will attempt to evaluate my recent
dimension of progression in history where students in history practice in the light of this framework- Tbe example I have
classrooms are often taLight to experiment with language, such selected is a series of Year 8 history lessons designed around
as different ways of expressing the same point to construe the central premise 'Create something interesting to show you
different meanings, different modes of analysis or different ways have learnt something?^ As in so much current history teaching
of showing narrative significance within an account.^" Since practice, the lessons were built around a social-constructivist
the history-literacy revolution of the 1990s when many history theory of learning whereby learning is viewed as being a social
educationalists began making the history-literacy relationship activity and knowledge is seen as being created and constructed
more explicit, many new theorists have arisen among history through interaction and experimentation rather than as being a
teachers. A clear example is the work of James Woodcock, given entity that is merely found and passed on. Many examples
where he sets out ways of breaking out of traditional preparation of such an overt, co constructed and experimental approach can
for causation examination answers by enabling pupils to be found in Teaching History and at history teacher conferences
experiment with a wide range of formulations for expressbig such as the H / ^ London History Forum." Where I chose to
causal thinking. His pupils find themselves making subtle innovate, however, was in bringing my assessment practices in
choices between similar words and judging tbeir explanatory line with this social-constructivist framework.
power within a causation context.^'
This was a unit of work on mid-seventeenth century conflict that
In my experience, pupils do need to be explicitly taught would take place over six lessons. The end product was presented
disciplinary concepts - such as causation and evidence - which simply as: Create something interesting to show you have learnt
allow them both to manipulate the substantive content and to something. Pupils would work in small groups and be given carte-
see how academic historians do the same. This approach also blanche to create something that I could 'see, read or hear that
allows learners to reflect upon this manipulation and to arrive at proves they have answered the enquiry question'^^ There was scope
the idea that history is a form, not a body, of knowledge. Such an to expand the number of lessons rather than rush the creative
approach is connected to a disciplinary perspective of historical process and limit reflection time. In the first lesson, pupils were
progression, in that the language pupils use enables them to given an overview of the new topic by watching a recording of
develop and play with more and less powerful ideas about the their Head of Year being interviewed in character as Charles I.
past. The implications of all this for a successful assessment The video was paused at strategic places and issues discussed and
philosophy are complex. If we are to do justice to these different built upon. Questioning was not used as testing listening but as a
layers of thinking and meta-thinking, then at the very least one dialogue to expand and build upon tbe initial ideas put forward.
might suggest that feedback on multiple levels is necessary. Pupils discussed the enquiry question ' Why were brothers fitting

History 131 June 2008 The Histori

brothers in 642?'. This was used as a re-cap from the previous in critiquing this AfL opportunity is the limitation of my learning
lesson but also as a chanceforpupus to see HOW enquiry questions journey for the pupils when compared to the structural matrix
are constructed. They then had a go at creating their own. This is designed by Pryor and Crossaurd (see Figure 3).'" For me, where
similar to the work of Bumham amongst others, but in my lesson divergent formative assessment is most successful is when it is
sequence the construction of enquiry questions was to start the connected to the ideas put forward by Hacker.^'' In other words,
process of enquiry pursuit amongst the pupils rather than to form divergent formative assessment only achieves its desired end
the basis of later whole-class investigation,^ of learner autonomy if pupils are consciously reflecting on this
process, otherwise it remains in the realm of convergent formative
In the following lesson pupils were introduced to the overview assessment as itfoilsto develop pupil autonomy and remains
and rationale of the project and given the temporal and proceduraL Pryor and Crossouard see learning as a wider process
conceptual frameworks. They read a pack of information and of becoming, of constructing identity and ways of being. For
related it to the video from Lesson 1 - building on the ideas them, learning and identity are inseparable. My Year 8 journey
put forward as the start of the lesson. Through whole-class failed to address this meta-social as well as meta-cognitive
discussion the class created success criteria for their assessment progression in that despite creating a socio cultural model of
piece. I then allowed pupils to select their own groups. This formative assessment itfoiledto fiilly scale the mountain. Despite
was part of building autonomy and would also form part of there being negotiation of task and quality criteria, there was
the post-activity reflection process. The rest of the lesson was not a full reflection process and the task still took place within
spent brainstorming ideas with a feedback at the end. a goal orientated educationalframeworkand so failed to move
pupils to see learning as indeterminate and prospective. The
Pupils then spent the next three lessons independently task design andfinalproduct were limited in their conception as
constructing their end products. They had to draw up a they existed within a summative educationalframeworkand so

Where I chose to innovate, however, was in bringing

my assessment practices in line with this
social-constructivist framework.
time-plan, allocate tasks and roles, create a resources list and failed to create space for recognising difference. Pupils still saw
create a draft outline. They then worked for three lessons in some ways of thinking and being as having greater gravitas than
small groups, sourcing what they needed or asking me for others,^ Despite using the processes described in their matrix
help finding it. The end of each lesson was a referral back to and meeting Stobart's criteria,'' the learning situations failed to
the success criteria that they had constructed in Lesson 2. fijlly develop divergent formative assessment. It hit an impasse
in terms of failing to move beyond the political metanarrative
This relative autonomy - relative because they were still working highlighted in my critique of Black.
within a defined substantive and conceptual framework created
by me - had a huge impact on motivation and led to pupils However, despite not fully realising the aspirations of Pryor
designing assessment pieces that 1 would never have thought and Crossouard, the Year 8 example could be seen to fit with
of The range was extensive - from a Trisha style chat show Serafini s paradigm of 'assessment as inquiry' The task enabled
of two sisters arguing about Charles and Parliament through pupils and teacher to make a 'paradigm shift' in that the pupils
to a recorded movie. This could be seen as communal- were meaningfully involved in the assessment process. This
constructivism as they were not only creating an end product enabled pupils to assess their progress through negotiating the
for themselves but directly helping pupils in subsequent years success criteria for the activity^" However, for Serafini, classroom
through creating resources to be used by teacher and pupils. rubrics designed with student and teacher input are an excellent
vehicle for negotiation and involvement in the assessment
Pupils then presented their assessment pieces and were process. Students and teachers come together to 'unpack' their
assessed by the rest of the class against the criteria that values and beliefs about education in order to expose these to
they had devised. The use of 'provocative feedback' was discussion and negotiation. It is this process of negotiation that
encouraged rather than 'prescriptive feedback.' " Provocative is of primary importance, not necessarily the actual outcomes
feedback is the idea that pupils pose questions to probe more that are created. In the Year 8 classroom this 'negotiating process'
deeply into the underlying processes of construction rather took a back-seat as the creation of the presentations took primacy.
than describing or critiquing at surface level - a trap that Therefore, whilst the activities may have been 'assessment as
many teachers also fall into. The key teacher feedback comes inquiry', it could be said that they failed to fully develop pupil
in the form not of testing their knowledge of the Civil War autonomy as the negotiating was still deemed less important
- which was assessed through two of the success criteria - but than the more tangiblefinalactivity creations.
in enabling pupils to reflect upon the processes involved and
their ability to relate it to other learning situations. It is this dilemma of where to place AfL activities along a
continuum from full autonomy, through more modified
forms of autonomy, to purely prescriptive procedure,
and the subconscious creation of a hierarchy that this
Evaluating my practice entas, that leads me into a more troubled analysis of my
Howfordoes my experiment fit into the polythec framework experiment. The context of my experiment is my hypothesis
surrounding AiL that I explored earlier? Thefirstpoint that arises that AfL, in its essential principles, is built on an underlying

22 Teaching History 131 June 2008 The Historical Association

Figure 3: Convergent and divergent formative assessment
{Source: Pryor, J. and Crossouard, B. (2007) A Socio-Cultural Theorisation of Formative Assessment)

Convergent Formative Assessment | Divergent Formative Assessment

aim5 to discover /f the learner knows, understands or aims to discover what the learner knows,
can do a predetermined thing. understands or can do.

a. precise planning by the teacher and an intention a. flexible or complex planning which incorporates
to stick to it alternatives
b. recording via check lists and can-do statements b. open recording {narrative, quotations, etc)
c. closed or pseudo-open teacher questioning and c. primarily open tasks with questioning by teachers
tasks and learners directed at 'helping' rather than
d. focus on contrasting errors with correct responses testing
e. authoritative, judgementai or quantitative d. focus on miscues - aspects of work which yield
feedback insights into current understanding - and on
prompting metacognition
f. feedback focussed on performance and the
successful completion of task in hand e. exploratory, provisional or provocative feedback
aimed at prompting further engagement
g. formative assessment focussed on communicating
criteria usually closely related to those used in f. discussion prompting reflection on task and its
summative assessment context and constructing understanding of future
situations in which new knowledge might be
h. involvement of the learners as recipients of
g. formative assessment focused on holistic view
i. analysing interaction of learners and the
of criteria and learners' understandings of how
curriculum from point of view of the curriculum
they fit into wider notions of knowledge and
j. may conform to either a behaviourist or a competence
constructivist view of education
h. involvement of learners as initiators of
k. intention to teach or assess the next assessments as well as recipients
predetermined thing in a linear progression
i. analysing interaction of learners and curriculum
I. interaction usually embedded within an Initiation- from point of view of both learners and
Response-Feedback (IRF) sequence curriculum
m. view of assessment as accomplished mainly by the j. conforms to socio-cultural view of education
teacher with acknowledgement of the context for the
k. intention to teach in the ZPD
I. on-going dialogue between and amongst learners
and teachers where learners initiate /question as
well as respond/reply
m. view of assessment as collaboration between &
amongst teachers and students

pedagogic principle that foregrounds the promotion of pupil within an aggregative, national summative framework. So,
autonomy." For Marshall and Drummond, for example, the although it is more spirit than the English lesson that Marshall
implementation of AfL in the classroom becomes more than and Drummond cite in their article, its long-term goal of
the application of certain procedures and revolves around learner autonomy is still only autonomy within the externally
the realisation of certain principles of teaching and learning. set, criterion-referenced framework of a teacher-led classroom.
These two 'styles' are labelled letter and spirit by Marshall What I mean by this is that whilst my pupils negotiated
and Drummond - the spirit fostering the future goal of pupil their own criteria and final product, I still felt that their own
autonomy wherehy knowledge is built through conversation 'assessment careers' held their reection back.^'' The pupils are
and uncertainty, the letter being procedural and formulaic, so used to seeing assessment as a tool for measurement and the
working within the short-term goal of summative progress. curriculum as something to be swallowed up that they failed
to see the long-term validity of this experience differently and,
Marshall and Drummond would probably label my lessons as whilst I have not yet seen the long-term eflects, I imagine that
demonstrating the spirit of AfL because pupils were involved their views of assessment and knowledge will change little.
in framing their own notion of quality, negotiating and refining So whilst, on the surface, one could argue that in my lessons
these within groups, applying these principies to a piece of work, pupils did become eager constructors of knowledge'^\ this
then using this understanding to reassess their own work in construction was still too reliant on the external criteria that
light of judgements about quality. Exchanges between pupils run through all of their curriculum experiences to really move
and between teacher and pupil were all understood in terms of pupils beyond seeing learning as a means to an end.
refinement of the central aim: understanding what constitutes
quality or a good answer. On the other hand, it is possible to 1 may he being too critical of myself here and Marshall and
argue that these lessons were still lettery in that they took place Drumniond might argue that the activities did create what

008 The Histori

Eckert describes as 'communities of practice' in that learning achieve truly meaningful learner autonomy with every pupil
became the primary vehicle for engagement with others. in every class in one academic year, or maybe even But the Key
However, the empowerment that this generated was not framed Stage 3 curriculum presents history teachers with an amazing
within the context of life-long learning, but instead took place opportunity to experiment with ways of overcoming some ofthe
within a culture of short-term goals that always keep examinations problems outlined in this article and also explored in the edition
in view, thusfoilingto transcend the political metanarrative that of Teaching History (TH115) that was dedicated to the struggle
so inhibited the work of Black. My view is that this glass ceiling against the 'dark side' of NCAT levelling. By starting with the
inhibits the rising of pupil autonomy above the confines ofthe question 'How do I want my pupils to be as learners?' I have been
current educational context. Even researchers sometimes do not able to think about how to use the planning time afforded me by
seem conscious of its existence within their theoretical stance and the new curriculum to build programmes around the central aim
ofthe influence it exerts on their findings. of learner autonomy and to explore what role assessment might
have in achieving this. This, however, is a long, slow task and I
Perhaps a more powerful conceptualisation of AfL is that will encounter many dead-ends and mistakes along the way. It
suggested by Hargreaves.'^ He sees AfL as meaning teachers is enough at this stage for me to focus on the new Year 7 pupils
learning about children's learning and children taking some coming next year and where I would like them to be, as learners,
control of their own learning and assessment. Again, one by the end ofthe year. That however, is a whole new story.
could argue that my lessons were somewhat aligned with this
conceptualisation as learners were coUaboratively building REFERENCES
' Parts of the history education community in England are already vocal in their
knowledge as members ofthe whole knowledge-constructing criticism of the abuse of Level Descriptions by senior managers, Burnham and
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as pupils applied their learning to previous work in order to raise Burnham, S. and Brown, G. (2004) 'Assessment without Level Descnptions',
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^ Stobart, G, (2008) 'Reasons to be cheerful: AfL' in: G. Stobart (2008), The Uses
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' Arthur, J. and Phillips, R. (2000) Issues in History Teaching, Routledge
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training can come to dominate learning' Assessment in Education, 14,3
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'^ James, op.cit. p49
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Process. London: RoutledgeFalmer
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" Hargreaves, D. (2005) 'AfL? Thinking outside the (black) box', Cambridge
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'^ Pryor and Crossaurd (2007) 'A socio-cultural theorisation of formative
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"^ Pryor and Crossaurd op,of
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'^ Eckert, P 'The school as a community of engaged learners', Wingspread
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^' Sfard, A. ( 1998) 'On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing
consists in taking a pragmatic approach. I will not be able to just one'. Educational Researcher, 27, 2. pp4-'I3

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