Term 2 has been a busy term for staff and students alike, beavering away completing assessment tasks, examinations, marking and now reporting. As discussed in previous newsletter articles, the College has reviewed its assessment policy and therefore reduced what is known as summative assessment by 50%. These changes have been the result of much planning and research into the benefits of reduced summative assessment (Assessment ‘of’ Learning) in Years 7-10 in preference for an increased emphasis on formative (Assessment ‘as’ and ‘for Learning).The key purpose of formative assessment is checking for student understanding, providing feedback and encouraging students to take greater responsibility for their learning. Students work with this feedback in order to know where they are at and how to progress by further developing their knowledge and skills, and by then producing their best work; this being in stark contrast to summative assessment which usually occurs at the completion of a unit of work. This ties in nicely with our key learning principle of self-directed learners and associated goal setting and reflection in which our students are engaged. Research from academics such as John Hattie (2016) and Dylan Wiliam (2017) clearly indicates that embedded formative assessment practice leads to increased learning gain and learning growth, as opposed to an over emphasis on summative assessment practice, whereby describing performance and ranking individuals takes stage.
These changes have meant that students now complete ONE summative task per semester, with the focus now being on the learning taking place in the classroom, the activities that complement the summative task and the knowledge and skills that are practiced and developed through feedback (both peer and teacher). The idea is for students to grow across the term/semester and present their most polished product as a result; deepening their level of understanding. The student’s grade for reports is therefore still determined by the summative task, however, if required (and particularly in the case of discrepant data) teachers may draw on cohort consistent formative tasks in order to assist them in determining the grading of outcomes and the final grade.
Our changing assessment policy has also led to a refinement of our semester reports. We have now included an overview of learning to provide additional information on the learning that your daughter has been engaged in and the types of activities and summative assessment completed. With the emphasis on individual learning growth rather than cohort comparison, junior reports will now feature a grade only without the comparative mark scale (cohort average, range of marks with the individual mark) that had been a feature of previous semester reports. The other key area of difference can be found in the Newman report which now features commitment to learning feedback to parents. With our more ‘open curriculum’ approach to Gifted Education, if your daughter is not in the Newman grouping, she may still have completed the Newman component of her assessment tasks (if she had been able to demonstrate this level of mastery to her teacher/s though pre-assessment) and will therefore receive a separate Newman report to provide information regarding her level of achievement.
Finally, a number of students in the Newman stream Yrs 7-10 have been invited and expressed interest the UNSW Mosaic Mentoring program, building partnerships between our students and the university. The program provides a platform for UNSW volunteers and high school students to discuss global issues, cultural diversity and community identity. I look forward to sharing their progress as their project comes to fruition over the course of Terms 3 and 4.
Leader of Pedagogy