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Local learning program takes world stage

Schools

A north western suburbs school has come under the international spotlight for the work it is doing to improve assessment processes to enhance personalised learning plans for each of its students.

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish School was invited to present at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement Conference held in Norway in January and attracted educators and academics from across the globe.

Principal Dave Edwards and Pauline Taylor-Guy from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) spoke about the case study currently underway at the Pennington parish school, which is looking at the “impact of high order learning around assessment, and a teacher’s ability to identify exactly where a child is at academically at the current point in time”.

As Mr Edwards told The Southern Cross, during 2018 the school embarked on a program to improve the quality of the data it was gathering about each student through assessments and teacher observations.

“We knew if we wanted to better know the children’s stories intimately we needed to have a better understanding of exactly where they were academically. In terms of meeting the challenge of personalised learning we needed to be more targeted in our use of data and we needed to make sure it was high quality.

“That included anecdotal observations of teachers, checklists teachers were using in their classrooms, through to explicit diagnostic testing such as PAT (Progressive Achievement Tests) in key learning domains,” Mr Edwards explained.

To support the school’s work in this area seven teachers, including Mr Edwards, enrolled in a graduate certificate run by ACER. The level of commitment by the OLMC team to extend their professional learning piqued the interest of the internationally recognised research organisation which wanted to know more about the program.

“ACER contacted us and wondered why we had done it and the thinking behind it. They said they wanted to do a case study on us and see with so many of our staff doing the graduate certificate and developing higher intellectual understanding about assessment, what impact does that have on teacher practice. And if teacher practice is impacted, how does that actually influence the outcomes for students.”

Representatives from ACER visited OLMC at the start of Term 4 last year and went through a range of processes with staff and then conducted one-on-one interviews. It will now continue to monitor progress and outcomes at the school over the next couple of years.

Mr Edwards said one of the comments he heard “over and over” again at the Norway conference was that “every child has capacity; every child is capable”.

“The fact that we were so focused on understanding each child’s story that we know their next step and can maximise their learning was seen as a really, really strong positive by those attending,” he said.

“In the next two years we should be seeing a real difference.”

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