The Chameleon Teacher

Are you a great teacher?

Of course you are. You are a legend.

But what does a great teacher do? What do you do?

According to Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman (2014),

A great teacher assesses the impact of their teaching as they go along and adapts their teaching according to they information they glean.

As Wallace and Kirkman (2014) say,

A great teacher is a readily flexible, ultra-adaptable ‘chameleon teacher’.

If you haven’t worked it out already, a great teacher is a formative assessment teacher, a truly inclusive teacher.

We need clear evidence about how to drive up individual attainment and we can get that ‘in the moment’ and not in a test. Assessment for learning is a much sharper tool for collecting ‘data’ because it is an ongoing joint activity between teacher and pupil.

We gain the information as it unfolds before our eyes and ears and we adjust our practice like chameleons. And what about pupils? Well they increase their understanding of their progress and what is expected of them.

Most teachers do respond flexibly to their pupils’ needs but in a school context where accountability is king, the chameleon teacher finds it much harder to do their job. To make any learning situation an actual learning experience and relevant then you have got to know your pupils, not after the event but IN the event.

Learning as it happens

Hywel Roberts (2012) in Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally articulates this by pointing to the things that don’t get classes buzzing about learning. One of these is,

“Miserable teachers who bang on about stuff that’s got nothing to do with the topic and who pay no attention to questions or answers which actually would open up interesting learning journeys that could get kids buzzing.”

Are these the ‘glam’ teachers Tait Coles talks about in his brilliant book Never Mind The Inspectors Here’s Punk Learning?

He says that assessing learning doesn’t require numbers and that assessment isn’t something we should leave until the ‘end product’. It is pupils themselves that should have complete control over their own learning. He says, “Learning is messy. Learning is multifaceted. Learning is not linear. Learning is not incremental. Learning is too complex to hang numbers onto.”

In a good school that ‘gets assessment’, AfL will be at the heart of all teaching, learning and planning. As Brighouse and Woods (2013) say, this school will know that AfL is “central to everyday classroom practice involving teacher and learners in tasks, questions, reflections, dialogue and decision making.”

Assessment is the active agent in teaching and learning and this has to involve quality feedback and dialogue. AfL is the way to know the pupil so that an individual’s full potential to learn is realised.

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