What if assessment was replaced with evidence of learning?

I am just one of many who believe that the way forward for education is to have assessment that falls naturally out of the learning. This stops assessment being the driver and puts the important thing – the learning – back in focus.

So much of our education system here in NZ – and what I see, read and hear about from overseas – is happening the wrong way around. The importance of assessment in an outcomes based, quality assurance system that effectively pits schools against each other in competition means that we can’t make progress in getting the learning to be the driver.

I propose a shift. Lets stop talking about assessment and just start focusing on evidence of learning. In this fashion, the evidence should naturally fall out of the learning occurring. You may still choose to do this with a formal assessment. But now it’s an opt-in system rather than an opt-out system.

We all know the quality of learning that occurs when it can be focused on authentic tasks and this allows that to occur far more regularly. I wonder how long it will take for NZQA and other qualifications authorities to catch up?

This post was Day 4 of my Questioning Quest

How do you know that your school structure is working for this year’s students?

Our school structures are different than other NZ secondary schools. We have no subject departments, our courses are organised differently and our timetable looks different than most:

HPSS Timetable

HPSS Timetable

A question we get often is how do we know that this is better than traditional school structures? My answer: we don’t YET. Our principal Maurie recently turned this around on the questioner by asking how he knew that his school’s system was working for that year’s students. Not last year’s students but the group in your classes right now. The fact is none of us can answer this without putting clones of students into 2 different systems so that you have a consistent base to start from.

We are collecting lots of data and talking regularly with students about evidencing their learning. Our students can tell you exactly what their curriculum coverage is like after 2 terms and have used this data to inform their Term 3 module choices. We are doing our best to start developing a tool so teachers, parents and students can easily check progress against the NZC and hope to have it up and running soon.

The next step I want to see stems from this awesome post by Bo Adams from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. In it he outlines how they are using Learning Walks and Instructional Rounds to gather data and study their own school.

How do you know that your school structure is working for this year’s students?

 

This post is Day 2 of my Questioning Quest (even if I completely blew the 60 word target…)

Academic Journal Access

This post is a copy of an email I sent this week to the Ministry of Education:

Kia ora tatou,

I am in my 11th year teaching in New Zealand secondary schools. For much of this time I have either been involved in various research projects or undertaking further study or research myself towards a Masters in Education degree. This has meant that a majority of my professional development has been informed by the most recent educational research. I have now, however, been out of university for 18 months and am finding it incredibly difficult to access academic research.

Research has shown that teachers who reflect critically on their practice improve learning a lot more than many other initiatives. It is very difficult if teachers don’t have access to academic journal databases to be able to critically reflect on the quality of our teaching as we are not being exposed to the latest research and ideas.

The Education and Science Select Committee Report “Inquiry into 21st Century Learning Environments and Digital Literacy” also highlights the importance of teachers engaging with current research thinking. The importance of evidence-based decision making and upskilling people for 21st century learning in this report supports my argument that teachers require access to academic journals.

The Education Counts website provides a great synthesis of research ideas and the staff are obviously well connected with the research as I have personally received some of the articles in support of the publications when I have enquired further. These ideas, however, need to be accessed on a more regular basis.

Is it possible to gain access to the academic journal databases that the Ministry of Education subscribes to? I feel this would allow me to continue to pursue improvement in my teaching which will result in better outcomes for my students.

I look forward to your response,

Regards,

Steve Mouldey

What do you think? Am I expecting too much? Am I placing too much emphasis on access to research as a form of professional development? Should I be paying for my own access (note here: One journal wanted to charge me $39.95 just for one article this week!)? What chances of anyone from the MoE engaging in conversation with me on this?

UPDATE 25/6: I have heard back from the Ministry and now have access to their library services. This is available to support teachers and principals in our practice, I encourage you all to read this post about what I can now access or just head to the Ministry of Education Library to find out more.