We need to trust teachers to take ownership of student assessment, say international experts

Prof David Carless, Prof Jannette Elwood and Prof Val Klenowski
Friday, June 24, 2016 - 10:45

Irish Version

Fourth annual Maynooth University Education Forum analyses cultures of assessment
The fourth annual Maynooth Education Forum today heard from two leading international experts that Irish teachers should be given a central role in the assessment of their students at Junior and Leaving Certificate.  The Forum heard that by empowering teachers to make professional judgements we can shift the culture of assessment towards a model that is tailored to each student and, significantly, promotes skills and competencies that are highly sought after by modern businesses.
For Professor Val Klenowski, Queensland University of Technology, the expertise of teacher’s professional judgements need to be taken seriously to meet the learning needs of students in a changing world.  The skills which are vital to thrive in the modern world such as critical thinking, problem solving, the ability to work well in groups, creativity, innovation, and communication, are being neglected by the current system of mass assessment and testing.
This system focuses on the indicators of achievement such as grades and test results ahead of practical skills.  The effect of this can be seen in the eventual job readiness of graduates with a 2015 GradIreland survey showing 52% of Irish companies are having problems finding applicants with the correct skills to fill graduate positions.
Speaking at the Education Forum, Professor Klenowski said: “With teachers taking an active role in designing their own assessment models based on a core syllabus you take into account the fact that different schools have different needs.  It allows for a diverse range of assessment to be practised – whether that consists of in-class essays, assignments, or presentations— that not only reflect the different ways in which students can demonstrate their learning but also more successfully fosters a practical skillset which will serve them moving forward into college and into their professional lives.”
“In Queensland we have a system of assessment in which teachers are at the centre and where schools are trusted to arrive at a reliable decision about a student’s achievement.  A teacher’s understanding, their sense of responsibility, and their commitment to the effective delivery of educational experience for their pupils is significantly enhanced when they are permitted to take ownership of assessment,” she added.
Professor Klenowski emphasised the importance that parents, teachers, school leaders, union representatives, academics, and students are all involved in the discussion surrounding assessment.  The rationale for a shift needs to be fully explained and the research evidence which justifies it must be clearly laid out.  “Changing an assessment culture occurs slowly and incrementally.  Teachers and school leaders will require a lot of support in terms of professional development to facilitate the shift,” observed Professor Klenowski.
At the heart of the ongoing controversy over assessment is the notional fairness of the system of mass assessment.  The current debate over the reform of the Junior Cycle, which involves a move towards school based assessment, centres around the ability of teachers to be objective when it comes to making judgements about their students.  For Professor David Carless, University of Hong Kong, this pervasive distrust is an incredibly damaging feature of the Irish education system.
Speaking at the Education Forum, Professor Carless said: “Societies that trust teachers have significantly less need for standardised testing.  In recognising that teachers are professionals and empowering them to make fair and informed judgements about a student’s achievement of targets set out in the curriculum, we can create an assessment model which is far more flexible and reflective of what students take away from their learning experience.”
Professor Carless was speaking on the importance of implementing sustainable feedback as part of the assessment process.  Sustainable feedback involves students actively giving and receiving feedback on their own work and the work of their peers as part of developing a capacity to monitor their work in progress.
As Professor Carless explained, sustainable feedback is best implemented in a teacher assessed education model: “Feedback needs to be seen as an integral part of course and assessment design and not an afterthought once homework, assignments, or tests are submitted.  This works best when teachers are assessing their own students, as it is a complex interpersonal communication requiring a certain amount of faith and relational trust, which is not easy to develop in a mass assessment model.”
Also speaking at the event, Professor Jannette Elwood, Queen’s University Belfast, noted that “all the research on teacher assessment is actually contextualised within ongoing debates within the assessment community of how we link theories of learning with theories of assessment in order to better understand assessment practice and assessment systems. These debates are making us face our tacit assumptions about fundamental assessment practices, and the kinds of new knowledge that we will need to inform constructive and equitable practices in the future.”
“Assessment can be seen as a cultural script,” she continued, “with the Junior and Leaving Certificates of Ireland and their reform being pertinent examples of these scripts which have pervading consequences for the educational experiences of all young people.  We need a reconsideration of assessment, what it is and how we understand it, if we are ultimately to change assessment practice for the better.”
Welcoming attendees to the Education Forum, Professor Philip Nolan, Maynooth University President, observed: “This year we have been marking the centenary of the Easter Rising and the 1916 Proclamation, but there is another document composed by Padraig Pearse that is also celebrating its centenary.  On the 1st January 1916 he published his pamphlet on the education system in Ireland entitled The Murder Machine in which he maintained that the main objective in education is to help the child to become their own true and best self.  The teacher, according to Pearse, should not bring his pupil a set of ready-made opinions or a stock of information, but ‘so infectious an enthusiasm as shall kindle new enthusiasm.’”
“The Maynooth Education Forum was established to analyse, critique and address the most pressing, challenging and complex issues in our ever-evolving education landscape.  Maynooth University has a hard-won reputation as Ireland’s leading provider of education research and education training, and we play an active role in shaping education policy.  This year our Education Forum explores assessment through the prism of 'The Murder Machine' and I look forward to a timely interrogation of the role of the teacher one hundred years on from Pearse’s study,” continued Professor Nolan.
The Maynooth Education Forum is Ireland’s leading platform for the discussion of key issues facing education today. The fourth annual Forum brings together leading thinkers, practitioners, researchers, strategists, and policy makers from Ireland and overseas to discuss prevailing cultures of assessment.

Ní mór dúinn muinín a bheith againn as múinteoirí i dtaca le húinéireacht a ghlacadh ar mheasúnú daltaí, dar le saineolaithe idirnáisiúnta
Déanann an ceathrú Fóram bliantúil Oideachais de chuid Ollscoil Mhá Nuad anailís ar chultúir mheasúnaithe
Chuala siad siúd a d’fhreastail ar an gceathrú Fóram bliantúil Oideachais de chuid Ollscoil Mhá Nuad ó bheirt saineolaithe idirnáisiúnta a deir gur cheart go mbeadh ról lárnach ag múinteoirí na hÉireann maidir le measúnú a dhéanamh ar dhaltaí an Teastais Shóisearaigh agus ar dhaltaí na hArdteistiméireachta. Cuireadh in iúl dóibh siúd a bhí i láthair ag an bhFóram gur féidir an cultúr measúnaithe a athrú agus a bhogadh i dtreo múnla atá deartha go sonrach don dhalta féin, má thugtar an chumhacht do mhúinteoirí breithiúnais ghairmiúla a dhéanamh, múnla a chuireann scileanna agus inniúlachtaí atá de dhíth go mór ar ghnóthaí nua-aimseartha chun cinn.
Dar leis an Ollamh Val Klenowski, Ollscoil Teicneolaíochta Queensland, agus an domhan mór ag athrú, ní mór meas a léiriú ar an saineolas a bhaineann le breithiúnais ghairmiúla an mhúinteora le freastal a dhéanamh ar riachtanais foghlama na ndaltaí. Creideann sí go bhfuil faillí á déanamh ag an gcóras reatha, a dhíríonn ar ollmheasúnú agus ar ollthástáil, i scileanna atá riachtanach le dul chun cinn a dhéanamh i saol an lae inniu, lena n-áirítear smaointeoireacht chriticiúil, fadhbréiteach, an cumas obair ghrúpa a dhéanamh, cruthaitheacht, nuáil, agus cumarsáid. 
Tugann an córas seo tús áite do tháscairí gnóthachtála ar nós grád agus torthaí scrúduithe seachas scileanna praiticiúla. Sa deireadh, bíonn an tionchar a bhíonn aige seo le feiceáil in ullmhacht na gcéimithe do phoist. Léirigh suirbhé GradIreland 2015 go raibh deacrachtaí ag 52 faoin gcéad de chuideachtaí Éireannacha iarratasóirí leis na scileanna cuí a aimsiú le folúntais do chéimithe a líonadh.  
Agus í ag labhairt ag an bhFóram Oideachais, dúirt an tOllamh Klenowski: “Nuair a bhíonn ról gníomhach ag múinteoirí i dtaca le dearadh a dhéanamh ar a múnlaí measúnaithe féin bunaithe ar chroíshiollabas, aithnítear go bhfuil riachtanais éagsúla ag scoileanna éagsúla. Tugann sé an deis réimse leathan measúnaithe a chur i bhfeidhm – pé acu aistí inranga, tascanna nó cuir i láthair atá i gceist – a léiríonn ní hamháin na bealaí éagsúla inar féidir le daltaí a bhfoghlaim féin a thaispeáint ach chomh maith leis sin cothaíonn sé scileanna praiticiúla a bheidh úsáideach dóibh nuair a bhogann siad ar aghaidh chuig an gcoláiste agus ina saol gairmiúil ina dhiaidh sin.” 
“Tá córas measúnaithe in úsáid againn in Queensland agus bíonn ról lárnach ag múinteoirí ann. Bítear muiníneach go dtiocfaidh scoileanna ar chinneadh iontaofa maidir le gnóthachtáil an dalta. Nuair a bhíonn cead ag múinteoirí úinéireacht a ghlacadh ar mheasúnú, cuirtear go suntasach le tuiscint na múinteoirí, leis an bhfreagracht atá siad sásta a ghlacadh chucu féin agus lena dtiomantas eispéireas oideachais atá éifeachtach a chur ar fáil dá gcuid daltaí,” a dúirt sí. 
Leag an tOllamh Klenowski béim ar an tábhacht a bhaineann le ról a bheith ag tuismitheoirí, múinteoirí, ceannairí scoile, ionadaithe ceardchumainn, acadóirí, agus daltaí sa phlé a dhéantar ar mheasúnú. Ní mór an réasúnaíocht a bhaineann le hathrú a mhíniú i gceart agus an fhianaise thaighde a thacaíonn léi a leagan amach go soiléir. “Déantar cultúr measúnaithe a athrú go mall agus de réir a chéile. Le freastal a dhéanamh ar an athrú seo, beidh go leor tacaíochta maidir le forbairt ghairmiúil ag teastáil ó mhúinteoirí agus ó cheannairí scoile,” arsa an tOllamh Klenowski. 
Tá an chothroime a mheastar a bheith ag baint le córas an ollmheasúnaithe ag croílár na conspóide reatha faoin measúnú. Tá an díospóireacht reatha a bhaineann leis an athchóiriú ar an tSraith Shóisearach, athchóiriú a bhaineann le bogadh i dtreo measúnaithe a dhéanfaí ar dhaltaí agus iad ar scoil, bunaithe ar chumas na múinteoirí a bheith oibiachtúil agus breithiúnais á ndéanamh acu ar a ndaltaí féin. Dar leis an Ollamh David Carless, Ollscoil Hong Cong, is gné dhíobhálach de chóras oideachais na hÉireann í an mhímhuinín fhorleatach seo.
Agus é ag labhairt ag an bhFóram Oideachais, dúirt an tOllamh Carless: “Tá an líon trialacha caighdeánaithe a bhfuil gá leo cuid mhaith níos ísle i sochaithe a bhfuil muinín acu as a gcuid múinteoirí. Má thugtar aitheantas do mhúinteoirí mar ghairmithe agus má thugtar deis dóibh breithiúnais atá cothrom agus eolach a dhéanamh faoi ghnóthachtáil an dalta i leith spriocanna atá leagtha amach sa churaclam, is féidir linn múnla measúnaithe a chruthú atá i bhfad níos solúbtha, agus a thugann léiriú níos fearr ar an tairbhe a bhaineann daltaí as a n-eispéireas foghlama.”
Bhí an tOllamh Carless ag labhairt faoin tábhacht a bhaineann le haiseolas inbhuanaithe a fheidhmiú mar chuid den phróiseas measúnaithe. Is é atá i gceist le haiseolas inbhuanaithe ná go dtugann agus go bhfaigheann daltaí aiseolas faoina gcuid oibre féin agus faoin obair atá déanta ag a gcomhpháirtithe mar chuid den phróiseas chun forbairt a dhéanamh ar a gcumas monatóireacht a dhéanamh ar a gcuid oibre féin nuair a bhíonn siad ina bun.
Mhínigh an tOllamh Carless gur fearr aiseolas inbhuanaithe a úsáid i múnla oideachais atá measúnaithe ag an múinteoir féin: “Tá sé riachtanach gur léir gur cuid lárnach de dhearadh an chúrsa agus an mheasúnaithe é an t-aiseolas agus nach athsmaoineamh atá ann nuair atá an obair bhaile, tascanna agus scrúduithe curtha i gcrích. Éiríonn níos fearr leis seo nuair atá measúnú á dhéanamh ag múinteoirí ar a ndaltaí féin, toisc gur cumarsáid chasta idirphearsanta atá i gceist. Bíonn méid áirithe den mhuinín agus den iontaoibh chaidreamhach de dhíth agus níl sé éasca iad sin a fhorbairt i múnla an ollmheasúnaithe.
Labhair an tOllamh Jannette Elwood, Ollscoil na Banríona, Béal Feirste, ag an ócáid chomh maith. Dúirt sí go bhfuil an taighde go léir a bhaineann le measúnú múinteora curtha i gcomhthéacs na ndíospóireachtaí reatha i bpobal an mheasúnaithe maidir leis an gcaoi a ndéantar nasc idir teoiricí foghlama agus teoiricí measúnaithe le tuiscint níos fearr a fháil ar chleachtas measúnaithe agus ar chórais mheasúnaithe. Cuireann na díospóireachtaí seo iallach orainn aghaidh a thabhairt ar ár mbarúlacha intuigthe i dtaca le bunchleachtais mheasúnaithe agus córais mheasúnaithe, agus ar na cineálacha nua eolais a theastóidh uainn le bonn eolais a chur faoi chleachtais chuiditheacha agus chothroma sa todhchaí. Is féidir féachaint ar an measúnú mar script chultúrtha.  Is samplaí ábhartha de na scripteanna sin, a mbíonn iarmhairtí forleata acu maidir leis na heispéiris oideachasúla a bhíonn ag an aos óg ar fad, iad an Teastas Sóisearach agus an Ardteistiméireacht in Éirinn agus an t-athchóiriú atá á dhéanamh orthu. Má tá sé i gceist againn i ndeireadh na dála athrú chun feabhais a chur ar an gcleachtas measúnaithe, ní mór dúinn athmhachnamh a dhéanamh ar mheasúnú, céard is brí leis agus cén tuiscint atá againn air.
Chuir an tOllamh Pilib Ó Nualláin, Uachtarán Ollscoil Mhá Nuad, fáilte rompu siúd a bhí ag freastal ar an bhFóram Oideachais. Dúirt sé: “Tá aitheantas tugtha againn i mbliana do Chomóradh Céad Bliain Éirí Amach na Cásca agus Forógra 1916 ach tá cáipéis eile a scríobh Pádraig Mac Piarais ar an bhfód le 100 bliain freisin. Ar an 1 Eanáir 1916 d’fhoilsigh sé a phaimfléad faoin gcóras oideachais in Éirinn, paimfléad dár teideal The Murder Machine. Sa phaimfléad sin seasann sé leis an tuairim gurb í an phríomhaidhm atá ag an oideachas cabhrú leis an bpáiste a c(h)umas féin a bhaint amach. Dar leis an bPiarsach, níor cheart don mhúinteoir tuairimí réamhullmhaithe nó bailiúchán eolais a thabhairt don dalta ach ‘díograis atá chomh tógálach agus go músclóidh sí breis díograise iontu’”.
“Bunaíodh Fóram Oideachais Ollscoil Mhá Nuad le hanailís agus le léirmheastóireacht a dhéanamh agus aghaidh a thabhairt ar na ceisteanna is mó, is dúshlánaí agus is casta in earnáil an oideachais agus an earnáil sin ag athrú de shíor. Tá cáil bainte amach ag Ollscoil Mhá Nuad mar an príomhsholáthróir maidir le taighde oideachais agus oiliúint oideachais in Éirinn agus tá ról gníomhach againn maidir le polasaí oideachais a mhúnlú. I mbliana, fiosraíonn ár bhFóram Oideachais an measúnú trí phriosma an ‘Murder Machine’. Táim ag súil go mór le ceistiúchán tráthúil ar ról an mhúinteora céad bliain ó scríobhadh staidéar an Phiarsaigh,” arsa an tOllamh Ó Nualláin. 
Is é Fóram Oideachas Ollscoil Mhá Nuad an príomhardán chun plé a dhéanamh ar na buncheisteanna a bhaineann le cúrsaí oideachais in Éirinn sa lá atá inniu ann. Tugann an ceathrú Fóram bliantúil na smaointeoirí, cleachtóirí, taighdeoirí, stráitéisithe, agus lucht déanta beartas ó Éirinn agus ó thíortha eile le chéile le plé a dhéanamh ar na cultúir mheasúnaithe atá i réim faoi láthair.