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Opportunities to learn

An important theme of the PDF icon. The nature of the key competencies: A background paper (PDF, 653 KB) (Hipkins, 2006) is that students must be given opportunities to actively practise and strengthen their learning. For example, when learning about thinking (metacognition), they will need opportunities to practise this type of thinking, to talk about it using appropriate language, and to evaluate their learning. This suggests that a different type of assessment focus might be on auditing the learning opportunities provided to students – that is, the spotlight might initially focus on teacher decisions and actions rather than student achievement.

The following example selected one feature (teachers and students use and share a vocabulary of thinking words) from a longer list of features of effective learning for developing higher order thinking skills. It shows how this feature might be expanded into a set of auditing questions that could be addressed in the school. The key competency 'thinking' had been selected as a specific focus for development.

Example – Using and sharing a vocabulary of thinking words

Feature of programme
Teachers and students use and share a vocabulary of thinking words
Evidence of
opportunity to
learn
  • Students and teachers have compiled a shared vocabulary.
  • There is a process for sharing additions to this vocabulary as we learn more.
  • Students have opportunities to discuss the meaning of these words.
  • The words are displayed where students can see them.
  • Students use these words in learning conversations.
  • Teachers give students feedback about the ways they are using these words.
  • Students have opportunities for self- and peer-assessment of their use of thinking words in a unit of work.
  • Teachers have planned new tasks where students could adapt and use their learning.
  • Students show they can use their thinking words in these new contexts.
Comment
A description such as this could be collated as part of a professional discussion of the intended learning focus and could be seen as a 'work in progress'. Given the multifaceted nature of each key competency, it would doubtless have more features than this brief example. If data was collected systematically and across time, a list such as this could be used for planning and reporting processes.
Review questions image.
  • What are our existing assessment priorities and why?
  • Do we need to change or add to these in the light of twenty-first-century learning needs?
  • Should we audit the opportunities we provide students to develop the aspects of key competencies that we identify as priorities?
  • Do we already use formative assessment methods that could be adapted to include key competency dimensions? What would need to change, and what could stay the same?
  • What newer strategies would work best for us? How might we develop these?

Next – Making connections

Published on: 17 Mar 2008


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