The Education Insider: Start the year as you mean to go on

In her eighth post for us, education expert Jodie Lopez discusses how you can make moderation of your ITAF results as stress-free as possible.

Last term I wrote about my concerns around schools who are teaching using the Interim Teacher Assessment Frameworks (ITAFs) as their curriculum in Years 2 and 6. I won’t go into those issues in depth again here, but I wanted to mention that earlier blog as today’s may seem contradictory. Why? Well, because I am going to tell you that now is a good time to start planning towards moderation of your ITAF results for 2017.

I am not advocating teaching using them as your key objectives. It is worth looking at, however, your in-school processes for preparing your evidence and thinking about opportunities for evidence gathering.

First of all, let’s think about your in-school processes. Last year, it being the first year of using the ITAFs, there was a lot of conjecture about how moderation would and should be conducted. This led to some schools insisting on teachers collecting evidence of at least 4 (and in some cases up to 6) separate instances of a pupil meeting a certain criteria in their writing. This was really not necessary and had a big impact on stress levels as teachers planned lessons around the evidence collection, leaving little time for teaching new skills until pupils had repeated a similar task 6 times. There was also a tendency for SLT to insist on evidence collection happening in one set way across the school – usually either an expectation that collection started in February and was to be collected weekly until May. Or that evidence was all collected in one busy week in April just before or after the Easter holiday.

This year we know the process and have more time to prepare, as we are not still waiting for the release of the ITAFs. So have a think about what you need from your teachers and also what, as teachers, may need some thought when planning lesson tasks. The ideal scenario is to fit evidence collection seamlessly into the usual teaching and planning cycle, but some elements will require a little extra thought. I don’t know many teachers, for example, who can assess how many words per minute a Key Stage 1 child reads fluently without planning in some time to specifically assess this. This may require giving some adult resourcing to the teacher at the right time for them to spend time on this.

I would recommended (having spoken to many a stressed teacher last spring) that, so long as you get everything needed completed and handed in on time, that you allow teachers as much autonomy as possible when it comes to the collection of the evidence and ticking off the criteria. Some teachers will want to start now and do a little bit each week. Others will want to wait until nearer the time and then take all the books home for a weekend and just plough on through it in one go. Try and allow for these differences as enforcing one particular way can cause unnecessary stress. No one way is right or wrong, so long as it all comes together on time. Ask them when might be useful for them to have an extra adult to assist, if that is a consideration, as each teacher might prefer this to happen at a different time, making your staff rota planning easier.

Also look at any systems you already use at school which might help you to gather the information you already have. If you are adding evidence to parent apps or assessment systems, then don’t double the workload by insisting that ITAF evidence follows a whole new format. Duplication does not mean double the quality, just double the workload. Again, autonomy can be key here too. If you are considering a proforma of some sort which insists on teachers all following the same layout, think about how this might impact on the individual teachers. Insisting on a paper form with teachers who do everything else online might add extra stress. Likewise, insisting on a computerized system when the teacher is very confident collecting data on paper will create a new barrier and possible resistance.

In simple terms: the ITAFs are not quick to complete…alleviate the stress wherever possible! And happy New Year!

Jodie is an award winning ex-primary teacher who now works as a Freelance Edtech Consultant. Her interest in using technology in education has led to her working with a number of educational technology businesses since leaving the classroom. Most recently she has been Head of Education for an assessment system provider and has specialised in helping schools to transition to the new curriculum and leaving levels behind. Follow her on Twitter here.

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