Let’s get them thinking! So many children are placed into endless drills of times tables tests, spelling tests, grammar tests, maths tests, reading tests, writing assessments, never mind the practice in school and at home that accompanies these.
The new curriculum and changes to assessments mean teachers feel even more obliged than before to blast children with factual teaching and tasks to ensure that they have the knowledge for the SATS tests that will determine their levels and the school’s ability. Yes there are teacher assessments too, but all educators know that the proof is in the externally marked pudding.
What will this mean for our future learners? Well in truth it will be a mixed bag. For those teachers who know the importance of higher order thinking, creativity and children being able to think beyond the recital of facts, their pupils will hopefully have a wonderful mixture of a sound base of knowledge coupled with the opportunities to think at a higher level. For those other poor souls…boredom, repetitive tasks and a lot of sitting down.
I know there will be so many people in ‘the field’ of education reading this and shouting at the screen ‘that is not what the changes are about’. However, the government can write as many papers as they like on mastery, creative thinking and problem solving. The reality in many schools is very different. I have seen first hand children being drilled in SPaG, completing endless SATS practice papers and being told ‘we will have fun after SATS’. Teaching to the test will never go away whilst this is how we are our judging schools.
Despite endless studies showing us that the higher order thinking skills are essential to develop children’s ability and factual knowledge is merely a low rung on the ladder of thinking ability, we continue to assess children based on these.
So, as I sit here reading article after article about stress and break-down from today’s new rigorous SATS tests; being messaged by friends regarding their Year 6 child’s horror at the reading test taken today, I wonder if we will ever truly find the correct balance? So many teacher-friends say they hate teaching the way they do but know their accountability towards the progress made and levels achieved by their pupils. They feel forced to complete endless drills, too scared to do anything else; too scared to take a risk by saying ‘no, I am just going to teach as I normally would’. They say: ‘what if I get it wrong?’
What is the answer? No-one knows. But, what if we just tried? What if we just thought…’maybe there is another way. Let’s get them thinking instead’.