Insights into development
Assessment and reporting represent learning as a continuous process – as it is in life – rather than being task or subject specific.
In order for assessment to be effective in helping our students to progress as learners, assessments are made at the time the learning is taking place and at the conclusion of each learning cycle (rather than assessment being undertaken only at the end of a cycle with the goal being to rank or grade students).
Importantly, students receive feedback on their learning progress as they grow. This feedback helps to cultivate in students a growth mindset, as articulated in research by Dr. Carol Dweck. When we are in a growth mindset, we are productive and motivated which allows us to develop our most basic abilities through dedication and hard work.
The key benefits of empowering students with a growth mindset is that it:
Assessment is made by teachers, as well as by the children themselves through self-reflection and peer review. We measure and track progress through a combination of tasks that uses multiple intelligences to capture the true measurement of a student’s learning.
Parents are involved in the feedback loop through:
- Contributing perspectives towards formulation of the Individual Learning Plan (ILP) (with the teacher and student)
- Emails and in person updates from teachers, on achievement of the ILP’s learning steps as they arise
- Sharing in the learning conversation with their child throughout the year
- Monthly learning progress updates from class and specialist teachers
- Parent/student/teacher conversation twice yearly to give context to points covered in the formal report and to celebrate the growth of their child
We choose not to focus on comparisons or grades, but rather on imbuing children with self-confidence and a feeling of pride in a personal best or persistent effort. After all, school should be “an adventure in ideas rather than a test.”2
Writer and lecturer Alfie Kohn notes that educational psychologists have concluded the following from students who focused on grades:
- Grades tend to take away the joy of learning and so their interest wanes. It diminishes intrinsic motivation
- Grades cause students to take the easiest possible option so that they don’t risk getting bad mark. In other words, they’ll choose something less challenging because it’s a safe option: they’ll choose a shorter book for example, or a familiar topic
- Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking. They forego critical thinking in favour of regurgitating a text to do well on a test. Studies3 show that students who were graded, remembered fewer facts a week after the lesson, as did students were told there would be no grades
So what do we do instead? We present formal reports at the conclusion of the program. They show parents and students the progression of a child’s personal growth (via the learning steps they have taken to get there), assessing them on their own progress rather than with a homogenised scale of grades or as a comparison to average of other students at the age/grade level. This type of assessment and reporting that celebrates a child’s growth and creates a growth mindset is essential in order to develop students to be the kind of learners that will set them up for the world that awaits them.
1. Carol S. Dweck, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” New York: Ballantine Books, 2008.
2. John G. Nicholls and Susan Hazzard, “Education as Adventure: Lessons from the Second Grade,” p. 77. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1993.
3. Wendy S. Grolnick and Richard M. Ryan, “Autonomy in Children’s Learning: An Experimental and Individual Difference Investigation” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52(5), (1987). 890-898.