Trying to explain assessment through the metaphor of a cruise ship.



In the last eight weeks of the Summer term, I went back to teach in the class room. Something I now think all heads should do! I found an Outstanding school (2012) with no assessment maps what so ever, data that was meaningless as it did not relate to anything and schemes of work from the dark ages…. well prior to the national curriculum changes. How many other schools are out there like this? In order to try and explain this to staff, I came up with a metaphor based around a cruise liner. Here it is!

In 2012 the ship was sleek, the crew skilled, and the cruise liner sailed the sea of progress toward the finish line; which happened to be the North pole. This metaphor continued; the cruise liner then missed the message that the destination and finish line had completely changed and while they steamed ahead, they were driving further and further from the new destination the south pole. (the new curriculum and exams). Many of the crew saw other ships start to turn around and decided to jump ship. This meant that the chef was asked to clean windows and teach swimming to the crew. The engineer was asked to carry out the dance lessons and to sweep the floors. This meant the crew were spread thin, outside of their specialisms and with no time to talk to anyone and or to support each other.

In playing with this metaphor, I found a way to explain what I felt was also missing at the school, the assessment maps. Any cruise liner has a list of destinations that list the countries being visited. We have schemes of work. Yet, to get their passengers to their destination the crew needed additional information. Coordinates, maps and descriptions of the terrain below the sea, in effective schemes or assessment maps, misconceptions are identified and key points in students learning are described and shared.

Finally, this school had been marking like crazy since Ofsted but with no assessment map, the marking was detailed and had some impact, but not enough. Marking is the steering wheel in the ship metaphor, it allows you to tweak the direction a student is travelling in and keep them on course, to meet the coordinates and cross the terrain under the sea safely. But if you don’t have the assessment map, you can miss these coordinates. Or a student ends up zig- zagging left and right as they travel. Making progress but not fast enough, or with enough precision. The school I was at was zigzagging even though ridiculous amounts of effort were pouring into marking.