Don’t push me

Our first round of Cluster meetings in the Wellington region have now finished. We have been party to wide-ranging discussions on issues concerning implementing the revised Curriculum, some of which I have raised in other posts (hollow laughter at the mention of one day release time, for example).

A dominant topic – that of the tension between perceived pressures from NCEA and perceived pressures from the curriculum – had me thinking about Dr Doolittle’s Pushmi-pullyu.

At the ‘business’ end (make up your own connotations here) of our educational llama is the legacy of trying to manage a new system of assessment. Research from Victoria University (Meyer et al. 2006) and from the Ministry has clearly established that NCEA has resulted in the fragmentation of teachng programmes, credit-hungry teachers, credit-focused school reports and, in some cases, the insidious drift of NCEA-lingo and assessment approaches down into Year 10 and below. Some teachers clearly feel that there is no getting away from the pressure to have seniors complete Level 1 at Year 11, Level 2 at Year 12 and so on…and that to reduce credits or formalised assessments would be to somehow suggest that the programme had become ‘easier’ or ‘less important’.

How have we come to this? For the feeling that this is not really what learning is all about was also very strong.

For, kicking and snorting at the other end of our ‘llama’ is the ‘best’ practice of focusing on what learners need, assessing formatively more often than summatively, working towards skill-building in an holitsic manner, with an eye on the long game of flexible, confident life-long learners (rather than a sixteen year old with a certificate of credits.)

So which end wins? And which end has to get dragged along and fit in with what the other aims to do?

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