This chapter gives a very useful summary of the key difference between assessment for learning and assessment of learning. Christodoulou suggests that the perversion of AfL is partially to do with Ofsted and the DfE confusing the two types of assessment. However, she goes on to assert that the main reason why AfL has failed is that many teachers subscribe to a generic skills model of education and therefore believe that assessment for learning and of learning are essentially the same. She argues that teachers need to see improvement as the process of deliberate practice. Therefore, to get better at writing an essay about the First World War, they might engage in answering short questions from a textbook, mastering the chronology etc.
I completely agree with Christodoulou's point here, and I certainly think that some aspects of ITT have contributed unhealthily to this over the years. The growing use and perversion of Key Stage 3 levels also contributed to this problem (as Wiliam notes in the preface). However, I think that her implication that the majority of teachers are believers in the "skill based" model of education misses the mark somewhat. Indeed, I could not see any concrete research supporting the notion that the majority of teachers have bought into the "skills" model. From my experience working in schools, most history teachers I know engage in deliberate practice when getting their pupils to improve at history (and I am yet to meet a maths teacher who doesn’t believe in deliberate practice). Where this breaks down, and where I do tend to agree more with Christodoulou’s assertion, is at GCSE. Here the temptation is to practice exam questions or “exam skills” over and over to the detriment of other aspects of deliberate practice.
Unlike Christodoulou, I would argue that many teachers have been put in a situation where they have accepted (or feel they have to accept) the generic “skills model”, even when it runs contrary to how they might prefer to teach. This, in my opinion has been driven much more significantly by Ofsted than Christodoulou suggests. Many senior leaders have responded to Ofsted pressures by reducing the professional freedoms of their staff and pushing “generic skills” models of teaching. I can list scores of whole school initiatives which have shoved generic skills and assessment of learning to the fore in schools – notably those which have replaced KS3 levels with generic criteria from the GCSE mark schemes. In many ways I would argue that this is connected to the promotion of effective “leaders” over those whose educational pedagogies might have been more sound. These directives get the support of a small core of people who also subscribe to the “generic skills” model, and so a hegemony is created. Many teachers who are uneasy with this shift either do not have the confidence to challenge such directives from above, or lack the rigorous training and professional knowledge to offer a reasoned challenge (an issue of how teachers are trained on which I have written before).
I also think exam boards have played a major role in a way that Christodoulou does not acknowledge here either. The simple fact is that deliberate practice and generic skills have often been synonymous at GCSE. Mark schemes in history have hitherto demanded that students provide 2 points on one side, 2 points on another, and a conclusion, for example. The increasing shift towards limited examinations training has meant that knowledge in such exams is rarely taken fully into account where exam structures are followed. Therefore the pragmatic classroom practitioner teaches “exam skills” in full knowledge of the fact that these are not synonymous with teaching history (or English, or science, or whatever). Again, there are some who miss this distinction, but it is notable that many history teachers see GCSE as an odd deviation from proper history teaching at Key Stages 3 and 5.
In essence, I agree completely with Christodoulou’s concerns and her analysis of the problem, however I think that she paints the reason for this problem as one of educational aims in stark blank and white. In reality I would suggest this is a multifaceted, three-dimensional sculpture including significant aspects of power and control, mixed with aspects of pragmatism, ideology, idealised leadership, ignorance, and wrong-headedness. Of course, at this juncture, I accept that she may well cover these other aspects in the following chapters.