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Ormiston Junior College – Using personalised assessment to grow self-regulated learners

Ormiston Junior College (OJC), situated at Flat Bush in East Auckland and established in February 2017, is a middle school for students from years 7 to 10. Although the student population is small at the moment, the school will eventually accommodate 1000 students.

The college is in a new building, constructed as an ILE (Innovative Learning Environment). The new design of the teaching spaces has allowed the school to develop an innovative approach to teaching and learning.

Approach to teaching and learning

The OJC curriculum has four key components in how they use their time and space as a resource in the ILE. 

  • MAC/Kainga: (Mentor Advisor Coach, Kainga – a gathering)
    The purpose of this element is to provide personalised support and learning programmes for the holistic development of the learners. There is a particular focus on Social/Emotional Learning, Learning to Learn and Metacognitive skills, knowledge and dispositions for better learning, and Hauora. The key comps are most closely related to this curriculum as are elements of the Health and Social Sciences learning areas.
  • Whānau Ora: (The health of our family) 
    The purpose of this element is to explicitly provide daily opportunities for movement and taha tinana in order to support hauora, but also to support the learners ability to learn and concentrate throughout the day. Again, the key comps and the personal hauroa components of the Health and PE curriculum are covered through this programme.
  • Literacy and numeracy learning labs
    Our community has one of the highest numbers of immigrant and English language learners in New Zealand. As a middle school, these core skills and how they relate to the rest of the curriculum are vitally important, to ensure we are preparing students for success in accessing and processing information at the senior secondary level. This programme teaches literacy and numeracy with a metacognitive and transdisciplinary focus, and also involves the learners handing in and getting support with work from all other areas of the OJC curriculum.
  • TAIP (Transdisciplinary Authentic Inquiry Projects)
    Our project based learning curriculum takes up half our timetable. Students complete at least three projects each year that are connected to school-wide big ideas and enduring understandings. Each project must meet the TAIP design principles. All curriculum areas and disciplines are fair game for exploration for the student projects as long as the principles are met.

Learning coach design principles – Learner design principles

In order to assess for learning  and report and tell the story of each child’s learning and progress, a system was needed which allowed each learner to effectively have the entire “scheme” available to them. It was also important that the system/methods we chose allowed students to meet the criteria consistently, but allowed for freedom and flexibility in how the criteria were met for each learner. It was at this point we chose to pursue the concepts of narrative assessment combined with digital badging and micro-credentials to support our vision for high quality assessment for (and ‘as’) learning and reporting to parents. The concept is based on the LRNG process used in the USA and extended and developed for use in the school.

Developing a Graduate Profile

Initially, foundation staff worked to develop a graduate profile based on:

This graduate profile was then used to develop a range of digital learning badges and the criteria for earning them. The progressions for each badge are loosely based on the SOLO taxonomy, awarded at Emerging, Effective and Exemplary levels in a desire to provide a link to the Achieved, Merit, Excellence language of NCEA assessment. Exemplary criteria are at level 4/5 of the curriculum, where those at levels 3/4 focus on student-centred practices. Some badges are easier than others, and the system always gives students room for improvement, fundamental to the principles of gamification that have been found to encourage student participation and engagement.

The badging system

  • Criteria for badges include skills, knowledge and learning dispositions. Hauora, relationships and integrity are important. The criteria give credit for the application of knowledge, not simply the acquisition.
  • Students "bid" for badges and these are awarded after a process of self, peer and teacher assessment. A fundamental goal is to develop self-regulated learners. Assessment is integrated into the students’ learning experiences.
  • Students curate their own learning through self and peer assessments, and through the presentation of evidence of achievement in learning artefacts. Expectations are that the bidding, pitching and curating of learning and achievement are written in descriptive language to tell a story, far richer than test scores. Narrative assessment provides the context and individualises the circumstances in which the student achieved their learning.
  • Teachers work with the students to ensure that students achieve curriculum coverage in their "bidding" for badges; that is, students cannot choose only those areas that they like or are good at.

Information on student achievement via the badging process is available to parents and whānau via the school’s student management system. They can see that badges are being worked on and when they have been awarded. Progress and achievement information is summarised and digitally available for parents at the end of each term. Criteria for the badges allow teachers to put this information together simply and in a form that the community can understand. The information is digital but can be printed as learning stories should parents and whānau desire.

Examples of badges

Below are some examples from screenshots taken directly from learners' pages on the student management system. (Note: Fringed edges are junior – years 7 and 8 and solid edges are senior – years 9 and 10.)                                                                               

       Select the image to view at full size.

       Select the image to view at full size.

       Select the image to view at full size.

Sharing information with learners, parents, and whānau

Over the course of the term, students construct their "learning journey" or narrative assessment. This piece is co-constructed between the TAIP and MAC coaches, with the learners leading the process and selecting the learning and meaningful artefacts and goals they will discuss or present. The Learning Journey is constructed at key milestones throughout the term and is pushed out to families at the end of each term. Writing teacher comments and narrative assessments for the Learning Journeys is a learning focus for staff this year.

This is an example of an end of term 1 narrative assessment for a year 8 student 

  • TAIP Coach comments:
    • ...... was challenged from the start of his TAIP this term as he took some time in committing to a project idea. However, once started, his group progressed well and made some good connections to identified learning areas. ......'s TAIP focused on designing and developing an authentic and fun sporting game. An additional challenge was the ability to conduct research and combine this with practical testing in order to ensure their game benefits health and fitness, which was the main component of their learning area connection. Moving forward ...... recognised that a more concentrated focus at the start of the term will have a positive effect throughout the whole term and this is something he will take into TAIP 2.
  • MAC Coach Comments:
    • This year ...... has focused on continuing to complete his learning to a higher standard with more consistency. His personal goal was to take the initiative and share ideas, questions and to contribute more in a wider variety of situations. He has noticeably begun to do this and seek out opportunities to test himself, and even share his quirky sense of humour more often with the group. ...... still finds speaking in front of groups difficult, but has been rising to the challenge, and has participated in targeted communication skills learning activities, and explaining his thinking more frequently and with less prompting in our MAC. ......’s ability to relate to others beyond his immediate peer group is also growing slightly, and he has been able to support new learners to understand the tasks and technology available at OJC. This is an area that is still not incredibly comfortable for ...... to work on, however his willingness to take steps to get out of his comfort zone, communicate and relate to a wider range of people in a wider range of settings is a great start this term.
    • ......’s next steps are to continue to think about how he shares his ideas both formally and informally, and continue to apply strategies for verbal communication that will also help to make sure his projects or tasks for MAC are completed to the level that he his thinking at, rather than the level he is willing to communicate at.

Other parts of the reporting process 

  •        Select the image to view at full size.

    Regular use of Linc-Ed’s curriculum area goal setting features for our Literacy and Numeracy programme to show progress live and in real time. Teachers can see where each child is at in terms of meeting the curriculum expectations set for our school, and students can set learning goals with teachers or on their own and load evidence to show that they have met goals. This example shows three goals that a teacher (in the image) set with the learner, and will frame the work they do next.  
  • Bi-yearly graphing of student progress against curriculum levels to show trends over time in relation to expectations in numeracy and literacy. To confirm that they are giving the students the fundamental skills to access the curriculum through this system, teachers back up their digital badging process with formal e-asTTle testing and PAT Listening for diagnostic purposes, particularly for ESOL students.  

       Select the image to view at full size.

  • Publishing of Badges with evidence as they are awarded – live and in real time. This happens at least four times each year – but can happen as and when learners are ready. (For example, Mastery/Assess when ready) When you hover on a badge, or view current badges that are set as goals, the criteria for the badge appears. A 3 tier system – orange – emerging, green – effective, and black – exemplary differentiates levels of achievement for each badge. Learners are able to “level up” and re-do badges at higher levels, and do not have to work through each level. This system is intended to mimic the current NCEA achieved, merit, excellence, and is loosely based on the solo differentiation between levels of understanding. The school avoided using the A, M, E or BPA language intentionally to avoid confusion, and wanted to stick to using only three to best help learners prepare for what was to come while having to unpack what the difference is between each level of understanding.


  • The Whānau Ora also sends out learning stories which capture the learning in this part of the curriculum. These stories are pushed out at the end of each Whanau Ora Option " every 7 weeks. Read this sample Whānau Ora Learning Journey.
  • Three mid-term (terms 2, 3, and 4) dispositions reflections are completed as self-evaluations and as teacher feedback and forward to help frame where students are at in terms of their learning attitudes, behaviours and perceptions of themselves as learners. This is done mid term in order to provide communication with home about how the home school partnership can support personalised dispositional goals as they are needed to foster improvement – rather than as summative (or “too late”) information at the end of the term.

All reporting documents are developed in collaboration with learners live and in real time DURING class time. (Teachers are expected to use class time to work with the learners to complete each piece with the exception of their comments, editing, and item #2 above.) This is to ensure the assessing and reporting are deeply connected to the learning and to the learners, and there is clarity in the purpose and intentions of each element in terms of nurturing next steps and growth and improvement.

What's working well

  • System has allowed school leaders to weave together curriculum AOs, key competencies and values to create an integrated assessment based on the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Student-centred learning – students work at their own pace and level to bid for and earn badges.
  • Student self-regulation is at the heart of the system; they choose, in consultation with their teacher, the context for and direction of their learning.
  • The badge system engages the students – they enjoy it and trust the process.
  • Integration of teaching, learning and assessment allows teachers and students to make natural connections across all learning areas.
  • Students form a knowledge network to help each other: for example, how to connect learning to criteria.
  • Online access is building a community narrative about the assessment focus.

Senior leaders at OJC stress that they are in a constant state of evaluation and review of their process, including the badges and the criteria for gaining them.

With thanks to Luke Sumich, Principal, and Viv Mallabar and Kat Liu-Asomua from the leadership team, for their school story.