Author/s Papers on Drama & Mantle of the Expert Pages
The Sign in the Theatre

An introduction to the semiology of the art of the spectacle
by Tadeuz Kowsan

Download here – PDF document


A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert

“This inspirational and informative book brings to life the Mantle approach to teaching with first hand examples from current teaching.The author explains it concisely and clearly, taking the reader through the stages of deepening the children’s interest and engagement and outlining the curriculum threads within. This book is a must have for every school and every teacher.”

“This is the book I wish I had had when I was starting out as a teacher. And even now, twenty-one years on, I know it’s one I’ll return to again and again. Tim doesn’t just tell us – in simple, clear and glorious detail – the what and how of Mantle of the Expert. But he delves beautifully and sensitively into the why. He shows us the importance of perspective in building children’s capacities for acting with grace, responsibility and thoughtfulness. He examines the careful balance between freedom and rigour that the pedagogy offers. He gives clear and engaging examples from his own practice and ultimately, he reminds us that to be a teacher is to be a guide into a future in which children are equipped with the power to build a better world.” – Debra Kidd

We are currently sold out, however, the book is back at the printers and will be available in early February 2018. If you would like to preorder a copy please email
Please note overseas shipping will incur the following P&P costs:
£5.00 within Europe, £10 rest of the world.

Select region


From the introduction
From Ch.5 – Creating imaginary contexts for learning
From Ch.8 – Questioning

Click here to access the Resources Pack

Paperback: 255 pages
Publisher: Singular Publishing
Graphic Design: Emily Benton
Photography: Steve Beaumont

Information for book shops and other buyers of multiple copies

Paperback: 255 pages
Publisher: Singular Publishing
Publication: July 15th 2016
Isbn-13: 978-0993557200
Isbn-10: 0993557201
Binding: Sewn bound
Copyright: Tim Taylor
Edition: 1st
Publisher name and address: Singular Publishing, 9 Rigby’s Court, Norwich, UK, NR2 1NT
Book Weight: 1kg
Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.1 x 24.5 cm

To order multiple copies please email:

Tim Taylor is a teacher. After five years working in schools in Egypt, Czechoslovakia, and Spain, he became a primary school teacher in 1995. He is currently a freelance teacher and teacher-trainer in Mantle of the Expert, and since 2006 has been a visiting lecturer at Newcastle University and for the Qattan Foundation in Palestine. A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert is his first book.
Tim is the editor of and blogs at
You can follow him on Twitter at @imagineinquiry 


Post to UK – £15

Post to Europe – £20

Post to Rest of World – £25

Important information regarding Ofsted & Assessment

I’ve recently read two important documents regarding changes to Ofsted and the new arrangements for school assessment. These changes will significant affect primary practice and the way schools monitor teaching and learning, as a consequence they are essential reading for everyone in primary eduction.

The first was published by Ofsted in May 2015:

Ofsted inspections – clarification for schools

The purpose of this document is to confirm facts about the requirements of Ofsted and to dispel myths that can result in unnecessary workloads in schools. It should be read alongside the ‘School inspection handbook’.

This document is intended to highlight specific practices that are not required by Ofsted. It is up to schools themselves to determine their practices and for leadership teams to justify these on their own merits rather than by reference to the inspection handbook.

Lesson planning
– Ofsted does not require schools to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors. Equally, Ofsted does not require schools to provide previous lesson plans.
– Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.

– Ofsted does not require self-evaluation to be provided in a specific format.

Grading of lessons
– Ofsted does not award a grade for the quality of teaching for any individual lessons visited and it does not grade individual lessons. It does not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons.

Lesson observations
– Ofsted does not require schools to undertake a specified amount of lesson observation.
– Ofsted does not expect schools to provide specific details of the pay grade of individual teachers who are observed during inspection.

Pupils’ work
– Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders. Ofsted recognises that the amount of work in books and folders will depend on the subject being studied and the age and ability of the pupils.
– Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.
– While inspectors will consider how written and oral feedback are used to promote learning, Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers.
– If it is necessary for inspectors to identify marking as an area for improvement for a school, they will pay careful attention to the way recommendations are written to ensure that these do not drive unnecessary workload for teachers.

Evidence for inspection
– Ofsted does not expect schools to provide evidence for inspection beyond that set out in the inspection handbook.
– Ofsted will take a range of evidence into account when making judgements, including published performance data, the school’s in-year performance data and work in pupils’ books and folders. However, unnecessary or extensive collections of marked pupils’ work are not required for inspection.
– Ofsted does not expect performance- and pupil-tracking data to be presented in a particular format. Such data should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to track and monitor the progress of pupils in that school.
– Ofsted does not require teachers to undertake additional work or to ask pupils to undertake work specifically for the inspection.
– Ofsted will usually expect to see evidence of the monitoring of teaching and learning and its link to teachers’ performance management and the Teachers’ Standards, but this should be the information that the school uses routinely and not additional evidence generated for inspection.
– Ofsted does not require schools to provide evidence for each teacher for each of the bulleted sub-headings in the Teachers’ Standards.

Statutory provisions
– Ofsted will report on any failure to comply with statutory arrangements, including those relating to the workforce, where these form part of the inspection framework and evaluation schedule (Part 2 of the ‘School inspection handbook’).

The second was an article written by Prof. Dylan William for Teach Primary

Planning assessment without levels

Let me be clear. I was a huge fan of the system of 10 (later eight) levels that Paul Black’s Task Group on Assessment and Testing recommended to Kenneth Baker (then Secretary of State for Education) in December 1987, not least because it was based on the work that Margaret Brown and I had done on levels of achievement in graded assessment schemes, and Carol Dweck’s early work on mindset. I actually did my PhD on national curriculum levels. And had we stuck to reporting student achievement at the end of each key stage—which is still the only legal requirement—everything would have been fine.

But then schools started reporting levels every year, and then every term, and then on individual pieces of work, which makes no sense at all since the levels had been designed to be a summary of the totality of achievement across a key stage. And then Ofsted inspectors insisted students should make a certain number of levels of progress each year and started asking students what level they were working at, in response to which schools started training students to answer appropriately. And don’t get me started on sub-levels…

So that is why, when I was appointed as a member of the Expert Panel to advise the Secretary of State on revisions to the national curriculum, I recommended that national curriculum levels should be abolished. Not because the levels were a bad idea, but the way they were being used was getting in the way of children’s learning.

Some people are happy about this. Others are not. But levels have been abolished, and the Department for Education is not going to recommend anything to replace them. It will be up to each school to decide how to determine whether children are learning what they need to be learning. Some schools are planning to continue with national curriculum levels for the time being. That’s fine. But it is important to realise there will be no straightforward way to carry levels forward from the current national curriculum to the new curriculum.

Most importantly, Ofsted inspectors will no longer be able to walk into a school and assume they know how a school is monitoring student progress. They will have to ask. And as long as the school has a good answer, they will be OK.

Think what’s right for your school
Developing an assessment system will be challenging, to be sure, but primary schools now have an opportunity to develop assessment systems that fit their curriculums, rather than trying to shoehorn their curriculum to fit a predetermined assessment system. And because every school’s curriculum is different, the best assessment system for one school may be useless for another. Ultimately, each school will need to find an assessment system that meets its needs.

Companies are already falling over themselves to offer ‘assessment systems’ to primary schools, but it is important to realise that most of the solutions on offer are really recording systems, not assessment systems. They allow teachers to specify what they are recording, and then, once information has been entered into the system, nice reports will be generated at the touch of a button. However, before a school decides how it wants to keep track of student progress, it needs to decide what it’s going to keep track of. Moreover, there can be no off-the-peg solutions, because the assessment needs to match the curriculum in place in the school.

What follows, therefore, is not a blueprint for an assessment system, but rather a set of principles that schools should consider as they design, and over time, refine, their assessment system. These principles will often be in tension, so there can never be an assessment system that satisfies all the principles, but by thinking about these principles, schools can ensure that the compromises and trade-offs they are making are ones with which they feel comfortable.

1. Start with big ideas
A school’s assessment system could assess everything students are learning, but then teachers would spend more time assessing than teaching. The important point here is that any assessment system needs to be selective about what gets assessed and what does not, and so the assessment system needs to focus on the ‘big ideas’ in each curriculum area. For example, place value is a central concept in the understanding of our number system. Without a profound understanding of place value, most of mathematics makes little sense. Roman numerals, on the other hand, is not quite so important. As the headteacher or a parent, I would far rather know how a child is doing in terms of their understanding of place value than their knowledge of Roman numerals. You can’t assess everything – be selective.

2. Identify learning progressions
Once a school is clear about the ‘big ideas’ on which the formal assessment system will focus, it makes sense to think about the ways in which students will get there. Not all students will follow the same routes in their learning, but the assessment system will need to collect evidence of how students are progressing towards the goals.

3. Establish checkpoints
Once the learning progressions have been identified, it is useful to establish ‘checkpoints’ along the way, which can either be intrinsic to the subject, or driven by extrinsic demands, such as the need to report to parents. Intrinsic checkpoints might include particular issues that are known to cause some students difficulty, or significant stages in development. Extrinsic checkpoints would include end of years and key stages.

4. Determine where the evidence will come from
It is one thing to say that we want to know whether students can “use inference and deduction” in their reading. It is quite another to decide what evidence we need to enable us to conclude they can, or cannot, do this. Some of the evidence may come from formal tests or set-piece situations such as interviews or discussions with children. Some evidence will come from marking and some will come from just observing children. Obviously, the more formal the assessment procedure is, the easier it is to record the evidence, but schools also need to make sure that the desire to record evidence for purposes of external accountability does not result in high-quality ephemeral evidence being ignored.

5. Think about how the evidence will be accumulated
In particular, schools will need to decide how much evidence is needed before a child is regarded as being able to do this. This is tricky because almost all students may be able to demonstrate a particular competence in one context, and no-one will be able to do so in all contexts. Simplistic rules of thumb like requiring a child to demonstrate something three times to prove they have ‘got it’ are unlikely to be helpful. Sometimes a single example of a child using something learned in one context in a very different context will be convincing evidence of mastery. At the other extreme, a dozen repetitions of a particular skill in similar contexts may mean very little. Here, there is no substitute for professional judgement – provided, of course, ‘professional’ means not just exercising one’s judgement, but also discussing one’s decisions with others, to establish that they too, with the same evidence, would have drawn the same conclusion.

6. Set targets thoughtfully
Too many schools set ‘minimum target levels’. The problem with such targets is that given our ability to predict future performance is so poor, the targets are hopelessly undemanding for some students and really challenging for others. A related problem is that due to the use of monitoring and tracking systems that have become popular in England over the last decade or so, we tend to use current performance as a guide to future performance. This may sound innocuous enough, but it is a recipe for reproducing the status quo. For a child in Year 3, the minimum target achievement for the end of the year should be the level of achievement they need to thrive in Year 4. For many students this will be a relatively undemanding target, and higher targets should be set. But for lower achievers, the aim should always be to break the cycle of failure and do everything we can to get that student to where he or she needs to be. In response, some people might say this target may be too ambitious, but my response would be to change the question. Instead of asking “What level of achievement should we have as a target?” we should ask, “What do we need to do to make sure that this child is ready for Year 4?” As Rick DuFour says, “Don’t tell me you believe that all students can succeed. Tell me what you do when they don’t”.

Assessment is a good servant, but a terrible master. Too often, we start out with the idea of making the important measurable, and end up making the measurable important. By sticking clearly to a set of principles for the design of an assessment system, schools can ensure that the assessment system supports learning, rather than gets in its way.

For those interested in learning more about the approach outlined in this article, see Principled assessment design by Dylan Wiliam, published by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (

Cecily O’Neil working with Year 3 – “Mystery Virus Hits Holiday Island”

By TeamWoodrow

It was a pleasure to host the West Midlands Mantle of the Expert Network weekend at our school at the end of November. Thanks to Iona Towler Evans, David Allen and Kate Katafiasz for bringing the best people to our school! Cecily O’Neil is a respected drama practitioner [google her!] and was focussing on the use of story in the classroom. She started the session with the children by talking to them about their classroom and their current work. They agreed that they would tell a story together and use drama. This led smoothly into her writing up the headline “Mystery Virus Hits Holiday Island”.

“I was told you were doctors…” Some children said they were photographers [linked to their current work]. Cecily accepted this whilst reinforcing the main aim of the work;  ”I need doctors…” and they were off! The story was developing. The children worked in role to establish what was happening on the island. Their suggestions of blue tarantulas carrying a virus  was woven into the story and fortuously linked to a blue bottle of antidote!

What I particularly liked about the work was the way in which Cecily stopped every so often to tell the story; she described this as an arbitor role similar to a narrator. This enabled her to reinforce points but also to move the story on; for example she said, “So they flew home and were greeted at the airport by reporters” setting up the next task.

Throughout there was a deliberate mixture of public and private tasks; publically responding to an authoritative figure and engaging with a group of irate patients and privately rehearsing or talking 1:1. This stucture ensured that everyone was engaged and active. Cecily talked about the demands made on the children during the drama work:

  • social – talking to adults in role, listening to each other; talk to half the children with the others having a reason to listen
  • language – use of words such as toxic, constraints on the interaction i.e. “Don’t panic the patients” and rehearsing interactions
  • drama and theatre skills – media interviews and a dip into forum theatre [working on a problem “Let’s test out what it will be like when…” by scaffolding the conversation/ action]
  • working with constraints – developing thinking i.e. only a tiny piece of paper for a message in the bottle.

Discussion following  the hour session focussed on the depth of the demands on the children. They were constantly thinking, making connections, finding answers to questions, seeking explanations, making hypotheses and speculating. This was “serious playing”. Cecily was “most impresssed” by the levels of involvement. The social dynamics of our children were the “best I’ve worked with” and on finding out that this was a mix of children from two classes Cecily stated that they were “a remarkable group”.  On discovering that our school is in one of the most deprived areas of Worcestershire one of the adults commented that they were more like middle class children. Hmmm – I think it was intended to be a positive comment but I’m not sure what to make of that!

It was a privilege to see Cecily teach our children. As always there is much to reflect on and take into our own teaching.

More stories of science and mantle of the expert from Jericho

I am working with a team of five deeply committed science teachers in Zbeidat School for boys in Jericho area that is in fact, a long drive away from the town of Jericho itself.

Hassan, Basil, Deia, Mahmoud and Fatima have formed a community of science/MoE practitioners amongst some local schools led by Dr. Nader Wahbeh at A.M. Qattan Foundation and instructor at Birzeit University. Over a period of time we hope we will be assessing the teachers for their MoE Quality Mark Award, with the intensive support that only the Walid and Helen Kattan Science Education Project – Qattan Center for Educational Research and Development (A.M. Qattan Foundation) can achieve.

At the school, high rocky ridges and a broken community that lives on the edge of their lives surround us. These people survive by working on the massive Jordan Valley agriculture illegally confiscated by Israeli palm forest complexes and in the pathetically limited land they are allowed to have as their own. It is a small community stretched out across and along a narrow strip of land in the throws of political strife concerning ownership. The Oslo Agreement has been broken so many times, as we witness illegal homeowner occupied Settlements in near completion, just above the school on the high ridge with spectacular views across the valley itself. All this made possible by the hi-tech building technology of fabulous wealth brought in by Israeli construction firms.

Battles with text book disease

We are struggling with trying to change the way the science curriculum is actually taught in Palestine to a more inquiry based and student centered method and create a change in the system toward praxis. My good friend Dr. Nader Wahbeh, director of the programme and a man with unstinting vision whose leadership is so inspiring works alongside me. It is he who asked if I would assist the project team on advice and practice with the system known as Mantle of the Expert. Also with us is Samar Kirrish, a Senior Researcher that happens to volunteer as a translator as well. Samar works with the Jericho teachers coaching and developing science praxis on a one to one basis. Also, Rami Muhtaseb – Project IT Manager, and Shadi Baker, program coordinator, are with us to record our efforts on film. Together, we are taking the first steps in developing a cohort of teachers with the will to enter the struggle for change using mantle of the expert contexts and with some pretty steep opposition.

Our task is very challenging. We are not, however, the only ones who are convinced that change is urgent we discover. Everyone we meet is horrified by the thought of children being driven by such text book drivel from the Ministry policy level, Science Supervisors, Head teachers and teachers. One thing we all know is that the textbook culture is awful and holding back the brilliant minds of children. But another thing we also know is that the status quo is hard to change.

Reference only?

The unit in question is the one that is hard to teach. ‘Ourselves’. Who on earth conceived of such a unit anyway? It concerns all the obvious stuff. Our 5 senses, which we are, our growth as humans, what we eat to keep us alive, the importance of fitness and healthy food etc.

We must also remember that Palestinian teachers have little chance to pick up any new ways to work so their understanding about the teaching of science is very skimpy to say the least except the rare trained subject specialist science teachers of course. So the textbooks, we are assured, are for reference only. ‘It is up to the teachers to make the teaching and learning gripping’…so the story goes. But those of us who have been around in schools know the truth.

We know across the world what happens when a teacher gets hold of a textbook. Some sort of malignant power in the damned things have a grip on the teacher who seems unable to do anything other than become its slave and enslave the children too. Step by step they tread through the textbook without any looking up. So our challenge is not to burn every textbook we can get our hands on (which secretly we want to do of course). Conversely, it’s to help teachers see the potential of linking these so-called support materials aka ‘textbooks’, into experiences worthy of youngsters paying attention to.

The venue of the ‘training’ I will provide is in the school resource area where there is air conditioning, for two days between 10.00 and 2.00. Ramadan is in force so energy levels for those of us who are following the discipline can vary quite a lot and are, at times, very low. What a lesson this has been for me. I had no idea of the demands Ramadan places on Islamic ways of life, as I know many London children will be going through the same. I also hear that London this year (2013) is hotter than the Middle East and for those following the rules of the fasting, people are not permitted to drink either until after dark at 8.00 pm. All this for a month.

Our first job is to dissect the year 1-4 units of work into scientific concepts. We unpack the first set of textbooks…then decipher together what the concepts in the first unit on ‘Ourselves’ actually are? We list them on the board and recheck we have got it right. Not so many as we thought actually and many of them can be referenced in a short time but some could involve a lot of investigation. For example how come some people in the world live so long and others don’t? Much discussion, again this concept goes beyond the textbook as longevity is dealt with in year 10. The point did not need to be made by our teachers, as they fully understood that the texts books put a glass ceiling on children’s knowledge skills and understanding.

Do we have to touch something to know what it feels like?

I happen to ask what a scorpion might feel like and if this would be a good entry into ‘our senses’. Our five-teacher team took delight in the question, as no one in his or her right mind would ever pick up a scorpion. So I pursue the issue a little further. What might it feel like if we were to pick one up do we suppose…they were beginning to pick up the gist of the line of inquiry, yes, of course, whilst no one would dare touch one with bare hands we can IMAGINE what it might be like if we did. We speculated on the possibilities and the teachers began to construct ideas about bringing in soft-coated animals to compare the real with the imagined. I am sure there will be lots of frowns from readers, but the image of touching and really touching helps questions abound – how do we know what our fingers tell us? Is it our fingers that speak to us or is their something else? Messages perhaps? Where might they go? Where might they start? What might be happening under the skin of our fingers?

We realized that this was an important principle in the quest to get children to think and be challenged. For me I hoped to take the journey from the inquiry mode into the mantle of the expert mode….we find ways to help us by avoiding the instructions and interventions that define for the children WHAT to think rather find them contexts where they are encouraged WHEN to think so that they are challenged HOW to think. This was very a helpful set of principles to guide teaching inquiry, the teachers present tell me.

Later that week, I happened to be running a workshop after the seminars in Jericho, with their Science Supervisors, whose job is to ensure science is taught well. They began to see that the questioning and inquiries set up in such a way, could reach way beyond the text book sequences, as ‘brain working content’ learning awareness only comes in when the children are in grade (year) nine I am told.

Breeding conversations

Anyway back in Jericho, as we got discussing…

We were all genuinely excited that the simple but apparently straightforward way into the unit had so much potential. I happened to mention that I had never seen a wild scorpion in my life, which was immediately met with shock, as well as with delight. Apparently, I am told in a flurry of Arabic hard for Samar to translate in time, there are hundreds of them flitting around in the environs of Jericho and of course, the school and it will take only a minute to find one to study. We start to project our teachers mind to a class! Imagine. We invent in the now of time a teacher with a ‘safe box’ to hold the scorpion as an exhibit. Then we hear related the many stories about scorpions, their life cycle, eating and birthing habits. All punctuated by Hassan who tells us of all the experiences he has in walking the surrounding dessert in former life styles for many year before and during his time as a teacher. We also hear of the venom, the antidotes and serum as well as the snakes that abound in the area. The biodiversity in Jericho is staggering and of course there are the plagues of locusts that arrive, biblical in their ability to consume forests in an hour. The Locust Watch programme is so sophisticated now compared to the past, though people are still employed as permanent eyes on the earth to spot any of the dreaded ‘Hoppers’ which will turn into the voracious decimators known as the black locust capable of eating a countries reserves of food in a few hours when they come by their billions.

In the meantime, the excitement about scorpions gathers pace. But when we have done this discussing part of the lesson, I am asked, what then?

The breeding grounds for MoE

Those of us who use and tackle units of work through mantle of the expert, can immediately see a possible chink into an imaginary context.

‘Who might help people who have been stung by a scorpion?’ I ask.

‘You might have to go all the way to Jericho Town for a doctor and if it’s a child, the child might die on the way.’

‘Suppose we were able to set up a scorpion and snake centre to help people stung by scorpions and snakes around Zbeidat?” I ask as innocently as I can. The teachers are on to me! They know how MoE works from previous sessions.

“Well we could have a place that not only deals with stings and bites, maybe they can study them as well?”

“If we go for that then, should we draw some ideas of what it might look like?”

Hassan says this is a good idea and Basil suggests we have a team to work on the sorts of resources and tools to find them and a team to draw the scorpion centre. I ask if anyone would like to do this…stupid question as the 5 teachers immediately get on with the task supported by Nader and Samar.

It’s mid-day and the temperature is climbing fast. Then the AC goes off. The room reaches a stifling heat of 50 degrees Celsius in seconds. The electrical suppliers, who I believe are in Israel, shut off the electricity I am told at the hottest part of the day and in any case the wires are not strong enough for the current when everyone turns on their ACs.

We stop and open a few doors for air and in the process, more heat.

I was wondering who might use our centre?’ I ask.

‘Anyone who has been bitten or stung’, they tell me, ‘scientists who want to find out more about the creatures and have questions to ask, or maybe someone who wants to write a book on them or draw them’.

‘Are there any special sorts of questions they might ask?’ I reply.

‘Well they might want to know how long they live, or how many there are around here, or the different colours. The yellow is the most poisonous.’

‘Do you suppose that people who are building their houses or shelters need anything from us?’

‘Yes, they might want us to check that the scorpions are out of the way before they build anything its what we do anyway. No one likes a scorpion.’

‘So shall we start then?’ I ask, ‘just to see how it could go? How about I represent a neighbour who wants the scorpion clearance of some land?’

We do some in fiction steps, using drama strategies, teacher in and out of role, participants in role, though the teachers are keen to write down the plan then make a copy for all the teachers in the project.

It is agreed that the first experiment will be ‘running a scorpion centre’ as part of the units for Ourselves, ‘Habitats,’ ‘Local animals’, ‘Growth and growing’ including ‘Similarities and Differences’ as they could all be reasonably investigated in this context and by the method. The teachers have their cross-curricular eyes in and can see the way this will work in September when the children come in.

The AC comes on and in five minutes, goes off again. We agree that we should stop as its two o’clock anyway. In the meantime, I have also introduced the team of teachers to the Demand -Commitment tool, taught to me all those years ago, by Dr. Heathcote. What a useful set of power sharing steps this is and worthy of significant study I assert. We have also analyzed its workings through our own work in reflection, by identifying the exact tasks used by me as the teacher attempting to model the process. In all we feel we have made great progress, even in the heat. We also agree to find a scorpion tomorrow for me to see…

Next day the scorpion hunt is on!

It is hot. Ten o’clock and the temperatures have soared to 37C. There is also a mix up and a mini disaster. The keys to the school have been lost as the premises, like many in the UK, was used last night as a community centre. The last user has lost them and very sorry. We need to find the spares. Hassan we discover through a phone message to his son Deia, will not be here today either, as he has been called away by the Ministry to go to another Government science course.

Things are not looking bright as we wait in the air-conditioned taxi. I learn that everything can turn ‘on a sixpence’ as my mother would frequently tell me. So it was today. The wonderful feeling we had yesterday, of a team doing the work of gods, suddenly left us as we discovered that Basil will also be very held up. The Qattan team contemplates going back to Ramallah. But almost immediately, Basil arrives and Mamoud finds a spare key with a neighbor. Fatima who wasn’t here yesterday, smiles brightly and in English tells us ‘it will be OK!’

She is right. We make a clankingly slow start-and then I ask if anyone has found a scorpion? We have some sheepish looks when the translation is made. No one admits to finding one… ‘how about we go out and find one?’ I say. This is met with great enthusiasm and energy. Good idea it’s agreed, as well as fun, so lets go see if we can find one.

We leave the cool schoolroom into the scorching 40-degree heat and go behind the school up into the high ridge just below the Illegal Settlement, turning over stones, looking under cooler bricks and places where there is moisture. I am learning a lot about desert living. We search for 10 minutes but none of us has any luck at the back of the school. Maybe it’s too hot, the team says, for scorpions to be moving and I can believe them. Ten minutes was easily enough for me in the vicious heat. Just then Deia calls out. He has found one, and a little too close for comfort. Its in the small garden area two feet from the door we entered the school. A strange little creature not half an inch long and very dark. Even stranger still is that such a small creature could pack enough venom to make a man very ill and kill a small child. I am informed it’s best if we want to study the creature at close range by putting it in a plastic bottle. It will come to no harm and so much easier for us to observe its tail and other features.

The room is very quiet as we watch the small being move to and fro and wonder how such a creature evolved, became so feared with all the mysteries and legends it evokes. We must have watched it for around 7 minutes in almost complete silence, watching it first moving around in the box we brought it and then in great detail after Rami helped us get it into the bottle with some nifty coaxing.


Unbeknown to the teachers I had done a great deal of background reading the night before on the hotel’s Internet in Ramallah and discovered so many strange pieces of knowledge about this secretive little creature. I would rather have found other sources but I am a long way from home so could not get to any good books and manuals. I discover for example that in the UK we have 5 colonies of the African green and yellow striped scorpions based in and around the Isle of Sheppy in Kent. This for me is a great shock and even more so for the team as they have never heard of one that colour. These African species are deemed harmless in that they only pack a sting like a bee and are also very shy.

The big question of course is where on earth did they come from? The team had many interesting goes at dredging the information from me. I suppose the fact that Sheppy is on the river Medway and it was once a fantastic port in the old days of world shipping perhaps they smuggled themselves aboard a vessel and landed in the UK. I also discovered that they can cope with temperatures from minus 52C to over 60C. It’s quite a survivor, but the team tells me that it’s a creature best left alone. No wonder not much is known about the species. Revulsion and fear as well as a total hatred is heaped upon this animal notwithstanding the many myths that are believed as facts.

Our morning then began in earnest, with all the myths and facts we knew about the scorpion. We found huge amounts of misconceptions amongst ourselves. For example we thought they had 6 legs. When we got a chance to count them up close we discovered that they had 8 legs prompting further questions from me about 8 legged creatures. We agreed that this little creature, although the bane of many people’s lives, was in fact full of inquiry questions.

Final thoughts, until later on in the year

We do some more work on identifying the concepts in other units as well as identify the strands of planning for the Scorpion Centre.

Our drama colleague at Qattan, Malik Malawi, has worked with this five strong team on introducing drama strategies and structuring the work so that dramatic learning features very highly. I ask if they would like to finish the day with some drama that will trigger a Socratic dimension in the structure. They agree. I ask if they could agree that I represent a visitor to the centre and where I might arrive. The teachers agree and inform me of the layout of the centre.

I introduce myself in a shadowy role mode (not twilight role though) as someone who will pay $100 for every yellow scorpion found. We have a round where the teachers decide on face value whether they will accept the offer. All except Mamoud say no.

We agree that I am to be asked a series of questions about my motives all of which I refuse to answer in any detail. A huge discussion is triggered, concerning animals for cash, animals sold for the raising of cash for supporting children in need, exploitation of people by richer nations. To move the work forwards, I agree to answer their questions in the fictional mode. They discover the figure is full of guile and as his motives are unclear. As little more information is forthcoming from the figure he is asked to leave the centre post haste. Conjecturing further, Mahmoud imagines the figure might want to use the animals to sell to dubious people who in turn, might want to torture people for example. Unless we know more he has to go. Mahmoud saw through the man again advancing a theory that he is not who he says, and could be working for the secret services…

We agree that the sequence told us a lot about the values of ourselves in the mode of Centre Staff at the Scorpion centre. We also agreed that there is much to explore about ethics, morality and the place of science in the environment as well as motivations of people. All of us agreed that we had a perfect example of creating the conditions for the WHEN to think whilst discovering HOW to think as the process unfolded as well as the intervention methods used in facilitation.

Further learning’s for us all

The teachers feel that although the exercise was contrived as a last task for us, it certainly had a lot of potential for learning. They really liked the effort and excitement of doing drama together in this way. It was agreed that we needed to add a whole list of possible clients-some who may cause us challenging thinking for example, around the ethics of animal keeping for example, as well as scientific researchers, food suppliers for snakes and scorpions, toxin makers and photographic evidences for hospitals in trying to enable identification of different snakes so that anti venom can be administered in time.

Strange that from a position of hating these little creatures a change in attitude was beginning to be aroused it seemed to me.

We bade our farewells in the Arabic style and agreed the 2 days had been very fruitful for all concerned and listed the things most useful. We then went to the local factory and bought dates, a favourite food at this time of Ramadan. According to Qur’an teachings 3 dates is all you need at the 3.30 am meal after prayers. They are very nutritious the team tell me and some say the fruit of Allah.

We return with our taxi driver to Ramallah. Nader and I spend some time, whilst grinding up the wondrous Jericho basin, working out scientifically if a palm fruit is a fruit after all or something else. It has a stone like an olive so is the olive a fruit? No surely not. But later that night we hear that the palm has four phases of reproduction and seems be able to turn from vegetable to fruit…. oh dear, more uncertainty, just when I thought everything was easy to understand.

Luke Abbott

Ramallah Palestine 19th July 2013



History Lessons Regarding

Luke Abbott

President of NATD

A little background may help people comprehend the unique opportunity I grasped to raise the profile of what I and many others believe to be one of the most significant educational inventions of all time, that of Mantle of the Expert©. This opportunity was also at a significant time in the history of education in the UK. I did this in spite of deliberate and obstructive opposition from a number of quarters, in the firm belief that MoE needed to be disseminated beyond the few and to happen urgently. For me, the time was right in 2005.

Our actions are never without motivation, investment, models and stand points so I am no different from any one else in that respect. However, perhaps I have some experiences that might be relevant. My father was a Greek Cypriot émigré escaping the terrible life he had as a peasant on the fields of the Kiko Monastery for his first 18 years. In Palestine to this day peasant people can be seen doing the same work and, unfortunately, in the same conditions. Such conditions often result in the abuse of people both physical and mental and my father’s life was no exception to this fact. He faced physical beatings from the monks as well as his parents who staunchly believed that we ‘suffer the little children’. What a terrible curse on the world of children that little phrase caused and probably still causes. In Islam physical punishment is prohibited in the Qur’an.

It is the way of the Orthodox Middle East. He was a deeply committed Greek Orthodox believer.

My mother came about from the union of the son of an Irish Gypsy Traveller family from around Dublin and a farm workers daughter from the Giant’s Causeway both deeply Catholic. The spiritual and intellectual poverty experienced by both of my parents was not passed onto me directly as they strove to give me a schooling and a way of life away from such strife. They left the poverty and fled to England. My father joined the British Air Force and saw action in the 2nd World War my mother working in the war factories as a young woman. But the indelible images brought to me by stories and memories of the past from both of them caused such a rage on this form of poverty in me, that my life has been coloured in all my being to strive to bring it to an end somehow as best I could.

We are all the results of so many experiences so perhaps the history of MoE was started then so long ago when I was born, in 1950.

It was with great attention to detail that we set up the website and the infrastructure to teach the particular method called Mantle o the Expert. Having contacted Dorothy Heathcote herself on the matter in 2005, she talked me through the best solutions I had in mind. She further agreed to be the guiding attendant at all stages of the development. I remember her saying ‘You will have to face a lot of people who will not like what you’re trying!’ I laughed at the time.

Having Dorothy as willing partner was essential. Later on in 2006, I was beginning to loosen myself from the chains of Advisory and Inspection work, and in the Blair administration under the guidance of David Hopkins (Education Policy Group) the Primary Strategy was initiated. Research grants were available for schools facilitated by the local education authorities. It was here that the idea struck. What if we could set up a small local network of 12 schools in Essex to research MoE by applying it as a mode of learning across the curriculum? We were bound by protocol to concentrate on boy’s achievement, which was woeful in Essex at the time, especially boys from white working class backgrounds.

So I had the idea.

One that for me was the seed of what later became Mantle of the The idea was to link the schools as a network and talk to each other via the then new technology of interschool communication. Our impacts were staggering across the network. Teachers reported a huge upsurge of written outcomes for boys as they tackled the problems of snakes in the Everglades, landing on the moon to trial new ways to live and finding unearthed tombs at the times of the Pharos. We had to publish our results so we sheepishly did so on obscure data reporting places through e mails to Essex Statistics Offices who then collated them to publish to the then DfEE. We were a little embarrassed at the successes so played them down in case people thought we were exaggerating!

We have come a vast distance since then in that field of data collection. Because of the National Networking Strategy (such a fantastic vision of David Hopkins and later developed into a School Improvement tool by NCSL) we were contacted out of the blue by a school in Newcastle, of all places, which had heard of our attempts to reach out into this new thing called the ‘Creative Curriculum’. We later discovered our network had been classified under this heading in the government red tape. They were very keen to hear of any ideas and asked to be kept in touch. This we did and it resulted in a great deal of talking about learning through the imagination. I also went up to run various conferences and teachings in schools. One of these was a disaster and unfortunately witnessed by Eileen Pennington one of Dorothy’s closest friends and fellow practitioners. We all knew that we were learning so the event soon passed! Eileen also ran many workshops at our National conferences.

(In any case the head teacher still invited me back…)

As the technology improved it became possible for other schools in the Creative Curriculum network across the UK to have access to others and their experiments. We were inundated with ‘hits’, a new term I had no idea about at the time. So many, that we had to separate ourselves from the main activity. It was then that I had the fortunate luck to employ Tim Taylor to Essex advisory unit. He had the supreme skills and knowledge of MoE and communications technology as Sue Eagle, his head teacher at Tuckswood First School, deeply troubled by poverty traps, had been busy promoting the work in her school under Tim’s AST leadership. Sue was a supreme creator of networks allowing Tim to extend the work throughout Norfolk schools. During an inspection by HMI of the school it became clear that Tim’s work was doing exceptionally well. The inspection reported that the use of the ‘class based enterprises’ had been seen to have amazing impacts on ‘hard to reach’ children. Rapid progress could be seen and there was the first of the ‘assessment informing practice’ comments now so common. At the same time Bealings Primary School received the first HMI designated Outstanding and Unique school judgment. No school had been awarded the ‘unique’ status, ever. Duncan Bathgate the Head Teacher had laid out his plan to use the MoE planning throughout the school. He even had a visit from Dorothy who stayed a day and ran workshops with children and teachers alike.

The first nationally recognized impacts due directly from the MoE community, though of course Dorothy had also the results of her work with a TIE team in Spondon who had gained similar results.

Clearly, something important was happening in primary schools that were using MoE.

Ofsted at the time were able under the direction of HMCI to issue special recommendations for research projects to schools gaining outstanding for curriculum practices during inspections. Therefore, because of the quality of the report, Tuckswood was awarded a Post Inspection Research Grant to take the creative curriculum work further in the school, but more importantly, in the locality. Bealings Primary was already recognized as a Training School by NCSL and was busy working with local schools to promote the system in any case.

We must remember that this was all new. The school-led activity was designed so that new skills of networking and researching could be attempted outside the auspices of the local authority. Norfolk however was extremely interested in the work under the then Assistant Director Fred Corbett who supported MoE in as many ways as he could. Tim Taylor led the research activity and together we set up a small MoE community of practice across Essex and Norfolk. It would be fare to say that these pioneers lead the way to a much bigger community later on. The research group needed a place to develop their skills and Tim found Ringsfield Hall. We then ran weekend MoE immersion experiences with me as tutor. What a coup this was. Tim had begun his apprenticeship with me some years before and this was the next natural step for us to develop the work into the main stream beyond Essex and Norfolk. We would be able to advertise the weekends to others to come along and learn the basics of the system and keep everyone involved by the ongoing development of the MoE website. By coincidence we have kept Ringsfield Hall as a viable unique residence that follows similar attitudes and beliefs to us.

Around this time, I asked colleagues in ND if they would be interested in developing MoE as a possible addition to their electronic collections. Although they declined, we have to understand the position at the time. Websites were new and hardly understood. They tended to have a batch of articles or materials that were unattractive to people in general, as they were just ‘repositories’ for texts that were of little use to any one except researchers and student teachers perhaps. All this was of course was about to change forever.

The world of Apple Macs and self-constructed websites was years away and in any case, so few people had grasped the possibilities for the future use of such sites, the technology however was emerging faster than lightning. For most of us, it was such a job to keep up with it all. Many of us lacked the e vision. The websites were also meager as the expense of hiring programmers and other professionals was just too much to keep them going.

ND kindly said that since, in their understanding, MoE was a convention of drama, they declined to put any resources into any specialist development under MoE. This was absolutely understandable at the time. We were unfortunately, too early in the website game even though the MoE community had begun to amass a growing set of plans and structures as well as the famous Heathcote Toolkits and Constructs. It is hardly surprising that a huge international organization such as ND would not take this up at that time.

Question: What to do?

Answer: We would have to take the plunge and invent our own website.

The work involved would be massive and in those days, expensive. We needed friends and pioneers in the fields of web construction as well as new ways to attract people to browse through the contents especially planning examples for teachers.

I took the step of asking Tim to construct a website with web designer, Richard Heyward funded by the Primary Strategy in Essex, who gave us permissions to use the county logo in the first ever electronic website for teachers to share practices in MoE.

Having set up the technical possibilities, I then approached Dr. Heathcote with much trepidation at a tutorial in 2006 to go over the whole infrastructure and strategy to promote and teach people how to use her brilliant invention. By then I had learnt through teaching with children all over the UK and abroad how it worked in classrooms. In fact I left Newcastle in 1982 and returned to drama teaching at Stantonbury Campus Milton Keynes. For nearly 10 years I did my teaching apprenticeship in learning how MoE worked in a secondary school with 2000 students and could work across the curriculum with some successes (and disasters of course) along the way. The results of the following years drama GCSE’s speak for themselves as over the 1982-1991 Drama GCSE all cohorts of all 300 year 11 students per year managed to average 85% A-C. This was possible as I was franchised by Mike Davies the Head Teacher, to teach all staff interested in the teaching of drama and later, MoE.

I am sure with Mr. Gove’s 2013 eyes, these would not bear scrutiny, but I was extremely proud at the time. The success I believe was due to the new ideas I had commandeered from my work with Dorothy, except I was doing no more than any other of her former students. What were we supposed to do anyway-forget all we learnt with the misguided perception that Newcastle was some sort of nirvana never to be taken away to the provinces? I had invested a vast amount of energy commitment and financial hardship to learn from Dorothy and I have a rather hard-bitten view that if you know something, use it especially if was hard fought for.

In 2007 it was time to move into the National arena as authorities up and down the country were under a new set of financial constraints. We had the Local Government Cabinet Structure to deal with. Suddenly, the Cabinet in Essex directed that Education, Libraries and Schools Services had to find ways to fund activity beyond statutory requirements. Thus began the MoE National Conferencing programme under a new and visionary Traded Services manager Christian Van Neuberger. Under his guidance we set up nationally structured conference programmes, which were hugely successful. These were all planned in significant detail and collaboration with Dorothy who was truly delighted at the idea of teachers teaching teachers, as I insisted that teachers in the field supported by advanced practitioners conducted the workshops. In Dr. Heathcote’s view expressed at all the conferences in her keynotes, this was the best form of learning for CPD.

Dorothy also agreed to lead each conference with a keynote address and run a workshop to ensure cohesion and the message that as the work needed deep attention to detail, this would be adhered to. All materials we used at each conference were scrutinized by Dorothy to keep the quality assurance crystal clear. We selected practitioners of national quality to run workshops as well as teachers who were in trial process. We linked a national figure with each teacher as joint presenters. Expensive but very powerful.

The conferences honored Dorothy’s work and in a conversation I had with her when taking her back home to Spondon, she admitted that the conferences had triggered a new renaissance of her work and she was very grateful, though of course this was yet another of her gifts, deep humility. I also remember that Gavin Bolton came to the Newcastle conference in 2007. His amazement that so many people were flocking to hear Dorothy again and so many using MoE in the workshops had made him realise that the deeply complex and controversial system MoE had, in fact, got many advocates, users and admirers. He also applauded the attempts we were making in establishing a place where teachers could investigate the system to learn more. In this way he asserted, the complexity of MoE as a system would not be lost, as he had pre-asserted in his book on the history of drama just published at the same time.

For me it is interesting to note that Gavin was my assessor in 1974 back in the days of the RSA Diploma for Drama in Education. I had attended every workshop lead by him whenever I could. The first workshop I did with him was in 1971 in Suffolk. He and Hugh Lovegrove (the then Redbridge Drama Adviser) came into a lesson where I was working with a class of 10 year old children addressing a land ownership squabble between a farmer and group of migrant workers who wanted to stay on his land for a few months…I had been on a Heathcote workshop in Barking and seen her work magic with a similar aged class and I wanted to have a go on my assessment day. Chris Havel, my very fine friend and tutor, had supported me in taking the risk as he knew of DH’s work too. His wife was also a former Advanced Diploma student of DH’s. It was Gavin and Dr. John Fines who advised me 7 years later to embark on a long-term course with Dorothy at Newcastle upon Tyne University as one of her early Master in Education students. It was a year like no other. Dr. John later became a great friend and ally and also came into our working party on Learning and Teaching at Stantonbury Campus Milton Keynes from 1982, then onto Essex to the year of his sudden death.

As a past Masters student of hers, (1981-2) and having worked with her in many ways over the years, by 2006 I knew the pitfalls of rushing ahead on an idea to promote the ideas of the greatest teacher of all time. I knew by observation that Dorothy was very capable of cutting people out of her life in the event of any acts of guile or stupidity and I was determined not to be one of those unfortunates. In any case I had, before and after the years of my Masters course, sought her assistance in many matters concerning the teaching of drama and MoE in particular, as it was the focus of the work of the year I studied with her. I had one of the famous tutorials in her rooms just about twice every year from 1981 to 2012. Whilst I do not count myself as one of her inner circle, I do believe that Dorothy allowed me to keep delving into the infrastructure of the system time and time again, even up to her death. Even now I am aware that I only gathered an inkling of what the system was about and could become. One of the gifts she had for me was her generosity. In my attempts at finding the solutions to the matrix of MoE I went through many experiments to find the most directly understandable of the ingredients of making it work. I was determined to share it with others and shout it out loud for the world to hear. There is still so much to find out of course. Maybe, one day, we will gather the Heathcote tribe and find out?

We must remember that back in the 1980’s only a handful of people had been inducted into the working practices of MoE. Many of the Australian, New Zealand and US academics that studied with her at the time had commandeered her work into their teachings obviously using all they could to promote it forever more. Her influence is everywhere in our work and why she had to wait so long for the establishment’s recognition is a mystery to me. She deserved at least a Dame hood.

In 2010 came the matter of Quality Assurance. The fear both Dorothy and I had was that once the secrets were out of the bag, anyone would be able to play MoE, metaphorically speaking of course. We waited to see if anyone other than the trained people would try to set themselves up. We did not have to wait too long as we discovered shockingly superficial courses on offer from people we had never heard of and could not be traced to the conferences, nor any of our training or school based teaching places nor the attendance lists of Ringsfield Hall.

Something had to be done. I had the idea of possibly patenting the term Mantle of the Expert or any of its derivatives allowing only bone fide people to use the term in their work if they were trading. Dorothy agreed, so I went away to find out the costs, which were mountainous. We decided to split the costs and went ahead and patented the term in Europe to protect the name and the quality. We had found information on the internet that firms of educationalists were springing up all over the place and selling their wares to whoever would buy! Such is the state of our education system under the ultra right wing market forces then emerging in education and now so firmly established as fact.

Then the Quality Mark procedures were invented. Dorothy thought this was a splendid idea and worked with me to agree the criteria. She was worried that the educational theories and application standards needed to be built in so we created routes to academic levels under the direction of Professor Harriet Marland at Bishop Grosetteste University Lincoln (once the province of Geoff Redman another of Dorothy’s Diploma Students.) This enables people to work towards M credits through the University systems of awards and the TDA.

In one of the MoE Training Schools – Woodrow First School-we see the results on poverty-ridden children not far from my own parents experiences. The Head teacher, Richard Kieran, has invested much of his own time and that of his staff in developing and training learning as he goes along. It was his team of staff that came to Ramallah Palestine to teach alongside teachers in schools in Jerusalem how MoE can liberate the mind and soul through the use of drama strategies within its system. One of his practitioners has just completed her Masters final dissertation using MoE as the key focus of her work. There are many others in the pipeline.

Some critics may have the view that here we are, a bunch of teachers, ex- teachers, ex-inspectors of schools and ex-students of Dorothy Heathcote benefiting from an invention created by her. However there may also be the view that now more teachers are using a method deeply routed in her practices as her name is always prefaced and honoured in all we do and talk about. Her legacy has also been seen in the recent highly acclaimed Heathcote Reconsidered conference, under the vision of Pam Bowell, another of Dorothy’s ex-students. Workshop presenters it is reported punctuated the conference with many samples of the applications of MoE methods.

Maybe then, it is not so strange to observe the upsurge of MoE coming at a time when the website has been and continues to be so, without any charges. Planning from teachers across the world is placed on it so that anyone can have free access to the experiments of teachers their trials and materials.

The site has been copied by New Zealand colleagues under the direction of Dr. Viv Aitkin at Waikato University and copied directly into Arabic for the Qattan Arts Foundation in Palestine at vast costs in translation and the detail required to scrutinize each concept and word. David Davies and Wasim Kurdi have made this possible. Furthermore, as schools in the UK under the New Curriculum, begin the take the reins of power to establish their own destinies they can use what others in the field have found successful for learning. The highest accolades received from HMI in the present time and in the past in the inspection of primary schools using MoE methods is not by achieved by accident but by design.

Our critics may well berate us for the position we are in but the results speak for themselves given that much was established in a past that is closed. People just do not use materials or procedures when told. If they find it themselves and want to know more we at can support them. The planning strategies for MoE have come from within the profession itself and perhaps the position of a community of practice supporting the movement for applied drama practices is the actual manifestation of the visionary educational world David Hopkins NCSL, HMI and the IoE had all those years ago.

With such evidences of impact on the poverty of children’s intellectual and spiritual beings, surely it can be seen that with the overwhelming accolade to the work of Dorothy Heathcote we are doing no more than commandeering all we know that can benefit children throughout the world. Quite a legacy by the founder of a system called Mantle of the Expert?

Her former students in my view have such a duty to perform and I am doing it my way in a technical sense, until I am taken away in a box with or without permissions from anyone.

Our destinies are ours to fashion. I have found mine and am content with it.

Luke Abbott Ramallah Palestine July 14th 2013

New Heathcote Articles

Dorothy Heathcote has recently published two entirely new articles on mantle of the expert for the NATD. You can download and read these articles by clicking on the links below:

Productive Tension. A Keystone in Mantle of the Expert Dorothy Heathcote
Internal Coherence. A Factor for consideration in teaching to learn Dorothy Heathcote

The NATD website is

Dorothy Heathcote – New Essay on Creativity

Please click here to read Dorothy Heathcote’s recent essay on creativity for the London Borough of Redbridge.

Assessment for Learning

Position Paper on Assessment for Learning from the Third International Conference on Assessment for Learning

Dunedin, New Zealand, March 2009

ʻAssessment for Learningʼ and ʻformative assessmentʼ are phrases that are widely used in educational discourse in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. A number of definitions, some originally generated by members of this Conference, are often referred to. However, the ways in which the words are interpreted and made manifest in educational policy and practice often reveal misunderstanding of the principles, and distortion of the practices, that the original ideals sought to promote. Some of these misunderstandings and challenges derive from residual ambiguity in the definitions. Others have stemmed from a desire to be seen to be embracing the concept – but in reality implementing a set of practices that are mechanical or superficial without the teacherʼs, and, most importantly, the studentsʼ, active engagement with learning as the focal point.

While observing the letter of AfL, this does violence to its spirit. Yet others have arisen from deliberate appropriation, for political ends, of principles that have won significant support from educators.

For example, ʻdeciding where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get thereʼ, has sometimes been (mis)interpreted as an exhortation to teachers to (summatively) test their students frequently to assess the levels they attain on prescribed national/state scales in order to fix their failings and target the next level. In this scenario, scores, which are intended to be indicators of, or proxies for, learning, become the goals themselves. Real and sustained learning is sacrificed to performance on a test.

In contrast, the primary aim of Assessment for Learning (AFL) is to contribute to learning itself. This follows from the logic that when true learning has occurred, it will manifest itself in performance. The converse does not hold: mere performance on a test does not necessarily mean that learning has occurred. Learners can be taught how to score well on tests without much underlying learning.

Assessment for Learning is the process of identifying aspects of learning as it is developing, using whatever informal and formal processes best help that identification, primarily so that learning itself can be enhanced. This focuses directly on the learnerʼs developing capabilities, while these are in the process of being developed. Assessment for learning seeks out, analyses and reflects on information from students themselves, teachers and the learnerʼs peers as it is expressed in dialogue, learner responses to tasks and questions, and observation. Assessment for learning is part of everyday teaching, in everyday classrooms. A great deal of it occurs in real time, but some of it is derived through more formal assessment events or episodes. What is distinctive about assessment for learning is not the form of the information or the circumstances in which it is generated, but the positive effect it has for the learner. Properly embedded into teaching-learning contexts, assessment for learning sets learners up for wide, lifelong learning.

These ideas are summed up in a short second-generation definition of Assessment for Learning generated by the Conference in March 2009. This is intended to make clear the central focus on learning by students. The definition is followed by some elaboration of it.


Assessment for Learning is part of everyday practice by students, teachers and peers that seeks, reflects upon and responds to information from dialogue, demonstration and observation in ways that enhance ongoing learning.


1. ʻeveryday practiceʼ – this refers to teaching and learning, pedagogy and instruction (different terms are used in different regions of the world but the emphasis is on the interactive, dialogic, contingent relationships of teaching and learning).

2. ʻby students, teachers and peersʼ – students are deliberately listed first because only learners can learn. Assessment for learning should be student centred. All AFL practices carried out by teachers (such as giving feedback, clarifying criteria, rich questioning) can eventually be ʻgiven awayʼ to students so that they take on these practices to help themselves, and one another, become autonomous learners. This should be a prime objective.

3. ʻseeks, reflects upon and responds toʼ – these words emphasize the nature of AFL as an enquiry process involving the active search for evidence of capability and understanding, making sense of such evidence, and exercising judgement for wise decision-making  about next steps for students and teachers.

4. ʻinformation from dialogue, demonstration and observationʼ – verbal (oral and written) and non-verbal behaviours during both planned and unplanned events can be sources of evidence. Observation of these during on-going teaching and learning activity is an important basis for AFL. Special assessment tasks and tests can be used formatively but are not essential; there is a risk of them becoming frequent mini- summative assessments. Everyday learning tasks and activities, as well as routine observation and dialogue are equally, if not more, appropriate for the formative purpose.

5. ʻin ways that enhance ongoing learningʼ – Sources of evidence are formative if, and only if, students and teachers use the information they provide to enhance learning. Providing students with the help they need to know what to do next is vital; it is not sufficient to tell them only that they need to do better. However, such help does not need to provide a complete solution. Research suggests that what works best is an indication of how to improve, so that students engage in mindful problem solving.

All of these regions were represented at the Conference:
• Australia
o Val Klenowski – Queensland University of Technology
o Juliette Mendelovits – Australian Council for Educational Research
o Royce Sadler – Griffith University
o Claire Wyatt-Smith – Griffith University
• Canada
o Geoff Cainen – Halifax Regional School Board
o Anne Davies – educational consultant, British Columbia
o Lorna Earl – OISE University of Toronto
o Dany Laveault – University of Ottawa
o Anne Longston – Province of Manitoba
o Ken OʼConnor – educational consultant
• Europe
o Linda Allal – University of Geneva
o Menucha Birenbaum – Tel Aviv University
o Filip Dochy – University of Leuven
o Mien Segers – University of Leiden and University of Maastricht
o Kari Smith – University of Bergen
• New Zealand
o Sandie Aikin – New Zealand Educational Institute
o Mary Chamberlain – New Zealand Ministry of Education
o Terry Crooks – University of Otago
o Lester Flockton – University of Otago
o Alison Gilmore – University of Canterbury
o Peter Johnson – University at Albany – SUNY
o Jeff Smith – University of Otago
• United Kingdom
o Richard Daugherty – Cardiff University
o Carolyn Hutchinson – Learning and Teaching Scotland
o Mary James – University of Cambridge
o Gordon Stobart, Institute of Education, University of London
o Ruth Sutton – education consultant
• United States of America
o Susan Brookhart – education consultant, Montana
o Frank Philip – Council of Chief State School Officers
o W. James (Jim) Popham – University of California, Los Angeles
o Rick Stiggins – ETS Assessment Training Institute, Oregon

For Example:
1. ʻAssessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get thereʼ. In Assessment Reform Group(2002)Assessment is for Learning: 10 principles. Downloadable from http://www.assessment-

2. ʻPractice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicitedʼ. In Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (2009) Developing the theory of formative assessment, Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability (in press).

3. ʻFormative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve studentsʼ achievement of intended instructional outcomes.ʼ State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards, Council of Chief State School Officers, USA . (Source: J.Popham (2008) Transformative Assessment, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

4. ʻFormative assessment is a planned process in which assessment- elicited evidence of studentsʼ status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics.ʼ In J.Popham(2008)Transformative Assessment, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jenny Lewis 3G Assessment Report 28

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