Saturday, February 25, 2017

Learning is More Than Passing a Test

Our aim at St Joseph's is for teachers, parents and students to develop a love of learning. To do this, we need to first have a conversation about what learning is and isn't.

What is learning? One train of thought is that is easy to measure, that data in the form of results can show learning and that we base success of learning on this data. I would hope that we view learning as much more than this! As Will Richardson states, "Learning is much more than what is easily measured." 

The challenge is to make our beliefs of learning as more than test results the focus of the work of teachers and parents in schools. Will often quotes that "kids are increasingly disengaged from learning and not ready for the world of work and learning past school. He says that we are "missing the boat."

"Learning makes you want to learn more" Seymour Sarason.  He believes that learning needs to be based on student passions, interests and should motivate them to pursue it at a higher level. On the contrary it should not be limited to studying, taking a test and then never think about it again. I would argue that the latter, is what learning has been characterised by in the past.

How do we respond to this in our schools, given that testing such as NAPLAN, obsession over 'reading levels' and standardised testing hovers over and in some cases, dominates the learning agenda? Will Richardson says that a change in focus from teacher organised and delivered education to student determined and directed learning based on passions and interests.  

Professor John Hattie of Melbourne UNiversity proposes that the answer lies in making our schools more inviting places to come and learn...  He suggests in his article Shifting away from distractions to improve Australia’s schools: Time for a Reboot (2016)  that high quality and passionate teachers is the place to start. The moment by moment decisions that are made in the heat of learning, in the context of the classroom; and the size of the effects of teacher expertise towers above the structural influences (class size, ability grouping, private vs public school et al.). It is teachers working together as evaluators of their impact, their skill in knowing what students now know and providing them with explicit success criteria near the beginning of a series of lessons , ensuring high trust in the classroom so errors and misunderstanding are welcomed as opportunities to learn , maximizing feedback to teachers about their impact. The mantra of Visible Learning relates to teachers seeing learning through the eyes of students, and students seeing themselves as their own teachers.

In the primary schooling arena, explicit learning of the basics of literacy and numeracy coupled with a focus on well being and dispositions for learning unlocks learning as described above. The introduction of the follow deep learning competencies are also key to success for learning in the 21 century and beyond. 

  •           Citizenship 
  •           Communication 
  •           Critical thinking and problem solving 
  •           Collaboration 
  •           Creativity and imagination
  •        Character education 

(A Rich Seam – How new Pedagogies find Deep Learning, Fullan & Langworthy 2014)

St Joseph's is on the journey of making schooling more welcoming and student- centred and where learning is measured, not just by scores, but by student engagement and desire to learn more.


A Rich Seam – How new Pedagogies find Deep Learning, Fullan & Langworthy (2014)

Shifting away from distractions to improve Australia’s schools: Time for a Reboot, Hattie (Oct, 2016)

What is Learning? Modern Learners - Will Richardson (2017)

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