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Measuring growth and achievement...

Started by justin hickey 27 Feb 2017 8:50pm () Replies (29)

I find myself somewhat frustrated with the environment that we are expected to work in. Being a data driven industry I feel torn between being an innovative, future focused educator that focuses on individualised learning experiences for my students and on the other hand having the pressure of National Standards reporting hovering over my shoulder. Last year I achieved some wonderful results with my students. I managed to provide opportunities for students to taste success; students who had spent most of their school years feeling inadequate and incapable of achieving well in standardised tests.


Many of my students still failed to score well in standardised tests. However, they managed to succeed in areas that are hard to measure. I saw many students self-esteem improve because they managed to complete a project for the first time on a topic of their choice and one which they were engaged with. They began to see themselves as experts in a niche area. They began to recognise themselves as people of value.


For the first time we began to see some of our young people develop a positive attitude towards school and learning. We saw them develop a positive attitude towards each other. We began to witness young people stand up to bullies and take control of their learning environment by setting an example for the kind of behaviour they expected us all to abide by.


If you could have measured the increase in effort and attitude towards their school community and their learning, then most of these students would have been above the National Standards in Respect, Relationships and Caring for each other. Nice standardised tests do not reflect the depth of learning that exists in our environment. As Linda McNeil, Rice University. Houston, Texas, puts it, “Measurable outcomes may be the least significant results of learning”.


However it seem's to be that we continue to use our standardised tests as a benchmark or baseline, with which to judge the young people we are charged to inspire, challenge and motivate. It's like a nice, comfortable bench to sit on. Even when we commit to innovative pedagogy (such as the focus on "Key Competencies") which we are encouraged by the Ministry to do, we still report to the Ministry, data that is predominantly supported and gathered, using old assessment models.


We need to start exploring new ways to measure the significant gains our students are making. Not gains that are necessarily achieved by knowing which strategy to choose, but gains that are obtained from recognising when a student has finally decided they are interested in learning a new strategy. We need to change the way we address assessing our students and how we report their learning.

Just a thought...




  • terrywithers (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2017 5:09pm ()

    Kia ora I think you are so right...it is not just the Ministry however that needs to be encourage to make the changes it is also the parents...interestingly they are happy to see the growth in this area but still mainly focus on the standards - and this drives them.  I often spend a lot of time convincing parents (and others...) that the 'key competencies' are just as (if not more) important - and they actually widen their (the students) knowledge, which is what we should be focussing on NOT trying to get them ABOVE standards etc.   However, I (we) are still judged by progress in standards, be great to see a change.

    Thanks for sharing your thought - it is always nice to see others thinking (and struggling with our ancient education system) and sharing with others

  • Karla Lister (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 8:08pm ()

    I'm interested in Terry's comment in regard to changing the view of the parents also. I wonder if there are any recent studies done into what parents actually want their children to gain from their education.  

    I teach in a rather 'different' way - being that my focus is largely around the key competencies.  Last year I had a very behaviourally challenged class with very little in the way of self management skills, or respect for each other.  Almost all of our lessons tied back somehow to the values, key competencies and principles of the curriculum.  Now granted there was a lot more to it than that - but 100% of parents (a small sample group) said that they felt their children had been better engaged, and better able to articulate their learning in literacy and numeracy.  They also had ALL of the key competencies sorted (at their level anyway) by the end of the year and are functioning extremely well this year. 


    In addition comments about the style of learning included: 

    Significantly more, rote learning only works for so many people, application of learning is far more important than recitation without understanding.
    it was great listening to them explain their learning.Sure there is a time and place for lots of different methods ofl earning but have seen increased engagment
    I personally feel that this type of learning has been extremely effective. For my child it is the first time in his school life that he has even wanted to come to school never mind actually wanting to learn. For this reason I thank everyone involved.


    I'd be interested in getting to the bottom of what parents really want.




  • justin hickey (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 8:51pm ()

    It's a really interesting point you make Karla regarding parents perceptions of what they want for their children. We embarked on developing a graduate profile for our school last year and the feedback from the community around what they wanted for their children was really interesting. In most cases, the things they valued as most important for their children were often related to the Key Competencies and centred around the wellbeing of their children.

    I think that engaging with your community is vital. To me the school belongs to the community. Schools, in many circumstances, serve the needs of the community and having an open and inclusive relationship with them helps to build the foundations for a very healthy environment which can offer positive experiences for those involved with it.

  • Gretchen Cocks (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2017 8:44pm ()


    I completely agree with you! Our education system and education systems around the world need complete overhauls as to how we are measuring and assessing our students as well as how schools are structured. After all, whose 'success' is national standards?


    We need to look at children holistically. It would seem, all we are preparing them for are to read, write and be numerate. Sure, these skills are important but we then measure them and put them in a box. What else are we valuing in our education system apart from academia and numeracy and literacy?


    Despite the fact countries all over the world are currently in various stages of reforming their public education systems, it’s hard to imagine, in what has been (and partially still is) an industrial education system, containing ‘egg crate’ classrooms, ringing bells, separated subject areas, educating by age groups, standardised testing and a ‘one size fits all’ approach (Ken Robinson, 2010).


    I've recently nearly completed the Mindlab course, which has ultimately made me question heavily, our current education system. 

  • Cathiesten (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 6:20am ()

    Thank you fo all the contributors to this thread.  It is nice to know I am not alone!

    THere is a huge paradox between developing 21st century skills (aka key competencies amd a host of other non measurable) and the drive to reach the standards.  It starts at NE with 51/2 year olds labeled a below and hot  housed  into meeting a standard after 12 months.  This type of learning doesn't 'stick' in children who are cognitively and socially not ready to learn yet.  Some children 'fail' at the core subjects and yet can ask questions, create experiments, orally explain their thinking, draw, .. and more.  So agree that assessments are the 'least significant results if learning'.  When do we value progress also?



  • Gael Donaghy (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 9:22am ()

    Morena all you critical thinkers!  I have worked at all levels in education, and have come to realise our education system is still stuck with preparing workers for an industrial era, when this era is over.  It's like we are trying to produce better horse drawn carriages, when driverless vehicles are coming down the road to meet us!

    What we need to do is to start a converation that our education system IS BROKEN and it doesn't need another "fix".  It needs to be re-thought - right from what are we trying to do and achieve through education. It certainly is NOT to produce obedient, on time, workers who can follow instructions to the letter and work for a wage or a salary for their post-school lives.  This system has produced such inequities is societies and led us to the era of Trump and Brexit, as those who are bereft of hope try to break the system.

    So what can we educators do?  We talk to the kids, colleagues, parents at the gate, whoever will listen, about why we are emphasising critical thinking, working with diverse others, entrepreneurial skills, key comps, etc. We can say kids have to be numerate and literate, but they need so much more to be able to thrive in the society we have today.

    Love to engage on this topic more - if there are others?

  • justin hickey (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 10:19am ()

    It is so refreshing to hear the wonderful comments from everybody who has engaged with this thread. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to develop the thread further and perhaps to share with each other the ways we are bridging the gap between what has been done, what can be done and more importantly, what needs to be done.

    I spend a lot of time gathering student voice on topics such as belonging and wellbeing and for me part of my discussions with students centres around their needs and their perception of what we are doing as schools and teachers to meet them.

    Perhaps others could start doing a similar thing and we could start sharing the thoughts and feelings of our students. For it is them that are at the centre of what we do and who we work for.

    Just a thought...

  • Karla Lister (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 10:56am ()

    I love this topic!  Good on you, Justin, for bringing it up. 

    I agree with what is being said. I have always thought of it as 'over testing'.  That we have so many tests to complete in a certain amount of time - that we spend time teaching what needs to be assessed, not teaching what needs to be learnt.  It's not necessarily what we are testing - but how much of it we need to do in order to make a 'judgement'. 

     It's a bit hard for us, as teachers, to change this at a bigger whole school level - because that takes a massive shift from so many people.  But we can change the culture around learning and understanding of success in our classrooms. We DO still need to have a focus on learning the subject related content - it is important.  It's  hard one to balance.  My current theory is -  reduce the testing - so that there is more learning time, and it can be spread more evenly across content/key competencies.  

    What sort of strategies are teachers using in their classroom to bridge this gap? I can share what I do - but don't have a heck of a lot of time just now.  So here are a few things to get the ball rolling. 

    * Be smarter with assessment.  As students learn something, have them record the evidence of that learning in place of a formal assessment. There is an extra hour in your unit time.  I have prove it folders.  I can direct them to their folder and ask them to complete "question 16".

    * Teach, once a term, what success is.  How all of the different elements work together.  Then have them measure their success frequently.  What do they still need to work on for overall success? Include these as comments in the report under the other "categories" if your school doesn't have a space to record them. Eg: Josh has made excellent progress with his punctuation.  He still lacks the confidence to ask for help from others. Josh has been working on asking "three before me" when proof reading his work...

    * Empower the students to engage with the key competencies by giving them purpose in the classroom. Do they know what they need to learn, why they need to learn it, and how to judge their own progress?  If they know their 'academic' goals - then they can use the key competencies - if they are getting everything handed to them on a plate and have no ownership of their learning, then they can't put those key competencies into practice no matter how much we ask them to. 


    My starting thoughts anyway - I'll try and be back!


  • Gretchen Cocks (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 11:52am ()

    Gael I agree that the education system needs to be rethought. Recently in the NZEI magazine, Lynda Stuart president of NZEI says that New Zealand  like Finland, is a small enough country to have a discussion about what we want our education system to look like. That probably won't happen though.

    Ken Robinson talks about schools trying to meet the future by doing what has been done in the past. We have to move away from how it 'was done.'

    There are so many things to 'prioritise' now. The key competencies, collaboration, digital technologies and it's formal introduction into the curriculum next year. We also need to think about real world problem solving and authentic learning to name a few. Cyber safety and having 'digital intelligence' is another priority area as is culturally responsive practice. All of this on top of the core subjects of numeracy and literacy. This seems a odds because only the core subjects are prioritised in the eyes of the government and this does not allow some of these other equally important things, time to flourish. Yes, they need soooo much more to flourish than literacy and numeracy.  So much of teachers time is now spent on the data, moderation and making judgements. What happened to engagement, looking at the whole child holistically and teaching and learning - the heart of the matter!

  • terrywithers (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 12:51pm ()

    Is there a brave enough principal to get on board with this?

  • justin hickey (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 12:57pm ()

    I'm working on this Terry

  • Wendy Sheridan-Smith (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 1:30pm ()

    As a school we have been working on this since Term 2 last year. We focus on soft skills, give feedback and feed-forward on work specific to the LOs for the core subjects. We are running a STEAM curriculum and our tracking and assessment is based on the soft skills we have identified as a team, these are underpinned by the Key Competencies and supported by our Values system. 

    We give quality reporting to our parents that is focused on the acquisition of students' soft skills. We use the language of Growth Mindset to support teachers and students.

    We do summative assessments and OTJs as necessary; and we explain to the students when they are engaged in a formal assessment. they know why these happen and are informed of the results. they know in core subjects their level of achievement and what they need to do to move on. Our students are making academic gains, some of them very significant.

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