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Learning outcomes Can we bridge learning and assessment? Thessaloniki, 15 - 16 October 2007
The shift towards learning outcomes in European education and training policies and practises Rhetoric or reality? Rather: What kind of Learning Outcome reality? The exam industry could argue that exams are the state of the art of Learning Outcome. Base Learning Outcome on summative examinations! To be fair, centralise them as much as possible. Have them graded anonymously. Qualifications can only be attained by passing centralised examinations for each unit deemed necessary for a given qualification.
Base learning outcomes on summative examinations? Teaching has the purpose of efficiently preparing students to pass these exams. Detailed standards spell out the content of the desired learning outcomes. Is that the desired impact of learning outcomes on education? In many countries, this is not rhetoric, but dangerously close to reality…
The problem with standard summative testing is that it leaves lots of dropouts and failures along the side of the educational road The Lisbon strategy calls for substantially reducing the number of school dropouts … and for increasing the number of students in higher education … and for improving life long learning. What kind of assessment is called for to further these goals?
The problem with standard summative testing is that it focuses on mistakes and failures more than on strengths Pupils experience summative assessment “as a source of pressure, which makes them anxious” (Paul Black, Testing: friend or foe? , p. 129). Fear of examinations which show up what you cannot do does not motivate students effectively. For those less inclined academically, this is often where the downward spiral begins. Weighty final examinations also have a tendency to standardise the curriculum, … encourage “teaching to the test” … and maybe even reduce learning to the attainment of intellectual skills necessary to improve examination scores.
Formal schooling thereby instils fears of failure, leading to widespread antipathy towards learning as such This is in stark contrast to the natural process of learning … which begins as a highly individualised process in early childhood, … generated by self-motivation and facilitated by self-assessment and self-esteem. This can continue throughout life – – if it is properly nurtured!
Increasing formative assessment The primary purpose of formative assessment is to support high-quality learning while it occurs. Increasing formative assessment has often been called for, but is scantly put into practice. „Firm evidence shows that formative assessment is an essential component of classroom work and that its development can raise standards of achievement”. This summarises an article by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam which appeared in 1998 (“Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment”). “Indeed, they know of no other way of raising standards for which such a strong prima facie case can be made”.
This goes hand in hand with developing a culture of self-assessment and peer-assessment Working with portfolio can be a powerful tool for developing such a culture. Portfolio-based assessment also has huge potential in making more key-competences visible. Working stringently with portfolio elements together with self- and peer-evaluation encourages students to take ownership of their learning, … thereby strengthening the individual dimension of life -long-learning … while producing detailed learning outcomes with which they can identify and become proud of.
Portfolio can further a more inclusive education and help decrease school failure Classical testing of purely cognitive competences tends to demotivate less cognitively inclined students and to narrow the learning scope of more gifted students. Best practice portfolio methods tend to motivate learners by showing individual strengths … and to stimulate self-reflection and entrepreneurship. It also gives gifted students the ability to work at a higher level according to their individual ability. Paul Black: “… as long as pupils compare themselves with others, those with high attainment are too little challenged and those with low attainment are demotivated” (in Testing: friend or foe? , page 129).
The research has long been done – it only lacks the implementation “Where formative assessment has been emphasized, it has been found that pupils bring to the work a fear of assessment from their experience of summative tests, and it takes some time for them to become more positive about formative work”. “The conversion happens more effectively if teachers can give time to setting targets to individual pupils”. Black continues by citing R. Sadler, who emphasizes developing the ability of the student “to monitor continuously the quality of what is being produced during the act of production itself” (p. 130).
Pupil involvement is essential This includes having students assess their own work. The task of the teacher then shifts from writing teacherassessments to also validating student-written selfassessments. This engenders dialogue, resulting in much reassessment … through which the student develops the ability to properly gauge him- or herself – an exceedingly useful competence that tends to be underdeveloped.
Making qualification and examination systems more sensitive to a wider scope of learning outcomes Choosing a small number of evaluated portfolio elements for inclusion in final reports connected with qualifications allows the student to show concrete learning outcomes, … personalising the qualification and making it more transparent to the labour market. The success of the European Language Portfolio shows that this works – … better than letter or number grades. Making qualification and examination systems more sensitive to a wider scope of learning outcomes could introduce a new dynamic into formalised qualification systems.
Sustaining the natural eagerness to learn Qualification systems that are more sensitive to individual development are more likely to sustain the natural eagerness to learn, … with which every human being is born and which is sustainable throughout the entire life of an individual. This is key to life long learning. It is likely to substantially reduce school failure and dropout rates and the number of NIET (“not in education or training”).
National Curricula narrow teaching Richard Pring of the Nuffield Review points out that teachers in England, as professionals in their respective fields, used to be ‘deliberators’ with regard to the curriculum, not ‘deliverers’. As deliberators, teachers should ask: “What is good for these young people? What is the curriculum we need? ” “What can we draw upon in terms of the culture that we have inherited in order to enable young people to be educated in a broad and holistic way? ” This broad and holistic approach to learning has been lost, partly as a result of the English National Curriculum, says Pring.
The need to reflect on values in education Jerome Bruner argued that schools themselves need to be engaged with the question “What is it to be human? ” and to start thinking about those values ‘Man: a course of study’, in Bruner, J. Towards a Theory of Instruction. Pring notes that England has lost the tradition of practical learning (domestic science, metal work, woodwork) because these more general questions of education were not asked. A new policy development in England is the plan to unveil Specialist Diplomas for the 14 -19 age-group, … with the idea of “catching the vulnerable and challenge the highly competent” … as well as rubbing out the traditional dividing lines between 'vocational' and 'academic'.
Standards can also narrow curricula Germany only recently introduced National Educational Standards that, by enlarge, define the curriculum which can meet those standards. Defining minimum standards would have been better, was the main criticism from educational experts. Based on these standards, 15 of the 16 German Länder are now committed to centralised examinations for the Abitur, … having the effect of squelching the little curricular diversity there was before down to near zero. There is much reason to doubt that this will help tailor education and training to individual needs.
Recognizing non-formal learning Learning structured by a learning institution which “is not usually evaluated and does not lead to certification” is classified by the OECD as non-formal learning : “Non-formal learning arises when an individual follows a learning programme but it is not usually evaluated and does not lead to certification. However it can be structured by the learning institution and is intentional from the learner’s point of view” (cf. Qualification Systems. Bridges to Lifelong Learning, OECD 2007, p. 26).
Opening up formal learning We are looking for partners interested in recognising non-formal learning, including non-formal learning attained within the secondary school environment. Once non-formal learning is evaluated and certified and becomes a component in the attainment of a qualification, it can no longer be considered nonformal learning, but will have become part of formal learning, having enriched the latter. This should include procedures for validating formative assessment methods based on individualised portfolio -related learning outcomes.
Bilan de Compétences In chapter 3 of “Making Learning Visible: Identification, Assessment and Recognition of non-formal learning in Europe”, Jens Bjornavold wrote about the French “bilan de compétence”: Typically, things like a “bilan de compétences” are meant for “validation of professional competences acquired outside formal education”. I would like to ask why something like a “bilan de compétences” could not be developed within the framework of the formal educational system?
More pathways into institutions of higher learning What kind of validation would a bilan de compétences, a wider scope of learning outcomes need in order to be able to play a substantial role in qualifications that allow, say, entrance to institutions of higher learning? Countries like Sweden already offer citizens many pathways into universities, other European countries do not. The instrument of “open coordination” makes it conceivable that good practice in one country can find its way into others.
Putting the learning individual in the centre of education Putting the learning human being in the centre of education has been central to the philosophy of Steiner Waldorf education. However, this is easier said than done. School can easily become an institution which effectively marginalises the learning individual with individual questions, needs, approaches, talents, shortcomings etc. … through rampant and tenacious institutional standardisation, which is a problem of all formal education.
The Steiner Waldorf network We have a world-wide network of comprehensive schools and kindergartens, including about 700 schools in Europe offering education up to the end of secondary school. Some of the schools also offer vocational training, some have begun to work innovatively with formative assessment based on portfolio, … piloted by schools in the Netherlands and Solothurn (Switzerland) and taken up by our German schools in Bochum and Potsdam (including service learning). These have been developing learning outcomes folders, which include a description of the curriculum, portfolios of selected learning outcomes and an assessment of achievements for each student.
SCHULABSCHLUSSPORTFOLIO Schulabschlussportfoliomappe mit Abschlusszeugnis, Jahresarbeit und Portfoliozeugnissen
Plastizieren Das Plastizieren mit Ton hat mir Spaß gemacht, da konnte man einfach seiner Phantasie freien Lauf lassen, ob wohl es Arbeitsaufgaben gab, die ich dann abgewandelt habe und meine eigenen Ideen mit eingebracht habe. In der 11 Klasse war das Thema Menschen sitzend, liegend und stehend zu Plastizieren. In der 12 Klasse waren dann Portraits Thema und ich habe versucht, nach einem Foto das Gesicht meiner Schwester aus Ton zu modellieren. Das war doch nicht so einfach, wie ich dachte und doch bin ich mit dem Ergebnis zufrieden. Auch habe ich noch andere Gesichter aus Ton modelliert. (Excerpt from a Schulabschlussportfolio)
In Geschichte waren meine Lieblingsthemen das Mittelalter und die Problematik des ersten Weltkrieges. In der Geschichtsepoche der 11 Klasse habe ich ein Themenheft zum Thema Musik im Mittelalter angefertigt, in dem ich selbstständig das Thema Minne, Instrumente, Sängerkrieg, Narren und viele weitere Punkte rund um die Musik bearbeitet habe.
Service Learning Workplace learning Be active in the community, learn by doing! Students get to know businesses or civic organisations, and these get to know students. Of the students at the Potsdam Waldorf School not going on to higher education, 85 % are offerered apprenticeships where they did their service or workplace learning (“Betriebspraktikum”). The students are required to document their learning and reflect upon their experiences in a service or workplace learning portfolio … which is then assessed by both student and teacher.
In addition to the extensive written assessment, a numeric assessment is also given, becoming an element in the German qualification „Fachoberschulreife“.
Self-assessment of service learning by a pupil in class 11 Eigenbeurteilung (schriftlich): Die mir gestellten Aufgaben brachte ich immer zu Ende. Ich war motiviert bei der Arbeit und versuchte die mir gestellten Aufgaben mit größtmöglicher Sorgfalt auszuführen, wobei ich aber manchmal viel Zeit für die Durchführung meiner Arbeit in Anspruch nahm. Es kam ab und an zu Kommunikationsschwierigkeiten oder Unaufmerksamkeiten; so dass ich eine gestellte Aufgabe nicht zufrieden stellend lösen konnte oder unsicher mehrmals nachfragen musste ( Kugelschreiberfabrik und bei der Software an meinem Computer). Man zeigte mir gegenüber ein gewisses Vertrauen und gab mir Verantwortung, da ich Bestellungen abholen durfte und auch die Schlüssel der Räume besaß. Bei manchen Aufgabengebieten hatte ich kaum Vorwissen und stieß auf immer neue Probleme. Dies war z. B. bei dem Aufgabenfeld Software so, bei dem ich immer wieder auf Probleme stieß, die ich hätte vermeiden können. In diesen Bereichen konnte ich mein praktisches Wissen deutlich erweitern.
European Portfolio Certificate project Earlier this year, ECSWE invited all Steiner Waldorf Schools in Europe to participate in the European Portfolio Certificate project (EPC), • with the goal of implementing a Portfolio Certificate as a qualification for students at the end of secondary school • that can better document and assess the specific learning outcomes achievements of the student • as well as characterise the curriculum of the school where the education took place, • giving reliable information on both the level of education and the individual qualification of the student.
The members of ECSWE are national associations of Steiner Waldorf Schools, which also run teacher training centres, with differing degrees of accreditation. Without empowering teachers, the shift towards learning outcomes will largely remain rhetoric. We can offer a keen interest in educational innovation and flexibility in experimenting with new forms of assessment on a European scale. I repeat that we are looking for partners to develop an accredited end of secondary school qualification based on a wider scope of learning outcomes. Dr. Detlef Hardorp, ECSWE [email protected] org
Yes, we can bridge learning and assessment. Let us begin! [email protected] org