If you think learning is something you can observe then you can check it is happening in every lesson. You can ask teachers to check… regularly… say, at points throughout each lesson.
If you think learning is something you can see and measure, you know if it is not happening. You can tell if students are being left behind. This must be because the teaching they receive is deficient.
If you think learning is visible; when you talk to students, when you look at books, when you listen to their discussions; a whole industry is created around searching it out.
But you can’t be in every lesson, look at every book, talk to every child. How do you know learning continues to happen when you aren’t there? How can you tell if students’ progress is rapid and sustained?
If you think students progress neatly, in a gradual flight-path of improvement, you can capture this through assessments. You can chart this journey, compare it to students who have already walked this path, predict what they might be capable of achieving.
If you think progress is like climbing a ladder of skills, you can articulate the steps on this ladder and work out which step each student is on.
If you think progress can be mapped, visual wonders can be created. Labels are attached to students and vast intervention programmes created for those not making the expected progress.
If you think these things, you will know the performance of every teacher, the impact of each intervention and what next summer’s results will be… unless you act now!
If you think these things, and believe that Ofsted do too, you will be ready with the data, the work samples, the observation records, the evidence of those teachers whose pay has been held back, whose capabilities have been transformed. You can show that no complacency around poor teaching and inadequate progress exists here… no sir.
But do students know how to improve? How will the gaps be closed if the students are not told how to achieve that higher grade? How will they produce better work in their books if the work they have produced is not deconstructed, redrafted and resubmitted?
If you think that feedback is something done late at night, in coloured pens, every week, you will create your policy accordingly. Teachers’ identity will be established and they will know that dedication means sacrifice. Habits will be formed in the teacher and in the student, who will develop an addictive dependency on the smiley face, tick and EBI.
If you think feedback shapes the quality of their work rather than the substance of their knowledge, you will measure its success by the apparent improvement in performance from one task to the next. You will know the quality of the feedback, its impact. A firm connection can be made between the teacher’s labour and the student’s progression.
If you think these things then your actions follow rationally from these beliefs. You have created the perfect system for driving progress, eradicating under-achievement and eliminating mediocrity.
It would be hard to admit that perhaps your understanding of these three words are wrong, because that would mean… well, that you’ve created a monster.