Tick box teaching

“Students are frustrated at being in an era of tick box teaching.” John Dunford’s report of the remarks made by two secondary school students to the SSAT national conference will strike a chord with many. See the link below.


I am puzzled that nowhere in his article  does John Dunford admit that school leaders share any responsibility for the tick box culture. The tick box approach to teaching academic subjects is something which has not been demanded by the government, but by SLTs who have become hooked on strategies such as APP and Assessment for Learning and have applied them rigidly in ways which their authors probably never intended. Dylan Wiliam himself has, in his own words, spent much of Chapter 3 of his book on embedded formative assessment “railing against the use of success criteria”. I wrote about PiXL in a previous post, since this organisation is particularly keen on a tick box approach to teaching and producing checklists for everything under the sun.

Teaching academic subjects does not have to be like this, but appears to have been made this way in too many schools. John Dunford seems to think everything will be solved if teachers can devise their own curriculum, as was the case previously. I am not sure how this will stop the obsession with tick boxes which is mistakenly termed assessment for learning, but another thought has occurred to me. If academic subject teaching is made as mind numbingly boring as possible, by constant use of checklists and success criteria, we will no doubt all wish to embrace the “Claxtonite” alternative of learners learning how to learn.

The Assessment Without Levels Commission stated that there is no intrinsic value in recording formative assessment; summative assessment grades are all that needs to be recorded and this should not happen more than once a term. If this recommendation were to be universally adopted, the increasingly “tick box” approach to teaching would be stemmed and teacher workload reduced. I wonder what John Dunford would say about that…….


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