Formative assessment: A great if unusual example

In a previous post I wrote about the value of formative assessment. In this I discussed the value of measuring learning during delivery, not just at the end.

I also gave a practical example of of how I applied this in practice, getting great results, on a financial management course.

On a later course, this time on managing sewerage networks, I required each student to produce a summary of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and their use.

I needed to be sure that they understood what a SCADA system was, how it could be used and how the data needed to be protected.

Most students produced tidy, conventional one-pager but one apprentice technician, Josh Quin, decided to do his as a poem.

I was initially taken aback, thinking it somewhat frivolous. I could not have been more wrong.

Reading it, it was clear that not only did the student understand all the required detail, they had turned it into a poem which scanned decently well.

Impressive.  And all in 20 minutes.

The poem is below and you can download a copy here.


Once upon a time in a backwater called Coleshill there was a young operator, Jack. He was new to the site and had the plight: where he should plant his pack. 

To run the site Jack needed the SCADA, but about which he currently knew nada. 

He whipped out his work phone and made a call to John. Another operator who isn’t a bundle of fun. 

Jack excitedly ran up to John to ask him about SCADA, John reluctantly started giving the dogma: 

It’s mainly used for interrogating the kit, and show how well it is moving the s**t. 

Most of the time it tells us things are fine, but on the odd occasion bits gets covered in slime. 

Mainly it’s a build-up which will need to be unclogged, but the job will most likely get backlogged.” 

John doesn’t like the SCADA, because it takes all his time, because he could get randomly called to check on the lime.

It records all the data, by day and by night, so the whole world can see that things are running right.

The data’s backed up over servers and sites, so a computer crash doesn’t cause a big fright.

This is needed by the EA who keep an eye on things, and need lots of numbers to do their checking .

So John needs to keep the logs because its required by law, even though everyone thinks it’s a massive f*****g bore.

John tells Jack “you can find SCADA everywhere it’s laying all around. It can even be above your head or even underground.

It’s all interconnected, to a main place in the office, this is so that the bosses can keep on top of their profits.

They can see all the equipment and change things if needed, this is to keep to what the EA have told us is needed. 

They can also see if anything has burst, so that an operator can be sent out but having checked on SCADA first. 

If they wanted they can remotely control the valves from up top, but most of the time something’s jammed against the stop. 

The operator can then fix it, by pressing reset, if not something’s f****d and they’ll begin to fret. 

At this point a maintainer can look, from the other side of town, he’ll then come over to have a look and make sure the operator doesn’t drown.

 The maintainer will then say “this kit is probably broke”, and will ring the contractor who’ll send out a bloke.

 Both the maintainer and the operator both go home feeling lit, because it’s the bloke from the contractor who’s getting covered in s**t.

This is the rundown Jack, there’s not a lot to see. But it’s important stuff, take it from me.

Jack then ran out the van excited about what he has learned, happy with the knowledge that he had earned.

Now he knew how we could all sleep at night, happy in the knowledge that the SCADA was on site.

Josh Quinn, Severn Trent Water


I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post and found it useful. If you have thoughts on what I have written so far please leave a comment.

Also if you have an idea for another business topic let me know and I’ll be delighted to find a space for it.

Thanks again

Bob Windmill

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