Activity 3, Week 27, NZ Mind Lab, PRACTICE
Reading through the report from the Education Review Office; Evaluation at a Glance: Priority Learners in New Zealand Schools (2012) rang a lot of alarm bells for me, but not bells that haven’t been rung before in my professional experience. In my current position as Resource Teacher of Literacy, I work solely with priority learners, so anything that affects them affects me.
I am particularly drawn to the third key issue in this report, that of assessment data and how it is understood by teachers to inform their practice and next steps. ERO (2012) makes the fairly simple statement that every teacher, at all levels, should have a clear understanding of what progress is expected of students across three points:
- What progress students SHOULD make
- What progress students HAVE made &
- What progress students NEED to make
Sounds pretty obvious right? A sound knowledge of our curriculum and the development expected of students is surely all that is needed for this to happen. However, there is also the IMPACT that the teaching of curriculum has had on students’ learning. That for me is a big point. What are we doing that is making a difference to our students? And if it is not making a difference, what can we do differently? Many teachers are still continuing along with things that have worked for other students, without stopping to truly analyse whether or not this is the best thing for the student/s in front of them. ERO calls this critical reflection (2012).
If you don’t know that it is effective, why do you keep on doing it???
I draw your attention to this video, on evidence-based teaching to further hit home that point…
Let’s not lay everything down at the teachers’ door, however. I completely understand that overwhelming feeling of too much to do all at once for too many deserving students. This kind of analysis of our own teaching needs to be supported and encouraged. ERO also found that school leaders weren’t often looking at the gaps teachers had in their practice knowledge and putting professional development opportunities into play to support the closing of those gaps (2012).
Jesson, Mcnaughton & Wilson (2015) implemented a research project in some Auckland schools that did just that in relation to the use of digital technologies. The traits of effective teaching were observed in classrooms that promoted high-acceleration of learning, and became the “foci for the redesign of pedagogy and practice” (Jesson et al, 2015) in all classrooms in the study, with many positive results. It is my belief that this should be happening across the country, in all schools.
It is not just the use of assessment evidence to inform teaching practice that is important in my opinion, it is also the types of assessment information being used for students. Here I draw your attention to Flockton’s pyramid…(so important to me, it is laminated and put on the wall of my office).
How many teachers and school leaders look at their students as a Stanine on a PAT test? Does that accurately inform us as to what a student is doing and what they are capable of? I would argue no. Have you analysed what they are doing in reality? What are the blocks to them getting where they should be?
Some of our priority learners may never get out of Level One or Two of the curriculum, or at least not for a long while. How do we correctly assess their progress if we are simply looking at progress towards national standards? There is a lot of progress to be made even in one curriculum level. However, many traditional standardised tests do not show that progress. This can be disheartening and damaging to students’ self-image and also to a teacher’s motivation. ERO talks about leaders guiding teachers towards effective assessment practices (2012).
I think more school leaders should have Flockton’s pyramid on their wall!
An example of assessment type not correlating to a students’ backgrounds and prior experience prompted me to this tweet…
I was heartened by the fact that these key issues have been highlighted by ERO, however, I want to see evidence of more being done to support them being addressed throughout NZ schools.
Education Review Office. (2012). Evaluation at a Glance: Priority Learners in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved 18 May 2016, from http://www.ero.govt.nz/About-Us/News-Media-Release…
Evidence Based Teachers Toolkit, (2011). The case for evidence based teaching. Retrieved from http://www.evidencebasedteaching.co.uk/free.html
Jesson, R., McNaughton, S., & Wilson, A. (2015). Raising literacy levels using digital learning: a design-based approach in New Zealand. Curriculum Journal, 26(2), 198-223.
NZEI Te Riu Roa and Flockton, L. (2009). The Healthy Practice Pyramid. Retrieved from http://www.tka.nz/documents/MYNZEI/Resources/Connected%20Curriculum/10%20Assessment.pdf