Do Your Staff Have Guild Knowledge?

Every teacher needs to learn to develop judgement about the quality of work pupils produce.

Over time, we develop an eye for quality work and it what comparative judgement is all about. Being able to assess specific examples of student work with just a quick glance is a skill.

Our understanding of specific standards, of quality, of good work is called our “guild knowledge” and it’s an integral part of teaching that is built up through many years of practice and experience.

I can confidently take a quick glance at a piece of work enough to determine its quality. But that has taken time.

And we need to encourage pupils to develop the same guild knowledge so they can become competent and confident critical thinkers and evaluators of their own work and the work of others. They need to make judgements, reflect, interpret, ask critical questions and think hard about their work.

Through active assessment we can teach children to engage with their own work and help them to independently define what a good one looks like. Guild knowledge doesn’t magically happen overnight but requires lots of opportunities for them to plan, talk, think, revise and make mistakes.

Sadler (1989) suggests that formative assessment requires using descriptive statements and exemplars to develop expertise and guild knowledge. Sadler explains,

“Students need to be exposed to, and gain experience in making judgments about, a variety of works of different quality, to provide explanations for those judgments, and to give verbal feedback on how the work could have been improved.”

If we want children to better understand how to improve their work then they need the chance to evaluate work themselves and become apprentice assessors. Master goldsmiths, blacksmiths and fletchers pass on the tricks of the trade to their apprentices and so master teachers can do the same and share their expertise with pupils. To bring pupils into the guild they need to look at work with evaluative eyes.

The question is, how many teachers have the guild knowledge themselves to make this happen?

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