“The fundamental purpose of assessment in education is to establish and understand where learners are in an aspect of their learning at the time of assessment. The ultimate purpose of using assessments … is to enhance learning and so improve levels of achievement.”
(Masters, 2014, Australian Council for Educational Research)
The world of school assessment and reporting is seeing rapid change. In response to the latest research on learning, and a strong desire to enhance student growth, schools are grappling with an evolving assessment landscape. When many of us were students, we received a school report, twice per year, which provided little more than a global summary of our behaviour, application to our studies, and overall grade in each subject. Such reports, whilst valuable in some ways, only provided parents and students with performance information after the assessment period, with no opportunity to enhance performance during the learning. Effective assessment should provide specific feedback and be offered at such a point in time as to assist the student on their journey, not simply report what was achieved afterwards.
The Geelong College aims to provide an inspiring education in order that students might become empowered, creative and independent learners. Students are both encouraged and equipped to take responsibility for their own learning, embrace and demonstrate resilience in intellectual challenges, and be collaborative, reflective learners. Ultimately, we want all students to develop a life-long love of, and capacity for, learning. At Geelong College our students’ intellectual growth is critical. The CLRI has embarked upon a project whose focus is the development of a school-wide philosophy and practice in learning assessment, quality feedback and the academic growth of our students.
Through embedding a new learning management system and by drawing upon the expertise of a number of key consultants over the next few years, we aim to;
- Develop a broad understanding of the purpose of and practice in the best contemporary approach to assessment to enhance learning, both formative and summative;
- Enhance our teachers’ application of evidence-based principles in both learning and the assessment of that learning in children and adolescents;
- Refine our College philosophy and practice in feedback to students on and during their learning;
- Foster a greater sense of agency in our students, enabling them to become self-aware, reflective and assessment-capable learners;
- Foster a growth mindset in both our students and staff, with a continual focus on improvement;
- Develop a College-wide strategy for the use of learning data to inform our teaching and the students’ learning;
- Streamline our approach to assessment and growth across P-12, developing a greater sense of shared understanding and approaches to assessment;
- Evolve the College’s use of SEQTA as our learning management system, enhancing the quality of feedback, student and parent engagement with that feedback, and the use of SEQTA for monitoring growth.
During 2019, we introduced a new platform for providing feedback to students and an ability for families to monitor their child’s progress in a timely manner.
SEQTA is a student and learning management system, an all-in-one collaborative teaching and learning platform which draws together information on student learning, achievement, attendance and pastoral care. SEQTA’s program is currently used in over 450 schools around Australia, providing students and families with unprecedented access to timely, regular and detailed information about a student’s learning journey. During Semester 1, we launched SEQTA Engage® for parents across all three schools and SEQTA Learn® for students in Years 4-12.
What does SEQTA provide?
- More timely feedback on student learning throughout the semester, as teachers place feedback directly onto the portal;
- An opportunity for older students to discuss the feedback with their parents as soon as it is available;
- More task-specific feedback for students than previous end-of-term or semester reports could offer;
- An opportunity to help students understand how they are developing;
- Electronic reporting practices that deliver retrievable assessment information online throughout the year;
- Streamlined end-of-semester reports, that can be easily accessed and downloaded;
- Due to the online platform, the convenience of being accessible on multiple devices, including smart phones and tablets.
Students and families in Years 4-12 will notice that most of the feedback on SEQTA is directly addressed to the student. This is a conscious decision. In a world that talks passionately about learning being “student-centred”, such feedback is evidence of us placing the student at the centre of our practice. What does this mean? Regardless of the age of the child, a student-centred education means the individual and their growth (in understanding, capability and self-awareness) is the focus of a modern education. No longer are schools seeing the educative process as a factory production line, where the goal is mastery of defined knowledge content. In a student-centred system, students are empowered to take ownership of their learning journey, to understand their own thinking and needs, and to be reflective and resilient learners.
This focus on the individual should never breed entitlement. It does not, for example, mean that we do everything for the students and seek to always please them. They need to take control of their own behaviour, be inherently motivated, and be aspirational for themselves and their peers. It is this kind of empowerment that we hope SEQTA will offer. Students and parents will be able to track growth over time, as the platform builds up the picture of learning in the years ahead.
Bronwyn Ryrie Jones Consultancy
Bronwyn is a Melbourne-based teacher, trainer and consultant who works with teachers and educational organisations who want to think rigorously about developmental assessment, task design, feedback and evidence-informed principals of instruction. She will be working with our teachers over the coming years as we build our shared understanding and upskill staff to use contemporary, evidence-informed approaches to assessment.
Emeritus Professor Dylan Wiliam Event
In an unprecedented opportunity, the Geelong College was confirmed to host world-renowned educator, researcher and speaker Dylan Wiliam for a two-day event in September 2020. Sadly, owing to Covid-19, Professor Wiliam had to cancel his planned trip from the USA to Australia. We are hopeful of being able to reschedule this event when Professor Wiliam next travels to Australia. We are unsure of the timing of this trip, will look forward to keeping our community abreast of developments.
James Anderson – The Growth Mindset
The term ‘Growth Mindset’ and ‘Fixed Mindset’ have become buzzwords in education since researcher Carol Dweck recognised them as contributing factors in academic achievement. Schools have invested time and energy into exploring the concepts and professionally developing their teachers on these two mindsets. Recently, however, there has been doubt raised about the effectiveness of this. James Anderson is an Australian-based international speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. Formerly a teacher and school leader, James has been working with schools to make classrooms more thoughtful places. He challenges teachers to think deeply about their own mindsets and how they communicate these beliefs to students in often subtle and unintended ways. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. Through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.
Our Middle School Curriculum Co-ordinators were given the opportunity to undertake James Anderson’s workshop on The Growth Mindset Toolkit. James, a renowned Growth Mindset expert, believes that to make a difference, teachers need to shift their focus from teaching about Growth Mindset to teaching for Growth Mindset.
“To encourage learning in our students, James proposed that we need to focus on developing in our students the necessary skills to become agile learners. An agile learner is someone who not only understands they are capable of growth, but who also understands how to achieve that growth... James’ workshop challenged me in a number of ways, particularly in how I assess the non-academic components of students’ learning. It has encouraged me to look beyond the Growth vs Fixed Mindset concept and adopt a larger toolkit to help my students become agile learners, developing a sense of agency for their own learning”.
Andrea McGucken – Head of Information Services and Library