Community context

Is the educational experience valued and endorsed by parents, community, employers and civil society?

'Community' is associated with social relationships, cultures and histories and with a collective sense of place and identity.

Some people and families may feel deeply embedded in their communities and benefit from extensive social networks; such social capital often brings status and advantage. Others, perhaps minority groups, may feel more marginal or even excluded. Such diversity is a very strong feature of contemporary life.

In this conceptual framework, ‘community’ is seen both as a resource to support learning and as denoting stakeholders for accountability.

TLRP’s research has consistently shown the significance of informal, out-of-school learning. Those in the community can thus be a great support for learning, if constructive and trusting connections are established.

However, those beyond the school gate are also positioned as consumers. Parents, employers, inspectors and others expect children to receive high quality education. Forms of pedagogy and assessment increasingly have to be justified – hence the concepts of warrant and dependability.

Curriculum

Connection: does the curriculum engage with the cultural resources and funds-of-knowledge of families and the community?

'Only connect – live in fragments no longer', wrote E. M. Forster. This thought can be applied to the meaningfulness and linkage of the curriculum with the communities which each school serves. TLRP’s Home-School Knowledge Exchange project affirmed the knowledge of families and devised ways of drawing this into the curriculum. Outcomes in literacy and numeracy improved and transfer between Key Stages 2 and 3 transfer was facilitated (Hughes et al, 2007, 2008).

Taking this idea rather further, the Cambridge Primary Review recommended that 30% of teaching time should be framed by a community curriculum drawing on local organisations, resources and environments. In the secondary context, the links which already exist to employers and other community organisations might be expanded.

The underlying theme here is about the contextual meaningfulness of the curriculum. Whilst national frameworks exist in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, local adaption is likely to enhance both the perceived value of schooling and the quality of learning.

Pedagogy

Warrant: are the teaching strategies evidence-informed, convincing and justifiable to stakeholders?

The word 'warrant' has several meanings associated with forms of authorisation and justification, ranging from the Royal Warrant to an arrest warrant (see also page 7).

In relation to pedagogy, the concept of warrant challenges us to justify our practice to stakeholders such as parents, employers and learners themselves. We defined pedagogy earlier as 'the act of teaching, together with its attendant theory and discourse' (p 4). Further, it was suggested that maintaining a sound educational rationale and forms of reflective practice can support continuing improvement in the quality of professional judgements (p 8/9). This is one clear way of fulfilling the responsibility, set out in the Codes of Conduct and Practice of the UK GTCs, for maintaining the quality of teaching.

Assessment

Dependibility: are assessment processes understood and accepted as being robust and reliable?

How much confidence can we place in different forms of assessment? Technically speaking, high dependability arises when an assessment is both valid and reliable – it measures what it is intended to measure and it does so with high consistency.

Consistent reliability is not easy to achieve. As TLRP’s Commentary on assessment pointed out (Mansell and James, 2009), this can be undermined by unfair or biased marking and by variations in standards applied by different teachers. Other studies have shown how differences in testing situations or in pupil preparation can affect performance. Electronic marking may achieve consistency in that respect, but struggles on some tests of validity. On the other hand, teacher assessment is likely to strengthen the validity of judgements made, but remains vulnerable to inconsistency unless moderation processes are taken extremely seriously.

For all these reasons, the dependability of school assessments always has to be worked for.