Overview of Research
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Schools that have an explicit improvement agenda, have a strong, positive influence on student learning, particularly where that agenda is grounded in evidence from research. In such schools, staff are committed to improve the quality of teaching and learning throughout the school, they expect all students to learn successfully, and they collaborate to review and refine their pedagogy. (Masters, 2010)
The activity described in this assessment snapshot is illustrative of the type of activity that is likely to lead to improved school performance.
A school is in business to cause and promote learning. It should therefore model for all institutions of what it means to be a learning organization. A school is not merely a place that expects students to learn; it must encourage and support everyone's learning.
For a school to be a model learning organization, all faculty members should be professional learners: They should engage in deep, broad study of the learning they are charged to cause. What works? What doesn't? Where is student learning most successful, and why? How can we learn from that success? Where are students struggling to learn, and why? What can we do about it? Effectively tackling these questions is what the "professional" in" professional practice" means. (Wiggins and McTighe, 2006).
- How do you work with colleagues to evaluate your pedagogy and how does this work inform your teaching?
- What information do you collect to evaluate your teaching and how do you your share your findings with colleagues?
The teacher used several formative assessment strategies. The Research Organiser served both teaching and assessment purposes as it provided the students with a structure to guide their work but also allowed the teacher to obtain fine-grained information about the students' learning. Often, formative assessment strategies look the same as teaching strategies and this is to be expected. In 2002, The Assessment Reform Group in the UK published principles for formative assessment. One of these principles is that assessment for learning should be central to classroom practice.
Much of what teachers and learners do in classrooms can be described as assessment. That is, tasks and questions prompt learners to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills. What learners say and do is then observed and interpreted, and judgements are made about how learning can be improved. These assessment processes are an essential part of everyday classroom practice and involve both teachers and learners in reflection, dialogue and decision making (Assessment Reform Group, 2002).
Asking students to write down their 'muddiest-point' is another formative assessment strategy that provided the teacher with insights into students' thinking. 'Teachers need to be aware of what each and every student is thinking and knowing, to construct meaning and meaningful experiences in light of this knowledge, and have proficient knowledge and understanding of their content to provide meaningful and appropriate feedback such that each student moves progressively through the curriculum levels' (Hattie, 2009, p. 238).
A strategy such as 'muddiest-point' is most effective in 'classroom environments where error is welcomed as a learning opportunity, where discarding incorrect knowledge and understandings is welcomed, and where participants can feel safe to learn, re-learn, and explore knowledge and understanding' (Hattie, 2009, p. 239).
The teacher designed the assessment so that it was also possible to identify students' achievement at a point in time and was therefore be able to use the results for summative reporting purposes.
- Do your assessments have a clear purpose?
- What assessment strategies do you use to gain insights into how each of your students is thinking?
- Does your feedback relate to specific and clear goals?
- Is error welcomed as a learning opportunity in your classroom?
- Do you design assessment tasks in a way that meet the dual purposes of formative and summative assessment?
Assessment Reform Group (2002). Research-based principles of assessment to guide classroom practice. Retrieved http://assessmentreformgroup.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/10principles_english.pdf
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning. A Synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Oxon, England: Routledge.
Masters, G. N., (2010), Teaching and learning school improvement framework. Downloaded from http://research.acer.edu.au/monitoring_learning/16
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2006). Examining the Teaching Life. Educational Leadership March 2006, 26-29.