Monday, December 13, 2010

Changing Education Paradigms

On the right I've added a link to a clip narrated by Sir Ken Robinson called "Changing Education Paradigms". If you haven't seen it it's worth a look, as it will make you think - and think again. For one thing, Robinson takes on the whole "academic" versus "non academic" tradition and puts it in its place, which is essentially in history books. He also has his own view on attention deficit disorder. According to Robinson, the the deficit has a lot to do with how children are taught rather than their inability to focus. Those are just a couple of the ideas tossed about in this provocative video.

The idea that we need to align assessment with giving students meaningful feedback that helps them learn fits right in with the idea of doing some deep thinking about education and its purposes. This includes what schooling consists of today and that much of it is incompatible that is with our students and their reality now and in the future. Viewing this clip is a good warm up for reading and responding to the draft assessment and evaluation policy posted below.

Assessment and Evaluation - Draft Policy Seeking Response

Assessment: A Draft Policy Seeking Feedback

After a long incubation period, the Response Draft for Policy 607 (Assessment and Evaluation) is now in circulation. The entire draft is posted below for you to read at your leisure. Far from being a boring stack of documents (such as the bulky pile on the left), policy can be pretty exciting, especially when it's being created.

Really? you say. Yes, really, especially when it has implications for teaching practice.

The policy below is divided into three parts: Policy; Regulation and Guidelines.


The policy portion is nice and short, and it should be. Policy is simply a statement of an organization's values around a particular topic. In practice assessment and evaluation practices are in constant flux between developing students' abilities and sorting them according to whether or not they already have it. The policy is the place to set out basic principles and beliefs that assessment, along way a way of reporting on student progress, is a way to help students learn and teachers plan.


The Regulation is the part of policy that everyone knows, the part you have to do. In this case the only thing that has to be done is what follows:

In order to ensure some discussion and consistent practices in the school community, each school will develop a brief statement of purposes and practices consistent with the assessment and evaluation guidelines associated with these regulations.

Sounds easy, but it won't be, as assessment and evaluation are key t0 teaching practices, and many people, both staff, students and parents, haven't really had the chance to think much about using assessment and evaluation as a teaching and learning tool rather than simply a reporting tool. The conversation and debate that go into creating a statement are the point here. The regulation is really there to ensure that people engage in some thinking and discussion of their assessment and evaluation practices.


Guidelines are ways to describe what the policy looks like in practice. A few guidelines are included as a preview below. For example, draft guidelines include statements that assessment and evaluation should:
  1. Engage students in monitoring and critically reflecting on their learning in a variety of ways.
  2. Provide students with opportunities for adjusting, rethinking and talking about their learning.
  3. Inform teacher judgment about student learning.
  4. Be based on work present, not work absent.
That last one should give people something to talk about. Another conversation starter, in case you're looking for one, is to ask people whether effort should be included as part of a grade for a course.

The Response Draft follows. Please add your comments on the blog and they'll be included as part of the official response.

Response Draft- Policy 607 (Assessment and Evaluation)

Assessment and Evaluation: Supporting Student Growth, Enhancing Student Learning And Achievement
The primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to support and enhance student learning. Assessment and evaluation support student learning by providing feedback that informs teachers and students about what has been learned and what is not yet understood.
Assessment and evaluation practices are integral to the planning and delivery of curriculum and to implementing instructional approaches to best meet student needs and ways of learning, thereby supporting and enhancing student growth and achievement.

Policy 607-R
Assessment and Evaluation: The Key to Student Growth And Learning
As feedback on learning, communication with parents and students and a record of student progress, assessment and evaluation are key to student learning. Staff, students and parents at each school site should have a clear sense of the principles of assessment and evaluation that underlie practice and enhance student growth, learning and achievement.
In order to ensure some discussion and consistent practices in the school community, each school will develop a brief statement of purposes and practices consistent with the assessment and evaluation guidelines associated with these regulations.
The school statement will:
  • state the school’s current practices around assessment and evaluation along with the values and purposes that underlie those expectations.
  • be developed and communicated in a way that promotes common understanding and commitment. Staff, students and parents will be involved in development of the school Assessment and Evaluation Statement of Purposes and Procedures.
  • be reviewed annually through an inclusive process involving staff, students and parents and communicated at least annually to staff, students, parents and then to the general school community.

Policy 607-G
Assessment and Evaluation: Guiding Instruction To Enhance Student Growth And Learning

The primary purpose of assessment for and as learning is to inform students and teachers about students’ progress in various stages of acquiring new skills and knowledge. The information gathered is descriptive rather than evaluative, and serves as feedback so that as students practice they can extend what they have learned. This information also helps teachers plan where to go next with instruction based on student understandings of the material.
The primary purpose of evaluation is to make informed judgments about what students have learned based on assessment of learning evidence. These judgments are made by comparing valid evidence of student learning to standards of performance as related to prescribed curricular learning outcomes. Students as well as teachers should be clear on the standard of performance used to make these judgments.
There are three types of classroom assessment described by the Ministry of Education:
  • Assessment for learning refers to formative assessment by which teachers collect information about student development. Assessment for learning is ongoing and provides the basis for determining what the teacher should do next to move student learning forward.
  • Assessment as learning refers to the active involvement of students in being critical assessors who work with the teacher to become more aware of their own learning goals and how to effectively address them. The goal is for students to become aware of what helps them learn better and achieve better results, thus increasing their role in contributing to their own improvement.
  • Assessment of learning refers to summative assessment whereby teachers collect data from a variety of sources to evaluate student performance in relation to curricular learning outcomes. This informs students, parents and others about student achievement.
Assessment and evaluation are related, but serve different purposes and have distinct meanings.

Assessment and Evaluation practices should:

  1. Use a range of methods that assess both the process and products of students’ knowledge, skills and understandings.
  2. Be focused on the clearly identified curriculum outcomes and criteria used to evaluate performance.
  3. Inform teachers as they plan for instruction and enable them to determine next steps in advancing student learning.
  4. Include a clear description of learning intentions and standards for students and parents.
  5. Be ongoing and offer many opportunities for students to receive descriptive feedback on their learning.
  6. Engage students in monitoring and critically reflecting on their learning in a variety of ways.
  7. Provide students with opportunities for adjusting, rethinking and talking about their learning.
  8. Respect the developmental differences of the learner by differentiating instruction and recognizing that students learn at different rates and in a variety of ways.
  9. Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the full range of their learning.
  10. Inform teacher judgment about student learning.
  11. Be based on work present, not work absent.
Related Resources: Also check out the Additional Resources Box to the right.