Spotlight: Claudia Bickford-Smith

Claudia Bickford-Smith


Could you tell us a little about your background?

I worked in educational publishing in South Africa from the mid-90s until I moved to the UK in 2008. My background is developing educational resources that encompass scope and sequence, instructional design and assessment items in print, online and published in over 18 languages.

What started your interest in education publishing?

I started work in the NGO sector in South Africa in the early 90s where I taught English literacy in an Adult Night School in Langa Township, Cape Town. While in this post I developed curricula, assessment frameworks and learning resources to suit learners’ needs and support their teachers. I developed a life-long passion for enabling and transforming the way learners learn and teachers teach through the efficacy and range of learning resources.  

What do you find most interesting about working on international projects?

Recognising where there is a desire to move from didactic teaching approaches to more enquiry and problem-solving pedagogies. I like to work in partnership with Ministries to realise the potential for a combined, or coordinated, approach: defining the curriculum and pedagogy, designing their approaches to assessment, and the development of learning, teaching and assessment resources which reflect and support educational change.

What tips would you give to educators and policy makers involved in educational reform?

Ongoing concerns about a country’s performance in high-stakes benchmarking, or ‘consequential summative assessment’ requires more rigour and focus in relation to developing assessment tasks. But high-stakes assessment can drive negative classroom behaviour’ ie ‘teaching to the (summative) test’. It is better to develop a strategy that supports Assessment for Learning through using teaching and learning resources that include careful scaffolding, discrete item sets, classroom tasks and tools, games and collaborative projects to build on skills and inform – as all of these will improve teachers’ and learners’ own learning strategies. Learners will gain ownership of their own learning: they will ‘learn how to learn’. Teachers need to be supported in using formative assessment to gather information on learning progression: inferences and then actions to achieve the ultimate goals of ‘deep learning’, especially for higher-order cognitive skills that are reflected in the shift from didactic to creative, enquiry-based approaches.