Is the evidence mindset holding back innovation?

In education, we are fond of talking about evidence. Where is the evidence of progress in the students’ books? Have we collected enough evidence for the upcoming SATs moderation? What evidence can we show of the impact of quality feedback?

There is good reason for this. In an environment where monitoring, observation and inspection feature prominently in assessing the effectiveness of teaching, teachers and even schools themselves, it’s no wonder that there is such a focus on the trail we leave as proof of good practice.

Put it this way: if Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail through the forest had been anywhere near as robust as the paper trail of learning and assessment in students’ books up and down the country, they wouldn’t have had that unfortunate encounter with the old woman in the gingerbread house.

While visible evidence of learning, and progression in learning, has a role to play in accountability, is it possible that this evidence mindset could actually be stifling innovation?

A recent conversation with a member of the senior leadership team at a successful secondary school provided a case in point. This particular school was not rolling out the use of Google Classroom more widely because of concerns that evidence of progress would not be visible enough to SLT or to inspectors: ‘What would we show Ofsted if the learning was online? There wouldn’t be anything in the students’ books’.

Having students’ learning outcomes in books or folders creates a comforting paper trail documenting the sequence of teaching and learning and – hopefully – showing the student’s progress. But it also limits the tools at the teacher’s disposal to support that progress and drive it forward. An online learning environment like Google Classroom lets teachers pull together the best online resources for students to learn from, watch, evaluate and discuss. And it means students can debate issues, collaborate on tasks and submit work in one place.

Paper-based learning outcomes also leave the teacher with the time-consuming task of providing handwritten feedback when they could be using time-saving digital assessment tools to lighten the marking load.

With an integrated assessment tool such as StudyBee, which sits inside Google Classroom, teachers can give tailored feedback linked directly to assessment descriptors at the click of a button.

StudyBee’s customisable data analysis tools also allow teachers to check on pupil progress throughout the term and make decisions about the next steps in their learning with ease.

In order for educators and students to benefit from the digital tools that promise to drive progress in both teaching and learning and make teacher workload more manageable, isn’t it time we rethought the evidence culture and brought it in line with the best that education technology has to offer?

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