The brainchild of Mt Aspiring College teachers Renee Plunkett and Chris Waugh, work is currently underway to develop a micro-credentialing assessment system using digital badges to recognise attainment. It is hoped this will make assessments easier to understand, and more meaningful for those undertaking them.

“Parents are feeling a growing distance from their child’s education at secondary school,” says Renee. “We want to create a bridge between the work of the teacher, and the experiences of students, families and communities.”

Under the new scheme, assessments will be online and accessible to everyone, so parents will be able to see what their child is achieving, when they are achieving it, and what else is on offer for them to work towards.

“We hope this gives families a platform for beginning dialogue with their child about their own learning, and possibly opens some doors for parents to feed into their child’s learning experience with some of their own skills and knowledge.”

As well as parents feeling more connected to what’s unfolding in their child’s classroom, it is hoped the students themselves will feel more empowered and inspired to achieve.

“We think the needs of our students will be better met by this badge-based micro-credential system and believe it could prompt a shift towards thinking about learning as a journey, with no fixed end point,” Renee says.

“Eventually, the goal is to have a system that gives students the freedom to be assessed when they believe they are ready, and via a means where they feel they can best show us what they can do. We hope to make assessment visible and accessible to everyone involved in each student’s educational journey and to ensure the teaching programmes we are delivering are encouraging the development of well-rounded, agentic students.”

The proposed scheme has been welcomed by education experts, including not-for-profit The Education Hub, who selected Renee, Chris and their team for a 2018 Bright Spots Award. That gave Mt Aspiring College not just substantial funding to develop the project, but also support, workshops and mentorship opportunities.

“With the money, we have been able to pay our teachers for their time. This is hugely helpful for us as we know how busy these teachers are and being able to compensate them allows us to express how important we believe this work is.

“Through the Bright Spots Awards, we have also been able to access a network of minds. Having leading academics looking over our project and asking questions or offering feedback is invaluable.”

Another key aspect of the project is the development of agency for both students and teachers – the team hopes to measure if agency is developed through this system and evaluate if this is a positive disposition to encourage in a classroom.

For students, Renee says they are keen to measure three specific forms of agency – Does the student contribute ideas and ask questions in class? Do they voluntarily try again in a new way? Do they voluntarily go further than the basics?

Meanwhile for teachers, the team is looking at ways the system can harness their professional capabilities.

“The project aims to develop teacher agency and recognise the profession of teaching via the creation, development and implementation of an assessment scheme that is unique to each teacher and the programmes of learning that they design.”

And according to Chris, they are already seeing some stellar results.

“We are seeing significant and profound development in the teachers who have stepped into the project in their understanding and conception of the core value of the subjects they teach,” he says.

“For example: to see a maths teacher come to the realisation that the logic forms that they teach every day actually underpin a huge raft of the reasoning we need to develop to function in society has been a real thrill.”

Several Mt Aspiring College teachers are now almost ready to go live with their first badges, and full results of the research project will be released at the end of the year.

Applications for the 2019 Bright Spots Awards open April 29. The Bright Spots Awards support the development, evaluation and sharing of innovative practice in schools and ECE centres. For more information and to access the application form, go to www.theeducationhub.org.nz/brightspots.

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