This article highlights a 2014 paper by Britain’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) focused on what makes for outstanding teaching, learning and assessment. None of these messages in this article are surprising or, in fact, new!

In the last issue we looked at a paper prepared by Ofsted published in 2012. It was concerned how providers can improve. It covered what sorts of things make an impact to provider quality and why. This time we are taking a deeper dive into their core business: teaching learning and assessment.

Quality teaching, learning and assessment: Why it’s important?

Australian VET providers, like further education colleges in the UK, have “a fundamental role in supporting learners’ future economic prosperity, besides promoting social and educational inclusion.” They are also there to support Australian industry and assist them in accessing well educated and trained workers.

“Learners … need the very best teaching to ensure that they remain on track and are able to take the right next steps to secure a future of sustained employment.” They may also have had a chequered past as learners, at least in terms of their formal educational experiences.

The article in the last issue of VDC News not only highlighted the things that made providers successful, but also those which act as barriers to success. This present article from Ofsted is more focused on those aspects of practice that contribute to high quality teaching, learning and assessment practice.

What makes for quality teaching, learning and assessment?

It’s about having sharply focused and responsible management and leadership teams in VET’s providers that establish “a mission and a set of values and objectives that clearly and in simple terms placed a priority on giving learners the very best learning experience and [ensure] a corporate approach to developing and delivering high quality provision for them.” It is also about having a high stakeholder contribution and involvement in getting things right, including from the students. Finally, it requires a considerable commitment to professional development of the RTO’s staff.

Having quality teaching, learning and assessment needs “an unrelenting focus on developing the skills learners need for progression to their next step, including employability skills,” highly effective sharing of good practice within and across teaching teams and the development and sustaining of high-quality on-the-job training and assessment through excellent links with employers.

It’s about the teachers too!

Ofsted’s inspectors find that teachers who understand the purpose of teaching, learning and assessment, and are very flexible in the use of a wide range of teaching strategies and approaches, help successfully enhance all learners’ development, regardless of their ability levels. They base these strategies and their approach on developing learners’ essential skills and knowledge in vocational specialisms as well as the wider range of skills needed for progression and employment, adapting these quickly and effectively according to learners’ progress.

Really effective teachers “consistently measure the success of their approach by how well learners develop their understanding, skills and knowledge.” They also understand clearly the importance of assessing learners’ progress frequently, not only to provide feedback but also to help their planning and adaptation of learning activities to make them as effective as they can be. They set relevant and interesting assessments that challenge learners at all levels and have a strong link to their future career aims. Then they provide high quality feedback that is focused sharply on further skill development.

The best teachers “use their subject or vocational expertise very well to inspire and motivate learners and to underpin the high expectations they demand of them.” Teachers also need to be “excellent role models and understand the significance of the influence they have on learners’ aspirations and potential for success.”

There are lots of good guidelines in this paper. It’s worth a look! Erica Smith and Keiko Yasukawa looked at what makes VET teachers great too. You can access that 2017 paper here.