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Curricula and Assessment — Azizi Ahmad

NOVEMBER 26 — There are a lot of challenges in our education system. Some of the biggest challenges we face can appear frustratingly intractable. Despite reform efforts, regular government reviews and ongoing calls for change, progress in addressing our most significant challenges is often slow and solutions continue to elude us.

For assessment to be of high quality and relevant, and for it to inform real improvements to the overall education system and its outcomes, it must be in full and functional harmony with a system’s curriculum, teacher training and support, texts and materials, planning, budgeting and all other departments.

There are at least three purposes for educational assessment that consist of  Formative assessment for use in the classroom to assist learning, Summative assessment for use at the classroom, school, or district level  and  Assessment for program evaluation and sometimes today for a fourth purpose, evaluation of teacher effectiveness.

Often the multiple forms of assessment have been designed separately and may not be well aligned with each other that is, the various forms of assessment should all be linked to the shared goals outlined by the framework and related standards while at the same time be designed to achieve the specific purpose at hand.

Designers of assessments need to consider the diverse backgrounds that students bring with them to classes. Assessment developers need to eliminate barriers of language, gender-biased examples, and other forms of representation that preclude some students’ useful participation.

It seems that, the education system currently lacks sophistication in understanding and addressing the different purposes of assessment and how they relate to each other and to the standards for a particular subject.

A glaring and frequent mistake is to assume that current standardized tests of the type used by most states to assess academic achievement for accountability purposes can also suffice to fulfill the other purposes of assessment.

Such a “one-size-fits-all” notion of assessment is demonstrably inadequate. No single assessment, regardless of how well it might be designed, can possibly meet the range of information needs that operate from the classroom level on up.

The committee’s work on the framework and resulting standards is only the beginning. Changes will need to occur in parallel, driven by a common vision, as well as iteratively, because each affects the capacity of other components of the system to implement the framework and standards. It is the committee’s vision that the framework and standards based on it can help drive ongoing evolutionary change in instruction through parallel and interlocking developments across the multiple components of the system.

Curriculum developers will need to design curricula based on research and on learning progressions across grade levels that incorporate the framework’s dimensions.

Teacher preparation programs and professional development programs will need to provide learning opportunities for teachers themselves in order to deepen their conceptual understanding, engage in real practices, and develop an appreciation of curricula as a way of knowing in a community of knowledge builders.

Programs will also need to enhance teachers’ skills in investigating students’ ideas, selecting effective teaching practices, assessing students’ progress, and developing classroom communities and discourses in which all students and their ways of knowing are valued and respected.

Educational institutions will need to attend to the needs of prospective teachers. Assessment developers will need to develop creative, valid, and reliable ways of gathering evidence about students’ progress across the domains and grade levels to satisfy different purposes at different levels of the education system.

Changes are needed across the entire education system involving not only the educators at the front lines but also those who make and implement policies, professional development for state-level  supervisors, school boards, district-level leaders, principals, and curriculum specialists will be necessary as well.

In that way, all components and players in the education system can mesh coherently with the framework’s vision for a more inclusive, focused and authentic education experience for all students. 

* Azizi Ahmad is an educator

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.