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Should key competencies be assessed? Lessons from the New Zealand experience ROSEMARY HIPKINS Seminar at Centre for Assessment and Learning Studies, University.

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Presentation on theme: "Should key competencies be assessed? Lessons from the New Zealand experience ROSEMARY HIPKINS Seminar at Centre for Assessment and Learning Studies, University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Should key competencies be assessed? Lessons from the New Zealand experience ROSEMARY HIPKINS Seminar at Centre for Assessment and Learning Studies, University of Bristol, May 12, 2009

2 Key competencies in the NZ context NZC is an outcomes-based framework for learning from year 1 to year 13 It sets the direction for learning but schools are expected to modify their plans to meet the needs of their own students It represents a response to learning challenges in the 21 st century (both in NZ and internationally) Key competencies are one of new front end features


4 1990s – development of competencies/capabilities for employment/economic productivity (Essential Skills in 1990s curriculum documents in NZ) OECD DeSeCo project – development of key competencies for New Zealand Curriculum Continue to see these in employment/behavioural terms (an instrumental focus to improve current curriculum and learning) Interpret meaning within a humanist/socio-cultural framework (a social justice/democratic participation framework to transform learning for 21 st century ) After Reid, 2006 What you expect of KCs depends on how you read them

5 Translation challenges: whats in a name? DeSeCo (OECD) Functioning in socially heterogenous groups Acting autonomously Using tools interactively New Zealand Curriculum Relating to others Participating and contributing Managing self Using language, symbols and text Thinking THINKINGTHINKING

6 With two plausible pathways for interpretation of KCs, the tension between the messages here is a real challenge The front end Vision Values Principles Key competencies A potentially transformative package The back end 8 levels 8 learning areas 8 sets of AOs per level The revised package – business as usual?

7 The front end Vision Values Principles A potentially transformative package The back end 8 levels 8 learning areas 8 sets of AOs per level The revised package Might key competencies be the glue that brings all these pieces together? If we read KCs this way, is asking if they should be assessed per se the wrong question? Key competencies integrate knowledge and skills with attitudes and values

8 Lifelong learners (vision) Literate and numerate Key competencies Learning to learn (a principle) Using language, symbols and texts Relating to others English learning area: learning to read KCs highlight relationships between the reader and the text, not just the authors agenda

9 Hence Lesson One Until we determine the role that key competencies should play in learning, we cant begin to address questions of what should be assessed… let alone how or why…

10 Traditional curriculum outcome: Gaining knowledge in a range of learning areas Enriched outcomes when a key competency focus is added Learning involves the use of knowledge to carry out meaningful tasks – there is a focus on creating and critiquing knowledge, and on deep learning Key competencies focus on making links and hence the whole learning context

11 Traditional curriculum outcome: Developing a range of skills, again as appropriate to different learning areas When a key competency focus is added: skills are integrated with knowledge, attitudes and values in ways that direct attention to dispositions to act The focus is in being ready, willing and able to use skills and knowledge in appropriate ways, at relevant and appropriate times

12 KCs align with sociocultural theories of learning Situated Distributed Mediated Participatory Source: Students from Papakura South School

13 Traditional curriculum outcome: Socialisation – fitting in, responding appropriately in different contexts and to relevant authorities (both knowledge and people), being a good citizen Key competencies focus on ongoing development of identity as a person who … Thinking and acting autonomously includes a focus on why it is appropriate to act in certain ways in diverse contexts, and on rights, roles and responsibilities Learning in the spaces between people is valued

14 Questions generated by students at a low decile bilingual school in Auckland

15 Lesson 2: Time is needed to rethink deep assumptions about the nature of learning Knowledge and its organisation Teaching OF subjects Based on Reid, 2006 – this fits comfortably with traditional curriculum planning models, and the narrower skills-based interpretation of KCs

16 Knowledge and its organisation Capabilities Teaching through knowledge FOR capabilities (i.e. key competencies) Disciplinary knowledge is the basis through which we teach for capabilities (as outcomes in their own right) Reids new model for the role of knowledge What are the implications for assessment? What do we want our kids to be?

17 We know what we want our young people to be.. Actively involved Participants in a range of life contexts Contributors to the well- being of New Zealand – social, cultural, economic, and environmental Lifelong learners Literate and numerate Critical and creative thinkers Active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge Informed decision makers Confident Positive in their own identity Motivated and reliable Resourceful Enterprising and entrepreneurial Resilient Connected Able to relate well to others Effective users of communication tools Connected to the land and environment Members of communities International citizens Source: NZC Vision Statement

18 Self Competent agent Identity Desire Motivation Dispositions Values Attitudes Skills Knowledge Understanding Competent learner Citizen, mathematician, scientist etc Judgement is personal – others can only infer meaning from observed actions Areas with a strong assessment history Situated, mediated assessment Personal Public After Deakin Crick, 2008

19 Lesson three: Patience People need time to work past the we already do that challenge (we have some evidence that developing overly simple rubrics may help them if they are supported to reflect on what happens when they use them…) But what potential resides in deeper interpretation of KCs?

20 Actually using knowledge – practicing, acting, scaffolding An explicit focus on motivation to learn and strengthening dispositions The nature of knowledge is an explicit focus Reflection is important if skills and knowledge are to be adapted to new contexts – developing metacognitive awareness A move to greater student-focused locus of control – identity and agency are an explicit focus New ways of thinking – really valuing and using inputs from the diversity of students lived experiences Being more explicit about learning, e.g. setting learning intentions and success criteria Thinking skills etc we already teach Focus on context/content interactions

21 Caveats about rubrics KCs are particular and personal - but they are NOT personality traits Contexts and mediation impact on how KCs can be expressed Strengthening KC development may take a learner backwards at first Care is needed in making inferences from observed behaviour - students need to be fully involved in assessing their KC development

22 Lesson Four: The power of examples


24 The disciplinary potential in ULST provides the language, including meta language, to help students think; awareness that texts are structured differently for different purposes; multiple representations of ideas; unpacking conventions and thinking about how different disciplines work; valuing systems level thinking and complexity;

25 An example of our early explorations (ARB item) What "message" about the greenhouse effect is the artist giving us? Explain this message in a short paragraph. Assessment Resource Banks MOE funded NZCER developed

26 Some of our learning so far… Relationships and connections really matter - building links and weaving webs of meaning is an active, dynamic, personal process Contexts are integral to learning and should be never be taken for granted Meaning-making is not self-evident – students need to be shown how it works in different disciplines and settings

27 Assessment: More questions than answers Can competency be reported from single tasks or should evidence be accumulated across a range of tasks and learning contexts? (Sufficiency of evidence) What role (if any) should extracurricular activities play in making judgments about a students capabilities? What does making progress in developing capabilities look like? What is the nature of developmental changes over time?

28 How might progress be described? More certain outcomes Outcomes more uncertain Zooming inZooming out Standardised tests measure traditional academic outcomes Making rich connections across ideas and contexts Key competencies transform learning outcomes After Carr, 2008 Using new skills and knowledge in unfamiliar and more demanding contexts

29 Assessment strategies used in early adopter schools Formative approaches Developing success criteria with students (What does it sound, feel, and look like when a person is demonstrating a KC?) Setting of KC goals alongside learning area goals Self or peer assessment of goals Observations or interviews (e.g., conferencing or approaches similar to the Learning Stories used in ECE) Recording information in portfolios or reflective diaries


31 Curriculum change (lifelong learning, key competencies, content reduction etc) Professional learning that can generate deep changes in teaching and learning - both in practice and in [tacit] beliefs about the nature of learning New types of assessment (e.g. NCEA, assessment for learning) Knowledge era: new views of knowledge, ICTs, globalization, diversity, rapid change, etc. Lesson 5 : Systems alignment matters!

32 Creating a curriculum for the 21 st century Creating a qualifications system for the 21 st century Early 1990s Late 1990s Early 2000s First outcomes-based curricula developed Completion of individual curriculum statements for all learning areas Curriculum stocktake recommends some streamlining Curriculum revision evolves into co-construction project Draft for consultation Final version published – to be implemented by 2010 Establishment of seamless National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Unit standards developed to assess wide range of competencies New standards based school- leaving qualification (NCEA) introduced Standards review and alignment of NCEA to new curriculum

33 The school as a learning collective, rethinking practice Other groups also need to be on the same learning journey (MOE, ERO, school community etc) Staying in step – having an informed sense of shared direction Impact of govt. crusade for literacy and numeracy (standards) Absence of standards other than literacy and numeracy – weakness or opportunity ? NZQA – qualifications and assessment practice need to continue evolving to reflect new learning imperatives (e.g. authenticity)

34 Weve made our share of mistakes But weve also gained some ground Shifts are happening simulate-fractals-in-photoshop/

35 ©NZCER Carr, M. (2008). Zooming in and zooming out: Challenges and choices in discussions about making progress. In J. Morton (Ed.), Making Progress, Measuring Progress Conference Proceedings Wellington: NZCER Press. Deakin Crick, R. (2008). Key competencies for education in a European context: narratives of accountability or care. European Educational Research Journal, 7 (3), Hipkins, R. (2007). Assessing Key Competencies: Why Would We? How Could We? Ministry of Education. competencies_why_would_we_how_could_we [February 10, 2009]. competencies_why_would_we_how_could_we Reid (2007) Key competencies: a new way forward or more of the same? Curriculum Matters, 2, (Journal available on subscription from NZCER)

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