Measuring What Matters: Phase 3 Progress Report

Submitted by David Cameron from People for Education

This report provides an update on People for Education’s Measuring What Matters (MWM) initiative, including some of the early findings coming out of the school field trials.

… it isn’t about what [students] understand about seasonal changes in my science curriculum, it’s how they’re thinking critically and asking questions around those ideas within Science.’ I see [MWM] as a framework that gives greater purpose to what we are doing. And values the things we know are intrinsically important.

Measuring What Matters envisions a public education system that supports all students to develop the competencies and skills they need to live happy, healthy, economically secure, civically engaged lives; and that strengthens Canada—our society, our economy, our environment—by graduating young people with the skills to meet the challenges our country faces.

This vision can be achieved by:

  • setting broad and balanced goals for student success that include numeracy, literacy, creativity, social-emotional learning, health, and citizenship; and
  • ensuring that these goals drive policy, practice, funding, and accountability.

The goal of MWM is to explore a broader view of student success that includes a concrete set of competencies and learning conditions in the areas of creativity, citizenship, mental and physical health, social-emotional learning, and quality learning environments.

This year, eighty educators in 26 publicly funded schools and seven school boards tested the competencies in their classrooms and schools. Each field trial team designed and implemented a set of activities that were integrated within their ongoing work.

Watch teacher Kim Stolys talk about her participation in the field trials.

Several themes emerged:

  • The work aligned with participants’ professional values as educators. It resonated with what they felt were central in learning experiences, but that often did not get the same attention as academic achievement.
  • Educators took a range of approaches in their use of the MWM competencies. Some took a more narrow focus, addressing one or two competencies in a single domain; others explored combinations of competencies from several domain areas. The individuality in what educators focused on, and how they investigated it, demonstrates how personalized this work is, and how important it is to protect non-standardized learning contexts.
  • There appears to be an inextricable and dynamic link between learning conditions and specific competencies that students express: learning conditions frame and support the expression of specific competencies and, conversely, the focus on specific competencies in relation to teaching, learning, and assessment supports teachers in exploring a greater range of possible conditions and/or learning opportunities.
  • Strong interrelationships between the domains were evident across the study.
  • The specific lexicon or “language of learning” of the competencies helped define sometimes broad but ambiguous areas of learning. The language gave educators clear pathways into actions and planning in classrooms, created opportunities to communicate with each other, and to generate new conditions.
  • The framework supported broadening perspectives on where learning occurs in schools. A number of schools explored student experiences outside of the classroom, broadening the learning space beyond specific, situated moments in scheduled classroom times to include the whole school environment.

Hacking Assessment : 10 Ways To Go Gradeless In a Traditional School

Hacking AssessmentA Book Review by Denine Laberge

Many parents and educators will argue that “This is the way we’ve always done it and it isn’t broken!” To this, Starr Sackstein offers some sound advice, “… the world has changed in the last hundred years and … a 19th century system doesn’t prepare kids for the creativity and critical thinking required of the 21st century.”

Starr Sackstein gives her readers something to think about in this quick 131 page read by putting the focus on what matters in assessment. Going gradeless is a big step for many teachers but, as she clearly demonstrates in this book, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Organized into 10 “Hacks”, this book starts at the beginner level, for those thinking about making the switch, and progresses right through to the details of a successful transition to a gradeless school environment. Sackstein addresses concerns that may arise from teachers, administrators, parents and even students, giving sound reasoning to keep the initiative alive.

For me, this book affirmed that I am on the right track in my growth as an educator and learner. For others, it may inspire an awakening of what our real mission as educators is; to lead our students to become independent, responsible thinkers and lifelong learners. The best way to do this is to involve the student in his or her own assessment of learning. After all, who would understand their learning better than themselves?

Residency: Powerful Assessment and Professional Practice

Residency Cover

Submitted by Veronica Saretsky

Written by Lori Jeschke, Dave Carter, Cheryl Shields and Deborah Bidulka the book outlines a large rural school division’s journey to affect sustainable, system-wide change in professional practice around assessment. The school system was moving to a new grade 1-9 report card and used this move to deepen the understandings of teachers in their assessment practices.

The division was looking for a model that supported sustainable change in professional practice. Their experience with “one-shot sessions or even multi-day workshops” had not created any long term changes in teacher practice.  When they attended a week long institute on assessment for learning, they heard of the residency model of professional development.  This book goes into detail about their implementation of that model and the learnings they gathered along the way.  It also offers suggestions on how others may use the model to affect systemic change in their systems.

Copies available from books@connect2learning.com

Embedded Formative Assessment

Embedded formative assessmentSubmitted by Robin Tierney

Embedded Formative Assessment was recommended to me by a CAfLN member in British Columbia. Dylan Wiliam’s work is well-known by educational researchers who are interested in the quality of classroom assessment. This particular book differs from many that are written by academics for practitioners in two important ways. First, the tone is engaging without sounding patronizing. Second, Wiliam offers abundant advice without aiming to script teachers’ practices. The first two chapters of the book provide background information on the importance of educational achievement and the impact of formative assessment. In the remaining chapters, five key formative assessment strategies are described along with 50 techniques for classroom use. What I really appreciate about this book, as a researcher and a teacher, is that Wiliam provides useful information for practicing formative assessment that is clearly based on both experience and research. This is a combination that other members of CAfLN with undoubtedly enjoy as well.