Tag Archives: Student Achievement

My Inquiry: Assessment Part Two

26 May

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Meaningful and relevant assessment tasks involve a different way of design. Meaningful tasks assess the critical competencies, or 21st century skills, along with the content in varying contexts. Relevant tasks tap into a compelling and interesting aspect of the content to pose a task that is challenging and fascinating. Relevant tasks may also connect to students’ interests, realities, and their latest passions (e.g. bottle flipping, teen stress). Meaningful and relevant tasks ask students to use competencies such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, social competence, or creative problem-solving to do one or more of the following:

  • Research, dialogue, and explore emerging issues
  • Pose solutions or offer perspectives on school or the local area
  • Pose solutions or offer perspectives on global issues
  • Communicate ideas, information, or insights to an audience outside of the classroom
  • Collaborate with other students or with experts knowledgeable about the focus of study
  • Collaborate with organizations or businesses to seek multiple perspectives on a topic
  • Put existing ideas together to generate new ideas or knowledge
  • Design new and innovate pieces to make the world better or contribute something to the world

The assessment tasks are really import. Perhaps even more then redesigning curriculum. Indeed from my inquiry I find they are going hand in hand.

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Why should we assess?

10 Mar

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Schools often ask  when they should use standardized  testing.  Twice a year?  Once a year ? There is no definitive answer, just a few questions, which, when answered by the school, will make choosing the time of year to assess more logical.

In a way, the introduction of teachers making their overall teacher judgement about where a student sits in the NZ curriculum, has given schools much more freedom in their assessment choices. Moderation is more common and teachers are using a range of assessments, with few relying on single sources of evidence  to make their judgement (Wylie, & Berg 2013).  So where does standardized testing fit in to the assessment picture?

The NZ Curriculum has a good statement at the beginning of its assessment section on pg. 39:

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both …respond to the information it provides. 

Keep that statement in mind as you ask yourself:

  • What information do I need to gather on which children?
  • Does the assessment chosen match the teaching  the students have received?
  • What is the purpose for gathering this data – how will it help teaching and learning?

There are many different reasons teachers choose standardized assessments to support their judgement. For many schools, the days of blanket testing twice a year for all students are gone.The reasons for using standardized assessment are becoming more considered, more refined, as schools underpin their self-review with deliberate planning.

Reasons might be:

  • Closely monitoring a particular cohort of children who have received specific interventions
  • Tracking the progress of the cohort identified in the annual target
  • Gathering information for a priority  learning group
  • Gathering school-wide data to inform strengths and needs in a subject
  • Gathering year group data to inform strengths and needs
  • Assessing teaching strategies in a particular subject
  • Getting reassurance about the moderation process and decisions about individual children
  • Cluster data to improve collaboration around improving teaching and learning in a particular subject
  • To monitor progress, determine professional development needs, and assess the value of interventions in a particular area

Schools have enormous freedom now to choose the tool and the time that best suits their purpose, but it requires a collaborative response to the question:

What is the purpose for this assessment?

Student Investment

23 Nov

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Student investment is not just about students sitting compliantly in a classroom and not disrupting others, but in fact when students own and take responsibility for their own learning. When students are truly invested in their learning, there is a symbiotic relationship between assessment and self-regulation. As I reflect on my own experience as a building principal, I recall that the teachers who had clarity about learning, well-planned lessons, and effective assessment practices never had issues with student behavior at the end of the school year.

There is not a teacher working today who would not want his or her students to be fully invested in their own learning. Getting there is another story entirely. I often hear educators say that we teach students responsibility when we give them homework or long-term projects and deadlines. I would argue that we are giving students opportunities to practice being responsible when we provide those tasks. Students need to be taught how to be responsible before, after, and during practice. This requires a mind shift about a teacher’s role in these all-important skills.

Student investment should be the same way. If we believe that it is valuable for students, both today and in the future, to be the owners of their learning and to learn about self-regulation, then it is our responsibility to teach it and to provide opportunities to practice. I have found in research and practice four characteristics of classrooms where assessment and self-regulation work well together to create student investment: a vision for learning, meaningful and valuable work, asset-based focus, and action and impact.

This will lead to our next work which are learning progressions. Roll on 2019.

Review

31 Aug

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This week I have been writing a Faculty Review and looking at developing units of study and the matching assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. In the review I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” I note that we are well in the 21st century. I know that the learning skills essential for students today are certainly divergent and the teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the data gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

We need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. To do this I would like to see more student “talk” time. With the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that students today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. They can spend an hour with a peer the previous night on their devices, but hardly muster a morena at school when they pass each other in the hallway. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. I am seeing in many classes students knowing answers but unable to explain how they got there. Asking students to explain their solutions (not just the why but also the how) is foreign to some. I love the why question. It creates deeper thinking and responses.

This will mean less teacher talk timeand more collaboration between students. This will require a shift from what I call the right/wrong dichotomy that many of us experienced in our school careers. There was one answer—the right answer- and everything else was, therefore, wrong.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “beautiful noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom. Teachers know the difference between disruptive and non-productive noise. Do you here that sound in your school?

Term 3 Focus

2 Aug

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As the term begins for us here in New Zealand it is a good time to take stock. What are your goals for the next 100 days of school? Do your goals take priority over learning styles and student needs? Is your professional development (PD) plan a success if all of the teachers complete the face-to-face PD, but do not implement the instructional strategies?

As a teacher, the world may not be second-guessing your decisions or requesting that you explain your school improvement plan on national TV. Impacting the lives of hundreds of students in a school is much more complex than a checklist. This term I will be asking my middle leaders to reflect on the reason they became an educator. Knowing “your why” will help you support teaching and learning. While a teacher’s legacy is the successful transition of children into adults who contribute to society, it is important to focus on the students you have this year and not your legacy.

Here are five focus points for you:

1.  Focus on The Students You Have This Year

2.  Recognize The Importance Of Continuous Improvement

3.  Focus On Goals, But Not At The Expense Of Student Growth

4.  Provide A Culture Where Multiple Perspectives Are Valued

5.  Reflect On The Reasons You Became An Educator

Learner Agency

12 Mar

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I have been doing some thinking and reflecting after my learning tour on the Ten Educational Trends as noted by CORE in 2016. A link to these is here.

So, I thought might make a point of reflecting on each of these over the next few days.  I would like to begin however with one trend from 2015 which has been on my mind.

What is it then?

The idea that education is the process through which learners become capable of independent thought which, in turn, forms the basis for autonomous action, has had a profound impact on modern educational theory and practice. One way of thinking of learner agency is when learners have “the power to act”

Why do we need it?

There is a significant and growing demand for learners to be able to do more than receive instruction, follow a learning path designed by educators and complete problems and assignments presented to them by an teacher. Learners need to develop the capacity to shape and manage their learning without over-reliance on the direction and control of others. Too often teachers treat children as though they are incapable of making decisions or holding valid opinions. As children advance through the system, they develop a form of “learned helplessness” that keeps them from advocating for themselves. The process for learning and the role learners play must be different than most teachers experienced.

The current educational system was designed for teachers to control and manage the learning. This continues today because teachers are the ones held accountable and responsible for the learning instead of the learners. As educators, we must nurture, coach and build in learners more capacity to initiate, manage, and maintain their own learning. Learning will be a constant and high-priority activity throughout their lives and they will need the skills and tools to manage this process.

Teachers need to shift their thinking — away from youth as student to youth as learner and partner and resource for their own learning and others. We must make the crucial shift from preparing proficient students to developing skilled learners. The result will be learners who can play an active role in personalizing their learning and building their capacity to be successful productive citizens regardless of what their futures hold.

As teachers, we need to consider understanding the connection between good strategy, effort and use of resources to develop learner efficacy. We need to continue to help learners understand how they learn best and how they can support their learning. The role and importance of learner voice and choice is an issue ERO is guiding schools in with their review process. By building learner ownership of their learning this can only in increase student achievement and engagement.

This is a link to a document that I have been thinking a great about.

 

Learner Agency on Tour

7 Mar

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While on the NASDAP tour I have started thinking about underlying principal of student agency driving an improvement in student achievement. This was triggered by our examination of collaborative learning environments.

This page will provide you with a great introduction to the concept.

It seems that agency is about student learning and teacher teaching. It is about the teacher providing the right environment, support and approaches to learning that enable learners to develop the skills and attitudes for agency to occur, and about the student being engaged in, and empowered by assuming responsibility of their learning through reflection, goal setting and a range of other self-monitoring behaviours.

Some of the key words that describe student agency for me are therefore; enabling, empowering, self-monitoring, goals, feedback, authentic.

Here are some further thoughts:

The learning-teaching process is primarily for the benefit of the learner, not the teacher.

All students want to, can, and will learn given the proper learning environment.

Students actively and individually make sense of what they learn by connecting and integrating it with what they already understand. Teaching cannot occur without learning. I should always seek and value students’ points of view in order to understand students’ thought processes and knowledge acquisition.

My responsibility as a teacher is to create a learning environment that facilitates learning for every student.

This may also be a great resource:

 

Be the best you can be…

20 Feb

At present I am preparing our annual excellence assembly which recognises outstanding achievement by our students in the 2014 academic year.

It is a moving experience as I reflect on these students and consider their journey and achievements. It is a celebration of students, staff and whenau. For their stories are ones of personal courage, relentless commitment to demonstrate their talents and a refusal to take the easy option at any stage. These students have achieved, taken up the challenge and taking the path less travelled.

These students’ acknowledge the support and love of family, friends and staff. What always strikes me the most is the deep appreciation for their teachers. These students’ always tell me how staff made a difference. They each believe that teachers made the difference and admit they couldn’t have done what they did without their good teachers who challenged them, stretched them, supported them and were always there when they needed them. On most occasions they tell staff this and these are moments I enjoy.

I have written much about improving student achievement and providing a relevant and engaging learning experience for every student. Excellence Assembly reinforces the significance of good teachers in the learning process. Teachers we are lucky to have you because you make a difference.

Lesson Objectives

4 Aug

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This year I have been privileged to observe teaching pedagogy by teachers in classrooms in my school in departmental review and appraisal situations. One of the indicators of effective instruction is that each lesson has a clear learning intention stated up front to the students in the class. In many classrooms I visited the learning intention was also written for students. In the flipped classroom situation many students knew this before the lesson had even begun.

I was able to ask some students about why they learning this lesson and was puzzled by what I saw as a gap between students knowing the learning intentions and understanding the purpose of the lesson. This is not an uncommon problem.

After lots of reflection and some reading it appears to me that lesson intentions that focus simply on the skill/s being taught the connections or concepts students need to learn to apply these skills in new settings.

The following piece of research sums it up better than I:

http://www.marktreadwell.com/Whatever_Next

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