Learning, what is important to learn and what is important to assess.
Attendance at a Modern Learners Lab What Really Matters: Reimagining Assessment for Modern Learning with Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon provided an ideal forum for initiating reflections and conversations around this question, and kick-starting this inquiry. More specifically, they prompted deep thought around the following themes:
- What are our beliefs about how children learn most powerfully and deeply?
- Under what conditions do people learn most productively?
- What assessments do you currently use in your practice?
- What might we conclude that you believe about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply based on your current assessments?
- What are the gaps between what we believe and what we currently do?
- Who are our kids?
- What are some of the major changes in the world that affect the way you think about classrooms today?
- So, given the kids you serve, and the realities of the world today, what are the most important outcomes that you want for your students on graduation day?
- How well do the assessments you currently employ support your mission?
- In what ways has technology changed what’s possible in terms of classroom learning and assessment?
- Who owns the assessment?
As one can see these are a pretty powerful set of questions to work through and reflect upon and as such as part of this inquiry they have since been worked through with staff who confirmed what we all know and think about learning… (to list a few of them) powerful learning takes place when learners; are curious, ask questions, can follow their passions, face challenges, make connections, contribute. Not, as Dixon and Richardson (2018) noted, through; sitting in rows, with no real world application, teacher controlled, someone else’s questions etc. We also realised that what we assessed didn’t align with what we believed was really important for our learners.
Overall the conversations resulted in some pretty clear outcomes and actions including;
- a desire to focus more on the ‘front end’ (competencies, vision and values) rather than the ‘back end’ (learning areas and achievement objectives) of the NZ Curriculum
- a reframing of our approach to assessment by removing the unnecessary and ensuring that what practices we utilise reflect our vision and beliefs for learning
- investigate and develop a more competency based curriculum built on ‘dispositions’ for learning.
Why do we want to do these things?
We want to align our curriculum with the needs of the students and their future lives. If we truly believe that we should place as much or more value on the teaching of dispositions as we do in the teaching of traditional areas this will require a shift in our practices. This belief/focus will enable learners to access and activate learning across the curriculum and beyond. Doing this creates a direct need to change what and how we assess.
In relation to the sabbatical inquiry, developing an innovative approach to assessment and reporting needs to move to a place that is outside of our current box. Actively recognising and centering our curriculum around a dispositional framework is clearly worth investigating further.