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Principal's Blog

Found in: Leadership Blog

Taking a Good Look at Ourselves

A most vexed and complex issue in Education is the subject of assessment: simply finding a good and reliable answer to the question, “How is this student (my child) doing?”

First there is the issue of compared to what? Do you mean compared to how they were at some stage previously, or compared to others? Then there is the question of what others... their class, their state, their country, other countries... or how about compared to that mythical beast: the average child their age. After 15 years in education and 55 on the planet, I’m convinced that there is no such thing as an average child. We’re all kind of weird in one way or another.

Imagine this scenario: In 2013 Mrs Softheart gives your child all A’s. In 2014 Miss Accurate gives him C’s. Most parents think Mrs Softheart was a great teacher and begin to wonder what has gone wrong. The truth is Mrs Softheart handed her colleague what footballers call a hospital pass.

These are the key issues in assessment: finding a place from which we can stand, share and compare information about where a child is and how they are going. In education speak there is:

  • assessment for learning: this is revealing what a child understands and knows in order to build on that foundation
  • assessment of learning: finding out if the learning you wanted to achieve has transpired
  • qualitative assessment: assessing a student through observation, relationship and formulating considered opinions of the student and their community.
  • quantitative assessment: gathering hard data usually through a testing process.

From Thursday 2 to Monday 6 January this year I was at a conference in Yogyakarta, “The International Conference on School Improvement and Effectiveness.” One of the strengths of this conference was the opportunity to build networks of relationships with educators and researchers around the world. I am currently involved in conversations with researchers on this very subject from New Zealand, United States and the Netherlands. The recent visit from Dr Paige Fisher from Vancouver Island University was the fruit of that networking.

This year we will be working closely with Robert Hassell, an educational consultant from the Association of Independent Schools Western Australia (AISWA) whose area of expertise is assessment and gathering accurate understandings of student progress. Joining us is Mathilda Joubert, SCEA Education consultant bringing considerable international expertise.

This is essential for us, in order to confidently support your child’s progress and evaluate the initiatives in which we are involved. A questionnaire will shortly be sent out providing an important baseline for this exciting and ongoing program.

Let me leave you with an interesting thought regarding assessment:

Measure what you value, because you will ultimately value what you measure.