Section 3.1 -
Students should learn how to assess the quality of children's talk.
If students are to be able to help children develop their skills in speaking and listening, they will have to assess the ways that children talk, for example when they are working together in a group. The Speaking and Listening component of the National Curriculum highlights some aspects of the quality of children's talk:
'Pupils learn to change the way they speak and write to suit different situations, purposes and audiences. They read a range of texts and respond to different layers of meaning in them. They explore the use of language in literary and nonliterary texts and learn how language works.'
'Pupils learn how to speak in a range of contexts, adapting what they say and how they say it to the purpose and the audience. Taking varied roles in groups gives them opportunities to contribute to situations with different demands. They also learn to respond appropriately to others, thinking about what has been said and the language used.'
Student teachers need guidance, focused activities and discussion in order to recognise key features of children's talk. They need to learn to evaluate talk and subsequently use their decisions to inform planning of further speaking and listening activities.
A main concern for assessment is to consider how well the talk suits the kind of event in which children are participating. Criteria are likely to be different, depending on whether they are talking in a group, making a presentation to the class, engaged in a drama-related activity, discussing ideas in citizenship, and so on. Helping any child improve their current competence requires some sort of assessment. Talk is difficult to assess because it is context dependent and ephemeral, but good opportunities for assessment occur regularly, especially in 'talk-focused' classrooms where both teacher and children are aware of the importance of speaking and listening for learning. This is the situation students need to be able to both recognise and create.
There are of course some aspects of evaluating children's talk where great sensitivity is needed. The ways people talk can be closely related to their identities, and student teachers may rightly worry about making evaluations of some aspects of a child's way of speaking such as their accent. Student teachers will need to appreciate the distinction between on the one hand using an assessment to help a child to become more involved in learning conversations, or to develop their presentation skills, and on the other trying to alter a child's accent or to ban the use of dialect in the classroom simply because it 'sounds wrong'.
The DfES has provided some guidance on the moderation of assessments in Speaking and Listening, as follows, which can be downloaded from the website: http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/keystage3/