At its heart, great teaching and learning involves careful planning to build upon what each child already knows and the skills and experience they already have.
As teachers we’re used to carrying a myriad of information in our heads about every child in our class - learning preferences, friendships, interests, family circumstances and of course a ton of academic information. However, relying on memory alone for lesson planning is fraught with danger and simply isn’t an effective or accurate approach.
Can you really remember the EXACT stage every child is at on their learning journey, for every subject, every goal, every milestone? Of course not.
What’s needed is a simple, visual and live snapshot of every child’s learning - a Gap Analysis for every child. Crucially this gap analysis needs to be personalised to the exact curriculum actually being taught in your school, and the assessment policies of that school: a one-size-fits all approach will not work, this has to be tailored to you.
For effective planning, it's vital that the information we use to aid our planning is detailed, live, relevant and honest (i.e. not skewed by accountability or reporting pressures).
When teacher judgements are aggregated into a single descriptor the richness of those judgements are lost. As Professor Rob Coe said recently “an assessment with twenty questions has twenty bits of information. A grade has just one”. It’s the twenty bits of information that are needed for planning and differentiation, not the one.
When old fashioned tracking systems are used for planning the danger is that children are lumped into ‘ability groups’ - the focus becomes their grade (however described or derived) rather than the granular detail of what they can and cannot yet do.
This misses the point of why Levels were abandoned, so if you’re still planning and differentiating by putting children into notional ‘ability groups’ then stop! (And read any book on the ‘Growth Mindset’).
There is a better way.
Teachers who have access to live, granular information for every child through a ‘Gap Analysis’ have the tools they need to ensure planning and differentiation is accurate, relevant and, crucially, that it advances the learning of every child.
“It has been fed back from one of our teachers that Learning Ladders has revolutionised their teaching!”
Patricia Watt, Deputy Headteacher, Hyde Park School