Many stakeholders in our workshops emphasised the importance of gathering evidence that related to students’ character development, which could be reviewed by Ofsted. A multi-criteria approach to measuring character development would blend qualitative and quantitative measures… In other words, character development in schools should not be reduced to a box ticking exercise.At Building Learning Power we have developed a way of gathering data about learning that gauges students’ emotional, cognitive, social and strategic habits. I visit about 400 secondary classrooms every year – never as the inspector, I’ve done enough of that, but as a critical friend or coach. Invariably, I am there by invitation in schools that are committed to a mature and open debate about learning. I’m interested – like all the hundreds of teachers with whom I’ve worked – in how students are learning and what opportunities they are being given to develop and progress those habits that they will need across the curriculum and in their lives beyond school. More important than the data collection are the coaching conversations that this fuels, as teachers look hard at their practice and identify missed opportunities and changes they can make that will ensure that their students are engaged with learning, understand themselves as learners, make useful choices about how best to learn, and are able to carry these competencies with them into other contexts. Great schools keep learning under review as part of their professional commitment to sustained improvement. I pass on to schools the observation tools that we at Building Learning Power have developed, so that they can use them to guide their own agenda independent of me. Such schools do not wait for an external monitoring visit or rely on internal checks, they encourage all teachers to be the kinds of reflective practitioners that the system has so far inhibited. So, there are two great opportunities at the start of the new school year:
- respond proactively to the Ofsted agenda and learn to gather the kind of data that shows that students are making real progress as learners;
- use the current commitment to character based learning as a way of refocusing your school’s vision and goals.