Two weeks ago, many Canadians from provincial and territorial jurisdictions gathered in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to participate in a conference called Canada in Conversation with the World. It was an incredible opportunity to engage in dialogue and discussion with experts in the area of assessment and evaluation from across the globe. International guests included Gordon Stobart, Michael Absolum, Heidi Andrade, Susan Brookhart, Margaret Heritage, Dylan Wiliam, and Sue Swaffield, to name just a few. What I found most refreshing was to take the time to contemplate the ideas and concepts that were presented and to make connections to our Canadian context.
The conversations were rich; the questions demonstrated thoughtfulness; and the provocations to further action proved inspiring. And yet through the seminars, panels, and presentations, I spent time collecting “sound bytes” or quotes from these experts. I wanted to be able to recall these ideas and share them with others who were not present.
I would like to share some of them with you:
We need to go back to the beginnings of assessment for learning – to the principles of assessment for learning and not to the “recipes” of assessment for learning. Joy Cumming (Australia)
Teachers who are expert in assessment for learning collect evidence of student thinking and not of student performance. Susan Brookhart (United States of America)
We cannot improve the profession of teaching by alienating those people who carry it out. Lisa Rogers (New Zealand)
A meta-perspective on the profession of teaching allows us to do the right thing at the right time, while being able to explain and describe why it is the right thing at the right time. Kari Smith (Norway)
We ask ourselves two questions: What kind of learners do we want? What kind of learning do we want? Gordon Stobart (United Kingdom)
Students should spend more time learning than the time that they and others spend in checking if they have learned it. Dylan Wiliam (United Kingdom/United States of America)
Assessment for learning is in place if students do not have to wait for the teacher to tell him or her what to do next. They know this themselves. Mary Chamberlain (New Zealand)
Feedback is most effective when it comes to the right person, from the right person, delivered in the right way. Heidi Andrade (United States of America)
Professional development in the area of assessment for learning should be like assessment for learning. Sue Swaffield (United Kingdom)
Clearly this list is illustrative, rather than exhaustive, and can be used to further others’ learning. Since the conference, I have shared these nine quotes with groups of leaders in professional learning sessions. I place each quote in one cell of a three- by-three grid. The following image shows an example of one that highlights quotes from the Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam research, Inside the Black Box (1998). It is taken from The Facilitator’s Guide by Anne Davies.
Participant learners then read through the quotes and identify one of them to think about in the following manner: In what ways do you connect to this quote? In what ways does the quote extend your thinking? In what ways does this quote challenge your understanding? Groups of three or four people gather and each person shares the quote that they selected and their responses to these three questions.
This strategy is one of “soft landing.” It allows people to re-connect with concepts and ideas that they have talked and thought about before. In essence, it allows learners to leave behind the particulars of their day and invites them into the learning. In addition, it is both simple and possible; that is, it requires little preparation and yet encourages thought and engagement.
As leaders of learning, we often have the opportunity and the access to research reports, journal articles, and conference proceedings. This allows us to share main ideas and concepts with others who do not have the same chances that we may have. This strategy brings the words of external experts to the professional in a way that is both invitational and accessible.
Consider taking some time to think about the quotes that I have included in this blog. Perhaps you could think about how you might respond to the three questions that are listed above.
And as Linda Allal (Switzerland) said, “Only learners can create learning.” What a simple truth. And yet, as leaders we not only create the conditions for adult learning, but we also provide structures and strategies that invite the learner in.