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More about these new dimensions of learning and assessment

'Meta' knowing

From the table How key competencies refocus assessment outcomes it is evident that meta-level knowing, or 'knowing about knowing', is an important new focus when key competencies are added to the curriculum. Students need to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to question information, ideas, and experiences so that they learn about these competencies as tools that they can appropriate for their further learning and for their understanding of how they learn best. For example, in metacognition (knowing about cognition), students learn about their thinking so that they can adapt the thinking tools they currently possess when they encounter a new learning challenge.

Fostering a disposition to learn

New learning challenges call for creative problem-solving. Students have to be willing to use what they know and to recognise opportunities for doing so. Teachers help by scaffolding learning and modelling the use of knowledge and skills in relevant ways. They orchestrate opportunities for learning from and with others. In this way, the dispositional and identity components of key competencies are seen as important for ongoing development as a lifelong learner.

Empowering students to become experts on their own learning

Another dimension relates to the recognition that learning occurs in many places, not just at school. Contexts outside school may afford rich opportunities for students to demonstrate their developing competencies. People other than teachers may provide valuable expertise and learning support. Links between schools and families are important here. Traditionally, parents and caregivers, like the students themselves, have been on the receiving end of assessment information but have seldom helped shape it. The use of 'learning stories' illustrates one way that assessment might change to make discussions about developing competencies more inclusive (see Carr, 2001; and Ministry of Education, 2004a).

Rich learning contexts

There is an important new focus on the contexts in which assessment occurs, including designing meaningful tasks that invite and enable students to act on the basis of what they have learned. Over time, students develop personal stories about themselves as learners. Assessment needs to help them build coherent narratives about their identities as people who can practise, persist, and overcome obstacles to immediate learning success. Students need opportunities to apply what they know and can do in more complex and demanding contexts. The assessment focus is on strengthening key competencies (which everyone has already in some measure), not on measuring comparative 'abilities' as if these are fixed qualities of individual learners.

Next – What does all this mean for assessment?

Published on: 17 Mar 2008