Chapter 4 – Engaging Partners around What Matters
Beginning of Section 2 of the book—focus on building engagement, developing capacity, embedding clarity, and deepening outcomes.
What assessment enables measurement of what matters? How do we work out what we assess?
Identifying and measuring what’s important, being systematic about measurement, is a key lever for developing each of the capabilities that lead to depth in practice—and so depth in student outcomes. Empowering all learning partners, new and future, is catalyzed by using Five Frames of Measurement that set up and sustain your work:
Engagement – of all learning partners to identify and describe what’s actually important for learners and what contributes to their success.
Development – using the descriptions from the engagement phase, filling measurement gaps, developing rubrics, learning progressions, guides, or other measures and tools that collectively measure and develop deeper learning enablers and outcomes.
Clarity – of shared language and understanding of deeper learning among all learning partners, as well as aligning the framework with your school and system.
Inquiry – as a process is embedded in your daily, strategic, and overall practice, designing, implementing, and moderating assessments and making authentic, evidence based-decisions through the lens of learner impact.
Depth – occurs when you leverage your new learning to continuously deepen your measurement, ensuring your students remain at the center.
These frames form an exciting fluid journey—they aren’t linear, however they give you an opportunity to operate simultaneously through each lens so that as new partners emerge they can be included; as new measures and tools are developed, you deepen the work. You continuously build capacity and you continually monitor, respond, measure and improve as part of the inquiry process.
The first part of the student-focused work is to develop an evaluative snapshot—knowing your individual students, who they are, what’s important for them to know and be able to do, and in what ways it’s important for them to connect with others in the world. You’ll know a great deal about your students, particularly if you’ve already completed the depth in practice exercises in Chapter 2.
Building from this to get it right will require engagement with all learning partners to garner perspectives and understandings that will constructively widen and deepen your knowledge. This initial engagement forms your evaluative snapshot—a complete overall picture of your learner, the context, what’s important, identified strengths and needs—these lay the foundation for change plans.
These snapshots may involve:
- Interviews, surveys, and/or events that involve students, parents, teachers, community members, and any other appropriate learning partners.
- Formal reviews of policies, environments, systems, assessments, measurements, standards, technology, curriculum, parent and community engagement, unit or lesson design, as well as leaning experiences.
- Analysis of achievement, well-being, behavior, attendance and other data that will support the development of a deep understanding of the student.
This data will support your understanding of the types of assessment evidence that can and will inform the measurement of your capabilities. These will drive your ongoing evaluation of where you are in relation to where you want to be.
If we use the inquiry process, the evidence enables us to design and implement appropriate assessments that give the precise information we need to measure capabilities then reflect and change.
Measurement is a change lever, so if we can identify exactly what we consider to be important to measure we will effect shifts in assessment.
So, engagement is the first phase of the whole-school inquiry process—it’s where you develop clarity about where you are and where you need to be. Figure 4.1 on page 73 of the text gives you a simple snapshot of what it looks like figuratively to synthesize assessment evidence to make capability ratings to determine strategies to improve. You create assessments that help you measure what matters.
Your change team is critical to the work. A decision-making body with a collective deeper learning focus, these teams are a capacity building body and are created to suit the context of the school.
The Burlington Edison model gives you a powerful insight into the understanding of Drucker’s quote about culture eating strategy for breakfast. Utilizing the deeper learning tools to stay focused and using a values-based approach to risk taking, the district was able to drive the change including deep dives into what success really looks like and being empowered to authentically shift understanding and practice. The Change teams move the school/system from the current picture to the desired picture of success.
Contextually and culturally evaluating the school or system provides actionable evidence of what the learning partners value. This is then used as a platform for application in measurement tools which then capture the complete picture of succes—not just the academic outcomes.
Using inquiry, the change teams work to understand their schools, their learners, and what’s important. They engage learning partners around deeper learning, leverage tools to measure progress and success, create a culture that fosters deeper learning outcomes, and support others to do the same. It’s deep and intentional, and the eight tools in Appendix 3 in the support guide to this book give you a suite of support to kick start this work. They are comprehensive and highly supportive.
If we focus on what it means to identify and describe what matters, we come to the work-related aspect of the deeper learning outcomes, the system capabilities. and the elements of authentic practice—the tools relate to both outcomes and enablers, and are embedded in the Five Frames of Measurement to identify, describe, and subsequently measure what matters for our learners.
The reason the deeper learning outcomes have been developed is enshrined in the reasoning that:
Humanity demands that everyone has the opportunity to lead a successful life marked by meaning and fulfilment. The inference is that education has an obligation to support learners in this process of personal, collective, and global development. It’s a moral, progressive, and evolutionary imperative.
The first deeper learning outcome is self-understanding, which is about who we are, who we will be, and why. For in-school learning, this is a shift where students will have an intentional focus on understanding themselves, exploring what they’re interested in and capable of, how they can make a difference in the world, and whether they know what gives them meaning and fulfilment. Developing those understandings is central to this learning outcome, and learning at school can enable and accelerate this work. We begin this work by finding out who they really are through deep engagement.
Knowledge acquisition is aimed at simultaneous development and so is acquired and then enhanced, leveraged, and created as a direct result of students partnering in designing, implementing, assessing, measuring, and reflecting on the work. We have to incorporate the content in a way that connects with students’ lives and interests. Then existing and new knowledge will be embedded along with the other learning outcomes.
Competency looks at what you do with your learning. These support the meaningful application of knowledge inside and outside the classroom. Learning sticks when the focus is shifted from the learning acquired to its application. The competencies of character, critical and creative thinking, citizenship, communication, and collaboration have been identified as skills for success in our changed world. Measuring these is a vital step forward.
We think about our lives in relation to the connections we share with others and the world. The strength and nature of these determines how we feel about the world and our place within it. Our lives are more meaningful and fulfilling when we share them with others and we contribute to the general wholeness and well-being of humanity. Education can facilitate and strengthen learners’ connections with their peers, other learning partners, their learning environments, and their communities across the globe. Developing citizens capable of connecting for collective change is a worthwhile outcome.
The culture of each school and system can be that every action or decision is made in light of these deeper learning outcomes. They are interconnected, they contribute to students’ capacity to contribute back, and they lead to the unique, meaningful and fulfilling lives we want for our students.
If we break down deeper learning, we have the theory of action that learners develop the necessary knowledge better while developing the deeper learning outcomes. In the past we haven’t explicitly identified these outcomes and we haven’t known how to measure them. That’s the big question—how do we measure them?
On page 81 in figure 4.5 there is a comprehensive list of those elements, developed by learning partners at Burlington Edison, that they considered important to take into consideration when considering elements of self-understanding. After identifying this profile, they then described learners who are developing self-understanding as individuals who understand:
What’s important to them; their knowledge, competencies and connections; how to reflect who they are in what and how they learn; how to deal with challenges and frustrations; what personal success looks like; how their experiences, history, and heritage shape their perspectives, their values, and the ways they view themselves and others; the purpose of learning; and how they contribute back in a range of contexts and situations.
Students thus are confident and proud, they feel like they belong, they celebrate themselves, and they understand their learning potential in terms of achieving their hopes and goals. When grouped or chunked, these attributes lead naturally to the Learner First dimensions of Self-Understanding:
Identity – understanding who we are and how we learn as individuals.
Place – understanding how we impact and fit into others’ lives and the world.
Capacity – understanding our potential for learning, progress and success.
Purpose – understanding why we learn and how we can make a difference.
The dimensions of connection are:
Interpersonal – connecting with the people we know and interact with.
Environmental – connecting with the natural and built environments.
Conceptual – connecting with our learning.
Universal – connecting with all of humanity and the world.
We think, talk about, strive for, and experience self-understanding and connection on a regular basis. We bring our own insights into what they feel like. However, our experiences limit our understanding. It’s through our partnerships with our peers, teachers, parents, families, and communities that we can gain a deeper, collective understanding of any idea, item, or outcome at hand. Bringing them to life means exploring them through each of the deeper learning outcomes. The putting Depth into Practice exercise in this chapter help deepen your understanding of each dimension by bringing them to life through your own experience.
I’ve outlined the competencies which are regarded as those identified globally for student progress. They include:
Character, with a focus on the traits of perseverance, resilience tenacity and grit.
Citizenship, with a focus on global citizenship, focusing on global issues, appreciating diverse values and world views, and demonstrating an ability and interest in solving ambiguous and complex problems that impact human and environmental sustainability.
Collaboration means working interdependently and synergistically in teams with strong team-related skills, including effective management of team dynamics and challenges, making substantive decisions together, and learning from and contributing to others’ learning.
Communicating effectively using a variety of styles, modes, and tools tailored for a range of audiences.
Creativity means taking initiative and having an entrepreneurial eye for opportunities, asking the right questions to generate novel ideas, and developing the leadership skills to pursue those ideas and turn them into action.
And critical thinking means you can evaluate information and arguments, you can see patters and connections, and you can construct meaningful knowledge and apply it in the world.
We can look closely at collaboration as an example:
The dimensions listed on page 85 represent the qualities we want for our learners. The learning partners identify the language with which to describe these competencies, and it becomes central to the work. These competencies are connected and interdependent—they support, rely upon, and build one another into a coherent outcome of meaning and fulfilment marked by positive contribution. The exercise on page 86 takes you through how to link each of the competencies together for sense making in the way that each develops and enables the others.
We use what we call elements of authentic practice, four of them, to make it all happen. They are:
Partnerships – engaging students, teachers, parents, community members, and other learning partners to enable and deepen learning.
Environments – leveraging where, why and how we learn in a range of natural and built environments.
Technology – leveraging digital tools and other technologies to connect learners, expand learning environments, and otherwise enable deeper learning/
Inquiry – leveraging the continuous process of assessment, design, implementation, measurement, and reflection and change in partnership with learners to enable and deepen learning.
These four ways of working enable and deepen your work, beginning with authentically engaging with the learning partners in understanding what really matters, so that we genuinely measure what we do decide actually matters.