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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...





  • Yvonne Catherwood (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 4:43pm ()

    I think it is clear that teachers are frustrated with the requirement to label the students in our classes with very one dimensional titles such as the ones legislated in National Standards, but any change has to come from the policy makers. in my opinion schools are breaking their necks to be able to value their students as a whole and are questioning the role of assessment in this. Shouldn't assessment be all about next steps and where to move on to from here rather than defining a finite point where everyone should be at the same time?

  • Yvonne Catherwood (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2017 5:03pm ()

    Another consideration when thinking about when looking at enforced assessment and reporting (National Standards in our case) is the effect that it has on our culturally diverse classrooms. It seems to me that by constantly labeling students as "well below' and "below" we are hindering their pathways to success. We know that National Standards were introduced to eliminate the long "tail" and we also know that Maori and Pacifica  children are over represented in this tail, but these are the very children who are susceptible to low expectations, so how is constantly labeling them as below standards going to turn this around? Ka Hikitia points out that students achieve better when teachers and parents have high expectations of them so lets celebrate their successes with assessing movement and growth and enforcing the expectation that progress is the most important thing in schools.    

  • Yvonne Catherwood (View all users posts) 10 Mar 2017 2:55pm ()

    This sounds like a great way for the students to be directing their own learning as well Justin. If they are monitoring their own progress in a positive manner they must then gain the empowerment to set future goals. Learning in this way must surely accelerate their learning. 

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