In the province of Ontario (and as you can see above, BC) and thus, in our school district, we honour the learning journey of our students and educators as we shift to the student centered learning culture. We respect where the learner is at in their thinking as we recognize that the conditions need to be in place for this culture to become permanent. However, there are times, as on any journey, where one needs to stop and review what their navigation equipment is telling them – to answer the question, “Are we moving towards our destination quickly enough?”
New beginnings offer the opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we still need to go, and then to set enhanced goals to get us there. For our school district, it is an opportunity to engage in a self-assessment of our journey to culture our schools in a learner centered way. Our schools are currently in the process of identifying the most urgent student learning need (curricular) and then determining the most effective student centered strategy to address this need. To accomplish this, our school leaders (both formal and informal) need to possess a solid understanding of what we mean when we use the term student centered environment and pedagogy. Assessment for Learning has helped us to understand that when we actually apply success criteria, we begin to understand it more deeply.
To this end, our lead team has worked at enhancing the success criteria that is foundational to our Board Learning Plan Theory of Action; as this criteria, when realized fully, will create the student centered learning environments that we know will positively impact our students and staff and will ultimately create an increased sense of well-being through enhanced belonging, engagement and motivation. Schools will be engaged in a self-assessment of this criteria in the New Year in an effort to both celebrate their growth and to determine next steps. This data will inform the work of their School Learning Plans and will help to break down this complex culture shift into component parts. As with any success criteria, we will continue to enhance it as we learn, however the core of the criteria will remain unchanged as it has originated from the Ontario School Effectiveness Framework.
This criteria has been divided into four areas and includes: Foundational Principles to Be Developed in the Environment and the Learner (which includes Learner Mindsets), Assessment for and as Learning, our Conditions for Learning, and Formal and Informal Leadership, which is the driving force behind this work. For each of the four areas, teams will be asked to apply the Stages of Implementation to the specific criteria, and cite concrete evidence to rate their learning journey as at the Awareness Stage, Beginning Implementation, Partial Implementation or Full Implementation Stage. It is important for teams to recognize that they will see student impact (there is student specific criteria for each area) at the Partial and Full Implementation Stages; thus teams will need to collect specific evidence from students that can be collectively analyzed to determine overall effectiveness.
Growing Success, 2010, pg 32
Schools will be encouraged to engage in this work not as a compliance piece, but as an opportunity to deeply analyze the evidence in light of criteria, and to set goals for next steps. In addition, by modelling this Assessment as Learning process, educators have the opportunity to experience it first hand, and to thus increasingly embed such processes into their work within the classroom. Again, for SGDSB, it is vital that we are “practicing what we preach” thus the strategies of the BLP must be embedded into all that we do.