This grew out of a need to develop process or qualities in education but has far wider reaching implication. What is this need? Our curriculum is dominated by a curriculum with exam-oriented content. The basic goal of the current system is to achieve passes in an exam by the use of memory, and although after these exams the students have qualifications, or not as in most cases, what they actually learn is forgotten and wasted. That is because the focus is on the exams and the remembering of facts to pass the exam. What is important to learn is the process that leads to solving problems but this is difficult to test.
But it is far less difficult to assess. Every teacher knows which students’ processes are positive, but that is not evidenced anywhere when the student leaves the school. And what does industry want? Processes. Look at the research into critical thinking. Checkout the Microsoft competences, Microsoft has also produced a paper on critical thinking. The RSA has their own version of these <a href = competences in their Opening Minds project. Whilst business is unwilling to pay for educating their own staff in these types of competences, the words I have used for competences are process or quality, they are willing to pressurise schools to produce students with these competences – and they are willing to apply pressure where there is no solution and attempt to squeeze unsuited classrooms with outmoded restrictions such as exams into providing these competences.
Remove the restriction of exams and allow teachers to use their professional expertise to assess, and you have a Quality Portfolio that assesses these processes, qualities or competences. Students leave the school with this and take it to the employer or higher education where relevant qualities can be judged.
But apart from improving the quality of the curriculum this portfolio does one very important thing, it requires the student to engage with the teacher. At present the able student wants to pass the exam. If they have the ability to read a textbook and pass an exam, then there is no need for interacting with the teacher. Most students who want to pass the exam know that the teacher is the best source for doing so, and will engage with the teacher. Unfortunately because of the exams and exams being memory-testing, they only engage just prior to the exam and the rest of the time they just keep their notes up-to-date mostly ready for cramming for the exam. Whilst project work helps a little, this approach to education takes significant control away from the teacher, and in my view contributes significantly to ill-discipline in schools.
What about the majority of students? They are intended to fail the exams. Once they realise this, they opt out and disrupt classrooms damaging the chances of others. But what if they were taught about processes that would help them in a job – autonomy, independence, critical thinking etc. Then their education would become relevant to the world of work. And what if they were assessed by their teachers on their ability to carry out these processes? Then what the teacher says would matter to the employer. Then it would feed back that the employer is taking note of what is happening in school, and it has become relevant to the student. They would have to try to learn process. And what if the teacher assessed behaviour in this Quality Portfolio? Now at the moment if a teacher complains about a student the employer would ignore it – they know what hellholes schools are, they judge the candidates for themselves at interview. But with a quality portfolio attempting to address the needs of a real practical education concerned with process, the employer would look at the behaviour grade and use it as a measure of the candidate. This behaviour grade might be included in words like engagement or motivation, it wouldn’t matter – if the employer trusts the system then they will glean the information. At the moment most employers take the exam grades as the best of a bad situation, and hope through personal assessment in interview that they can see whether the student is good or not.
The Corporate Paradigm demands the exam system because of its creation of an elite who pass and a compliant workforce, but if the exams were removed and a QP was produced that was relevant to them they would be quite happy to change. Of course the publishers, stationery manufacturers and exam boards would not be!! And they have a very powerful influence on education policy.