I wanted to respond to a comment but it became too long. Thanks Helen! It gave me another opportunity to reflect on where I’m heading. Continuums! The big ‘UM’…

Fellowship Project: Angela Stockman WYN Education Associates


Background thinking!

I have to choose my words carefully here because assessment is vital, but not when the assessment overrides teaching. I’m seeing teachers sitting at tables individually assessing students for long periods of time during what I think should be ‘on the feet’, small group and whole class instruction time. The assessment looks impressive, but is it really? Is the assessment driving learning or is it all about where the student is?

Assessment drives teaching (absolutely) but is everything we are assessing necessary? I know it’s not! However, having said this, what are the crucial ‘clicks’ which move a student from one stage to the next? I have ideas and hunches but I need to validate these using the grounded research methodology which I’m learning about now.

I do feel that when we educators discover something new we can overuse it and in doing so take away the power of the tool and overwhelm ourselves in the classroom.

As you would understand current research on the Six Shifts in Teaching and Learning recognises there are key shifts (clicks) in student learning are directly influenced by the curriculum. These shifts are vital for teaching and need to be transparent to all stakeholders. This is where my thinking began.

We know a strong focus on improving instruction has a direct impact upon student achievement. Yes!

Professional development and quality teaching and learning will lift whole school data at all levels and individual student achievement. Yes!

Reflective teacher practices include the need for me to be aware of weaknesses in my teaching and I need to reflect and work with others to target specific areas which will improve instruction. Yes!

My reflective practices have made me aware of my current practice and areas for improvement. I know what I don’t know! Therefore, I need to plan opportunities to gain understanding of specific best practices and the ‘clicks’ which drive are ‘for learning’ and ‘as learning’. We know that teachers who intervene at the level of the individual student and develop processes and structures to enhance learning opportunities will improve student learning. Yes!

Best practice:

  1. builds knowledge through content
  2. will be grounded in evidence
  3. provides regular practice
  4. will focus where the Standards focus
  5. has coherence
  6. has rigor

Having said all this are continuums:-

  • for learning – providing feedback to inform the next stage of learning?
  • of learning – providing information about what students have learnt?
  • as learning – providing opportunities to support future learning?

How can I improve the continuums I am using so their use has a direct and improved impact on student learning? 

Cheers Nina


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6 responses to “I wanted to respond to a comment but it became too long. Thanks Helen! It gave me another opportunity to reflect on where I’m heading. Continuums! The big ‘UM’…

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  2. Hi Nina,
    In my opinion lots of teachers are generally trapped into assessment of learning – its done a few times a year (before reports or interviews). That comment might be seen as either cynical or reflective of the pressure teachers are under.
    There are lots of systems, skills and mindsets that need altering if we are take advantage of data to influence teaching and more importantly learning. Dylan Wiliam says that there is data and the mindset helps us sort the lense in which we view it. In practice I think its a lot harder than that to institute across a school.
    Let me give on example of this: we changed our standardised assessment periods to late February/March and late July/August – why? Well be doing assessments in these periods we are setting a more formative lense where teachers can see the needs of their students as individuals – in groups – and as a class, set goals and plan for the next 10 or so weeks of instruction with small (as) type assessments to measure progress towards goals. We have changed parent / teacher interviews (March & August) so its more about exchanging information about the goals and how they can be supported.
    Along this journey we as a school have both stumbled and leaped forward as we challenge each others mindsets and practices.
    So as to your challenge is it about the continuums – where students are placed on them and how to adjust instruction – or – how to balance time on assessment and teaching?

    • nina davis

      Hi Mark,
      My challenge involves all three. Continuums which contain core shifts / clicks which are understood and managed by students is my goal. My challenge stems from the continuums I’m beginning to use for literacy.
      We already have continuums in place for mathematics. Our mathematics continuums are understood by our students. My 1/2 class can talk about what they are learning, what they’ve learnt and what they will learn next in numeration, addition and subtraction /multiplication and division so far. They book in for an assessment and workshops each week. Very cute! They don’t compare themselves with others and absolutely love maths! So, continuums do and can work.
      The challenge is to make continuums which contain core shifts not just a list of skills to be mastered. So far I’ve collected about fifteen continuums currently being used or played with in schools. Each has strengths and weaknesses.

      For example: Level 2 Craft Here are some statements from one continuum being trialed.
      • I can create a picture book
      • I can organise texts in different ways
      • I can write a narrative that is ordered by time
      • I understand how an informational text is ordered (categories, sequences, ideas related to each other)
      • I can use descriptions, compare and contrast, sequencing and problem and solution

      Another example: These statements are better… not quite there though but at least in ‘child speak’. The above statements are the ones in place now and I’m questioning them. Better below:

      I can write a full page about a topic.
      I write about what I see and true things about my life.
      I write true things about a topic (nonfiction) with help.
      I pick ideas to write about by myself.
      I read my own writing and can find mistakes.
      I add more to my writing to make it better.
      I write pieces that I can read and others can read.
      I use my own spelling to write by myself.
      I share my writing with others.

      My thinking is that the continuums for craft should be developed using writing genres… with conventions having a separate continuum. My students have chosen their own writing goals based on a selection developed according to standards. Interestingly all students were able to make good choices about what they felt they needed to learn next.

      Cheers Nina

    • I wonder the same thing, actually: is the issue with the existence of continuums or how people are thinking about and pursuing assessment? If a continuum is about helping a teacher pursue these “clicks” you speak to, it’s a healthy thing, right? If it’s about jumping through some hoop to get something mandated done…that’s not a healthy thing. And I have to wonder how many continuums people are balancing in your world. There comes a time when over saturation begins to water down the best of anything.

  3. I’m intrigued by the thought of making the “clicks” you speak to transparent. Continuums tend to reflect what is typical for many though. Are these shifts/clicks consistent enough among great numbers of writers to enable a continuum?

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