The budget privileges improve pedagogy, especially assessment practices. Most educational researchers, school leaders and teachers have known for some time what truly improves educational outcomes in schools.
Quality work by often quoted educational gurus like John Hattie, Geoff Masters, Dylan Wiliam and Steve Dinham has revealed the way forward. We know schools that genuinely improve are really consciously trying to improve.
The school leaders tend to drive this by focusing on teaching and learning as well as other areas that support improving outcomes, for example, attendance or community perceptions of the school.
These improving schools tend to gather and monitor data. The leaders have accepted personal responsibility. Getting the staff to believe that improvement is possibly one of the greatest challenges for school leaders who are trying to move in a productive direction. However, the rhetoric of school improvement has not seen much evidence of success in the last decade.
It is clear that Australian educational outcomes, as compared with other nations using tests like PISA, are either flatlining or declining and have been for over a decade. The most disturbing statistic is that Australia's Year 4 students are ranked 24th in reading.
This is mostly due to other school systems improving rather than ours declining. Without commenting on the uses politicians make of these international comparisons, it is clear that some governments and school systems are placing emphasis in the right places.
Each school needs to focus on improving outcomes for students conscious of individual context. Our school executive team are united in a belief that feedback is culturally significant for us and the staff agree.
An example of the importance of the concept of feedback is our spotlight on formative assessment practices. All faculties are evaluating assessment and asking a series of reflective questions:
- What information does your faculty give students and parents about formal and informal assessment?
- What assessment tools are used in your faculty.
- What is your faculty process for allocating A-E grades in 7-9 and 10-11? How is assessment recorded in your faculty including the recording of professional teacher judgment of informal assessment?
- What is an exemplar of best practice in your faculty for an assessment task in each year group (including sample responses if possible)?
- How will BYOD change assessment practice in your faculty? SAMR model inspired examples?
- How does your faculty cater for our diverse student population by formally making accommodations and adjustments for assessment tasks?
- Where do you want your faculty to be in 12 months time with assessment?
This assessment for learning (rather than 'of learning') is particularly important if we are to improve. Providing constructive feedback to students, in a timely manner, is essential.
The music teacher using technology to assist students in analysing their live performance, or the teacher who carefully schedules time for individual students to have personal feedback across each week, make a big difference.
We need to embed this culturally at our school. Feedback for staff, where school leaders actively collaborate in classrooms results in a culture where the door, literally and figuratively, is open.
A philosophy that values collaboration in order to learn from each other, as a genuine community of learning, is what we continue to strive for professionally.