the e-Assessment Association

End of Year Wrap Up keynote Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE answers questions on edtech, assessment and teaching

End of Year Wrap Up keynote Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE answers questions on edtech, assessment and teaching

Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE was keynote speaker at the eAA End of Year Wrap Up in December. Following his insightful presentation, Dr Graus has kindly given us his further thoughts on teaching, assessment and edtech.

Q: I know we are looking at edtech impact specifically in this session, but I wondered whether you felt we do enough to measure the impact of everyday teaching, and whether we go about this in the right way - do we incentivise and support teachers sufficiently in this respect?

The answers to this question are no, no, and no.

The measurements we have been mostly made to value are those connected with external accountability, for example, Ofsted or test and examination results.

It is only at very local level, and often perhaps incidental that we measure the impact of every day teaching on the child; the role-model aspect of the teacher, the quality of the relationships, the differentiation, the relationship in general not just with the child but also with parents and carers. All these things play an incredibly important part, but we don’t measure them, we don’t engage enough with how important they are.

The accountability of schooling is to the system and the structure, and not to the child and the community. I would urge schools to look at this very carefully and develop with the community different value sets that are about the child and the teacher as the leader of learning, rather than the manager of knowledge.

Of course, we do not incentivise and support teachers sufficiently, not just in this respect, but in any respect.  Successive governments have made teachers the deliverers of their content, their agenda, their test and examination outcomes, their inspection reports. There is an urgent need for teachers to be recognised much more as professionals; to have the title TR, just like the doctor has the title DR. The sticker “If you can read this, you should thank a teacher” needs to be on the back of everything everywhere.

Q: Edtech isn't new, it's been around for a long time and has attracted significant funding over the years, so why do you think it is important that we evaluate its pedagogical impact now?

We should, of course, always evaluate the impact of our work as teachers and the impact of the resources we use within that work. This is, if you wish, a kind of return on investment assessment, with the focus of the impact being the child.

It is perhaps more pertinent now that we evaluate the pedagogical impact of technology as a resource, partly because we are on the cusp of the next development in technology, the meta verse. The other part is we should be learning the lessons from the pandemic in a positive sense; the lessons that we positively can take away from online learning, online teaching, the wider use of technology, not just in teaching and learning but in delivering schooling. If we don’t look at this, then that would be a very significant opportunity missed I believe. The question here is: What do we want to keep and develop further and better? We strangely seem to be obsessed with returning to 2019, pretending as if nothing happened.

Q: Change or innovation is always difficult to introduce in a sustainable way, and it is important to actively engage all stakeholders in this process in order to maximise success - who do you think the key stakeholders are when we look at introducing edtech to support teaching, learning and assessment?

The question of stakeholders in education and schooling is always an interesting one.

I think we have a habit of over complicating these things. Put the child in the middle and everybody who interacts with that child in a learning sense and in a development sense is a stakeholder. So, it becomes like throwing a pebble into a pond, where the rings form around the point where the pebble landed. The question about technology, and who it’s for is then also answered. It is for everybody to a greater, or lesser, but always appropriate degree. This includes stakeholders in the school, but also of course stakeholders outside the school, in the family and in the wider community. We also always need to put Ed before Tech.

Q: Thinking about technology and assessment delivery, I was listening to England's former Secretary of State for Education, Estelle Morris, at an event the other week. She highlighted two key issues with the way we do assessment in England and I'd be interested in hearing your views on these and any evidence you've experienced in other countries who are approaching these differently:

1. We seem obsessed with age-related school assessment hurdles - SATs at age 11, GCSEs at 16 - rather than assessing students when they are ready to be assessed

2. Assessment is regularly used as an accountability tool for teacher/school performance - rather than for the student to support their learning journey

Estelle Morris, from my experience, is more often right than not. She is certainly right in the aspect of the two key issues in the way we do assessment in England.

We are obsessed with age related school assessment, hurdles, tests and examinations, and we do not assess students when they are ready to be assessed or indeed formally as part of progress. I also have a question as to what we do with that with the outcome of the testing and the assessment. We publish it, like an old-fashioned Polaroid photograph, and do very little with it otherwise.

Baroness Morris is also right in her assertion that assessment is regularly used as an accountability tool for teachers and school performance, rather than for the students to support their learning journey. Perhaps the word stick is more appropriate here.

The whole thing is, of course, connected to the fact that, historically, politicians don’t trust teachers. I don’t think they trust doctors either, but teachers are top of the league table when it comes to a lack of trust. Rather than engaging in a dialogue about schooling, education, children, and where we want to be, people with little or no experience sit in offices in London, dictating to the experts in the rest of the country, what they wish to happen. This is why we have Ofsted and the at times bizarre attitudes from within England's Department for Education.

There is little connect with reality. Teachers, inevitably, end up being the piggy in the middle. The whole thing is quite embarrassing really.

Q: Edtech innovation is all around us, with many examples offering significantly positive pedagogical impact, yet the education sector seems reluctant to move away from its 19th Century roots. Who do you think we need as 'champions of change' to help edtech innovation really start to revolutionise teaching, learning and assessment, rather than just tweaking the edges of existing practice?

We need to have a national debate about schooling (including further and higher education), education, and what it’s all for. This needs to be led by experts, not politicians or civil servants, with everyone invited to the table. We need to have a national understanding and consensus of where education is and where we would want schooling to go as part of that.

Until we stop treating schools and children as a political football, I’m afraid our progress will always be hampered by those who too often act in their own interest rather than in the interest of the children. I believe that the world of work in general and the business sector, in particular, I have an important active role to play in this , especially when it comes to identifying skills development and preparation for the world beyond schooling.

I also believe that we should revisit the concept of a professional association representing the teaching professions. The General Teaching Council of many years ago was a first attempt which was not given enough time to develop independently, and for political reasons was abandoned.  The government of the day did not like a profession thinking for itself. Trade Unions are in this case not the representatives of education and where it should go; they are the representatives of their individual members, and are not to be confused with such a representative professional body.  When such a body is established, we will have a professional, national reference point in education, like to British Medical Association is in its field.

Prof Dr Ger Graus OBE as a lego minifigure

Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE is a renowned figure in the field of education.

He was the first Global Director of Education at KidZania, and, before that, the founding CEO of the global Children’s University.

He is a frequent keynote speaker at some of the world’s leading education conferences, including Bett London, Asia, Brazil, LatAm; CET, Israel; CIIE, Mexico; DIDAC, India; EdCrunch, Russia; GESS MENA; LEAP, Saudi Arabia; TEDx, USA; YGA, Turkey.

He serves as a member of Bett’s Global Education Council, UK; DIDAC's Advisory Board, India; Junior Achievement’s Worldwide Global Council; chair the Beaconhouse School System’s Advisory Board, Pakistan; advise the Fondazione Reggio Children, Italy, and CET, Israel; and has been invited to help shape the future of education in Dubai as a member of the Dubai Future Councils.

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