This post has come from discussions at my school about target setting and a Twitter exchange with @LeadingLearner regarding flight paths.
@Leadinglearner describes 3 flight paths for target setting: Good, Outstanding and World Class. This got me thinking about how targets are set and how staff are accountable for results. What I really like about Stephen’s process is that he’s talking to staff about it. He’s engaging the people that will be teaching in order for these grades to be realised. It is a joint process where questions, concerns and ideas can be shared. Discussion leads to deeper understanding and in turn will lead to greater feeling of ownership of the data. I believe that these staff will be more confident in their teaching and may well in turn have students with better results than those who are just ‘given’ target grades at the start of a year with no idea how they’ve been derived.
Whilst the ‘world class’ flight path may only be achievable by some, isn’t it better to offer this to students than to put an invisible cap on their achievement?
This leads to me to my teaching. I teach AS Critical Thinking in KS4 to our able students. They are usually students who achieve level 7 in English at the end of KS3. My belief is that if we let them do another GCSE instead, that they would get another A/A* to add to a collection. If they had time, they could do 20 GCSEs and get A/A*s. So, the course I do with them offers challenge. It is supposed to be hard for them. It is supposed to stretch them where another GCSE might not. And on the whole, they love it!
They achieve great results, last year’s cohort achieved above the national average for this course.
Imagine my surprise when I looked at their GCSE results in the other subjects they took. I won’t go into detail but I will say I was shocked but actually more disappointed for them. They’ve actually achieved an AS but didn’t get a C at GCSE. How can this have happened?
Of course, there are many contributing factors and I don’t in any way want to seem to be ‘blaming’ a teacher or a student. I am genuinely interested into how this situation has arisen.
This is my conclusion. If we set high expectations, students will meet them. If we make excuses for these students then they underachieve. If we think ‘World Class’ at least we have a chance of getting there. If we don’t even offer a glimpse of the possibilities we limit achievement.
So how will this work in reality for me? I have a top set for RE this year. They’ve already proven themselves to be exceptional. They have asked questions in several lessons that I actually don’t know the answer to! I have found myself learning alongside these students. What a privileged position to be in. So, how will I make things ‘world class’ for this group? The ‘computer’ gives targets ranging from C-A. I told them that all their targets are A*. I expect nothing less. I will push them, set challenging work for out of class, make them draft and re-draft, give them 1-2-1 support and everything else I can possibly to ensure they get an A*. It’s the top goal. Challenges along the way may make me rethink but it’s our starting point.
They deserve an A* and it is my expectation that they will get it. RE will be ‘World Class’.