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Do we need to question the way we assess?

Started by justin hickey 27 Feb 2017 8:57pm () Replies (14)

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...





  • justin hickey (View all users posts) 01 Mar 2017 8:26pm ()

    Thanks Tessa.  A very in-depth response with some wonderful points to consider. I certainly hope that with enough discussions on this topic we may find a way to reconsider and negotiate what we value for our learners and how these values are expressed and shared.

  • justin hickey (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 6:02pm ()

    Fantastic Yvonne. I couldn't agree more. We have two non negotiables in our class. Attitude and Effort. As part of of my inquiry last year, I stopped using the term National Standards with my students and instead focused on attitude and effort. We made it very clear to the students that wherever they were was awesome and that if each one of them tried to put more effort towards their learning and tried to come to school with a positive attitude each day, then each of them would make progress.

    By changing the focus and embracing that everybody were different, we noticed students were enjoying their learning more and the students said that they felt less stress about their learning. The only thing we measured our students against on a daily basis was their effort and attitude, which they indicated in their daily reflections. From the feedback I got from my students, they felt more motivated to achieve because they were competing with themselves and not with trying to reach the National Standards, which for some of my students, was something that had always been a "bridge to far".

    It was great to see students begin to believe in themselves.

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e-Learning: Leadership

e-Learning: Leadership

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