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learning culture

April 2, 2013


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Since development of a learning culture requires focus on assessment for learning to drive iterative improvements, emphasis of the significance of feedback is a promising basis for building best practice. Formative assessment ensuring “provision of feedback that moves learning forward” (Wiliam, 2011, p. 120, emphasis in original) is perceived as critical to improving performance.

I am reminded of effective coaching scenarios, often showcased on sports’ fields, beside swimming pools, or in practical classes where Manual Arts, Physical Education, Home Economics, any technical expertise is shared with students moment-to-moment and specifically re-directs their learning. Craft is apparent.


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Quality feedback warrants clarification in any school assessment policy in order to reinforce links to teacher effectiveness and embed in ongoing practice a strong community awareness of the causal link between teaching and learning (Fullan, 2010; Wiliam, 2011). Furthermore, stating that

Formative assessment is an essential tool for allowing teachers to form and/ or adjust the teaching/ learning process

acknowledges a concomitant  need to promote a visible learning culture (Hattie, 2009; Masters, 2002), yet omits  considered emphasis of how to achieve understanding of how students think rather than what they know (Forster, 2009).

Key phrases which are likely to encourage best practice include dynamic process and defining the purpose of assessment as

modify, monitor and evaluate

learning. Complexity is effectively inscribed. Ongoing refinement is implied.

While most schools’ assessment policies convey an overall impression of emphasising summative assessment of learning at the expense of assessment for learning, the aspects described above suggest that monitoring achievement and system-based accountability measures could be applied as effective feedback mechanisms in order to provide information about students’ achievement against national standards.

With consistency to drive improvements in learning, and by “beginning with the end in mind” (Sharratt & Fullan, 2012, p. 59), educators would be best equipped to apply a continuum paradigm rather than simple measurement to their craft.


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Since teachers’ attention to student learning is associated with higher student performance (CRESST, 2011), the school’s best practice in assessment  – as distinct from a plan or schedule – can serve to develop teachers’ conception of teaching “as an evidence-based profession” where benchmarks, performance and feedback are embedded and crucial to achieving improvements in student achievement (Hattie, 2009, p. 127).

Herein resides scope for learning.


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Transcribing the ripples:

  • Build trust
  • Start with the end in mind – backward map curriculum & embed cross marking to moderate/ sustain rich conversations
  • Coach/ mentoring processes forge next practice
  • Apply NAPLAN data to track students, but be mindful of system-focused limitations
  • Audit assessment policy & assessment processes (for learning)
  • Capacity building + Ripple effect = leadership philosophy
  • Refer to academic reading to drive improvements

Selected references

CRESST report 802. (2011). Knowing and doing: What teachers learn from formative assessment and how they use information. Retrieved January 26, 2013 from website:

Forster, M. (2009). Informative assessment: Understanding and guiding learning.  Paper presented at the ACER research conference on Assessment and Student Learning. Retrieved January 9, 2013 from:

Fullan, M. (2010). Motion leadership: The skinny on becoming change savvy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning. Oxon: Routledge.

Masters, G.N. (2002). Teaching and learning school improvement framework. Retrieved February 1, 2013 from:

Sharratt, L. & Fullan, M. (2012). Making it work in practice – assessment. In Putting faces on the data: What great leaders do! (pp. 59–93)Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Retrieved from University of Western Australia Course Materials Online.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.


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