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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 04/05/2005

At a seminar a few months ago on changes to public services someone said: “the future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed.” In other words, we can already glimpse the future in various projects and approaches which are already happening. And this is certainly true with feedback – the theme of my last blog.

One of the biggest initiatives in education these days, both in Scotland and England, is assessment for learning or formative assessment and it is basically a way of ensuring that teachers give pupils more useful feedback on their learning. So, rather than assessment being about marks (summative assessment), it is about giving pupils the feedback they need to help them to improve and take the next steps that are best for them. Learning and teaching are therefore adapted to suit the needs of the learner. It would be great if this approach spilled out of the classroom into the staff room and we saw a generation of teachers able to give good feedback not just to pupils but also to one another.

What is interesting about formative assessment is that, in Scotland at least, it hasn’t been forced on recalcitrant teachers. It has very much been taken up by teachers themselves and they have enthused one another about its potential benefits. In other words, it has taken off in exactly the ‘social epidemic’ way Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book, The Tipping Point. Although the original impetus came from a national programme funded by the Scottish Executive called “Assessment is for Learning”, it hasn’t been pushed in a heavy, top-down way. In fact, a big part of the programme was about how to promote change effectively and so it has been using a bottom up approach from its earliest days. Let’s hope we see more of that from the Executive in the future.

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