Last week the Gonski Institute for Education held a forum to discuss school assessment. Clearly there are growing concerns around the world regarding the negative impact of high stakes testing. So much so that Singapore has now taken the step of banning high stakes testing of students below the age of 11. Australia hasn’t taken this route yet but as one primary principal suggested, NAPLAN should be relegated to the recycling bin.
Opportunities such as these are valuable but I think we’ve got hold of the wrong end of the dog. Why you ask? Because assessment and testing is often viewed as an add-on to the learning; something done at the end of a course of work, term or final year of schooling. For me, assessment and testing has to be viewed in the broader context of a learning ecosystem. In the ecosystem, teachers are continually using data and feedback as a way of accelerating growth so that nothing is out of balance. In an Algorithm-driven world, predictive analytics opens a whole new way of looking at student, and teacher performance.
Assessment and testing are an integral part of the wider learning framework, in which each member of the learning community contributes to its sustainability.
Some years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. I often use the garden as a metaphor in my keynote presentations to describe the learning framework. Like Monet’s garden, it is in a state of ‘permanent evolution’.
Just as Monet did, passionate teachers oversee its design and ensure the right conditions for growth. It is complex and hard work but the value as Monet instinctively knew, comes in seeing the masterpiece as a whole, not by elevating individual elements.