Teacher Learning with Emeritus Professor Dylan Wiliam

Over the 16 and 17th May, 26 Geelong College teachers from Foundation to Year 12 had the privilege of attending professional learning opportunities in Melbourne under world-renowned educational researcher and teacher Dylan Wiliam.

Challenging Traditional Assessment

Hosted by Wantirna College in Ringwood, this day brought together Dylan Wiliam’s argument for the need to raise academic achievement in schools with some practical presentations from three local schools. Each presented on the work they are doing to challenge conventional methods of assessment in schools. Wantirna College is doing innovative work in assessment at the VCE level, designing new rubrics and approaching the outcomes developmentally for students. West Bentleigh and Docklands Primary Schools are overhauling their approaches to feedback, by empowering students to be agents in their own learning. Following panel of school leaders and experts in assessment, including Dylan Wiliam, the day concluded with a further keynote on some strategies to evolve culture and teacher practices. The seven of our Junior and Middle School staff took so much from the day and were challenged to think about how we might bring this learning back to our own school.

Embedding Formative Assessment

A full-day workshop with Dylan Wiliam, 20 of our staff from across Foundation to Year 12 gathering at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne’s CBD. A day of rich learning, discussion and practical application, the workshop enabled us to reflect on the direction of education more broadly, as well as looking for new ways to better assess where our students are at in their learning. The premise for the day was that the best way to enhance learning outcomes for students is to explore closely our teacher practice, but that evolving teacher practice is notoriously difficult to do. This is not because our teachers are immovable or incapable, but actually the opposite: we are so skilled at what we do, are content experts and many of us have been working for years in a particular way. To make changes to what we already do can be hard. A very narrow focus on what Dylan Wiliam calls “assessment for learning” is the key. Assessment for learning is any assessment for which the first priority is to serve the purpose of promoting student learning. In other words, any activity which provides information to teachers and students and can be used to adapt the teaching to meet learning needs. The staff who attended were given a raft of effective, quick strategies to gauge student understanding in real time. Dylan is the undisputed international expert on formative assessment and it was a privilege indeed to have this time with him. Our next steps across the College will be to prepare some goals and actions whereby those attending staff can share their learning with colleagues and begin using these new strategies in their classrooms.

Emily FitzSimons, Director of Teaching and Learning

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