THE AAIE NEW SCHOOL PROJECT
We reject overdependence on narrow methods of assessment. All learners and schools must have the opportunity to demonstrate progress using rich and diverse data and methods
Evidence refers to specific, measurable, quantifiable data and information that supports statements made by a student, teacher, or school leader. For student learning, evidence must show the achievement of learning outcomes and the growth and progress that the student demonstrated in order to achieve that outcome. Typically, schools rely on narrow methods of assessment, such as standardized tests, to show student learning because these assessments are cost-effective, efficient, and can be normed to various comparison groups. While not inherently bad, standardized tests are only one example of evidence, and this Principle encourages teachers and schools to rely on several methods to assess student progress. Examples of various assessments include student demonstrations of learning, performative experiences, final products, and other showcases of learning. Evidence is also essential at the school leader and board/overseer level. Data must be used in the boardroom to assess trends and to make data-informed decisions that will support the long-term sustainability of the school.
David Furlow-ACS International Schools
Principle in Action
What does this principle look like in action? The following quotes represent examples for how this principle is manifested in a school.
Students Know how to use evidence to determine motivation and direction for learning. They also Know how to define evidence to demonstrate to themselves a goal has been reached. Learners Know how to define, compile/create evidence to convince others that goals have been attained. And they Know how to use evidence to construct research, network expertise and guidance. They also Know how to use evidence to strategize and evaluate the efficacy of solutions.
Know how to use evidence to aim teaching and inform Learning Experience Design. Know which desirable perspectives cannot be informed using currently existing data sources. Know how to audit and augment evidence bases to ensure 720-degree perspectives. Use evidence to support wellness, differentiation, resourcing, and efficacy. Teachers act to correct faulty data or to suggest new sources of evidence because they know that depth, breadth, quality, and accessibility of evidence are key to holistic practice of learning, well-being, and efficacy.
Know how to evaluate evidence as a source of illumination, not only as a means of evaluation. Ready to scrutinize data as a means of identifying questions that have yet to be raised, or fine tuning research or resourcing. Use data and evidence effectively to inform strategy and in communications with all stakeholders. Strive to engage the community in the use of evidence to inform vision, action, and evaluation.
Able to see beyond average exam results. Understanding of the need for data literacy. Willing to work at informing curiosity and opinions with evidence.
We use data as a flashlight, not as a club. Our dominant view of data and evidence is formative. That is to say, we want evidence to inform curiosity, to aim teaching and learning, and to improve our ability to build collective efficacy. The joint ownership of student success has one of the largest impacts on student learning outcomes (Hattie, et al). Prior uses of data have focused on compliance, external assessments, and summative judgment. These should be balanced (and positively impacted) by the addition of other frames of reference to the perspectives of students, educators, and leaders.
To get started on the path towards vision-led, evidence-informed continuous improvement, we imagine a need to work within our contexts to define a purpose. Then we need to decide what data and evidence will inform our design of student learning experiences, assessment, differentiation, learning pathway selections, student outcomes, and evaluations of efficacy. These measures can be used to build networks, timebox activities, provide multiple ways, means, and times for students to demonstrate their learning, and evaluate proficiency, growth, wellness, efficacy, and resourcing.
To facilitate improvements in our use of data, we should focus on skills in data conversations, and integrating different perspectives, rather than on data administration, or rationalizing or justifying external assessment results. Metrics for summary judgments, where necessary, should be arrived at by the teaching and learning communities, not solely defined by average test scores on particular external assessments.
Provocations are intended to be tools to use within a school community to get people thinking creatively and in a generative way about the elements of each of the Principles. As reflective leaders in the change process, we must use fearless inquiry to step out of our comfort zone, examine our current practices, and design approaches for the future. The following questions are designed to prompt conversations within your school community. Your answers to these questions should challenge the status quo. If you are fearful of your answers, it is an indication that you are exploring this principle at a deep level.
- What are our beliefs and values around assessment and how do they limit our ability to design new practices that benefit our students?
- In what ways do our systems and structures maintain outdated practices that no longer serve our students?
- What can we name as significant changes to our system over the last ten years with evidence including providing greater equity; realigning student assessment/grading practices to reflect growth; and harnessing improved data collection/analysis processes? How did we make the shifts, individually and as a collective?
- What habits, behaviors, and dispositions are required for the evidence principle to be realized?
- What are ways to show evidence of student learning and the growth/progress that student underwent to attain the particular learning outcome?
- In what ways are standardized tests useful and what are their limitations? How/When/Where should our school use standardized testing?
Guidance and Tools for Evidence
For each of our NEW SCHOOL Principles, we provide a Pathway that attempts to tell the story of a school on a journey towards putting that principle into practice. These narratives are only approximations, because every school is different and change is not as linear as this represents. It is messy, imperfect, and iterative. To apply the metaphor of a ‘pathway’, it is often one step forward and several steps in reverse. The spirit of this pathway is simply to provide ‘a portrait of possibility’. It offers a picture of what progress might look like, as it can be easier to imagine something if a possible model is provided.
We offer four stages along this journey, for schools to reflect on their current reality and imagine what might be next:
- Thinking about it...What might it look like when your school is “thinking about” the Principle?
- Working on it...What might it look like when your school is “working on” the Principle?
- Living it...What might it look like when your school is “living” this Principle?
- Transforming it...If you get this far along the continuum, what would a transformation of your school’s relationship with the Principle look like in practice? How would you tell that story?
Our drive to develop new systems of evidence-gathering is part of our ADAPTIVE CHANGE process as we reduce our reliance on the embedded practice of testing as the major means of evidence gathering. We are determined to increase the CAPACITY of our learners to provide their own evidence of learning, of ourselves to master innovative forms of assessment, and of our parents to participate in the learning process through better informed learning conversations. As we build capacity among all stakeholders we transform a transactional relationship among stakeholders into a transformative one, building a learning community in the true sense. This was helped enormously by the fact that we have a shared definition of LEARNING throughout the community, equipping learners to self-assess with greater clarity and confidence. The focus on character in our learning definition means that we are heavily focussed on gathering evidence of learner WELL-BEING, a particular emphasis for our school given the stresses of working through the current pandemic. Perhaps the clearest epiphany for us throughout this process was that our earlier, narrower forms of evidence-gathering were heavily skewed towards one kind of learning, perhaps even one kind of learner. By broadening, enriching, even democratizing the ways in which our learners can demonstrate what they have learned, we feel we have created a fairer, more EQUITABLE learning culture, where all learners can thrive on their own terms.