The Upper Hutt Networked Learning Cluster embarked on an extensive programme of engagement throughout 2011.
Teams of teachers from different schools have worked together to develop sustainable moderation systems and consistent judgments across the cluster.
The Principals and lead teachers from each school employ a facilitator in regular strategic sessions to ensure learnings are shared and the momentum maintained.
When we looked at all the assessments that we were using across the 14 schools and how the assessments were being used, there was an inconsistency of understanding about the primary purpose of assessment and then what you could do with it. So the other issue that emerged was that we wanted people or teachers to be honest in what was happening and they needed to be honest in terms of judgments they were making about kids’ work. So we looked at a culture across the cluster and within schools for allowing those honest conversations to happen.
We’d made assumptions that everybody was on the same page with, like where the children were at with the different stages and when we came together as a staff we realised that we weren’t. So it actually gave us as a staff more of a clear picture where to head and I think it brought us all together really, yeah and helped us to see from a school wide perspective rather than just a syndicate.
We didn’t really know what we didn’t know, and we had great plans of being able to you know do the OTJ thing by the end of the year. I think in all honesty we didn’t really understand what National Standards were all about and the requirements for the OTJs.
Putting together at the start an action plan, certainly helped give us a real focus for where we need to actually move practice in our school. So in our school we’re sort of moving towards more organised regular moderation events. Also the importance of focusing on those children that... not necessarily all children in the class, but those ones that you’re not quite sure about, the borderline cases, and the importance of involving other people in that decision making around whether they’re achieving or not achieving the standard or which curriculum level they’re working at. Because that’s something that you could quite easily get wrong if you’re just stuck on your own in your classroom trying to make a judgment call.
We know that although we trust our judgments amongst ourselves it’s very affirming to hear that you’re pretty well spot on with your colleagues who may be in a school the same size, a much bigger school, full primary, intermediate, across the cluster the judgments, the teacher judgments are getting closer and closer.
It’s developed a greater cohesion within the schools in Upper Hutt, probably on a tier down level too because I think some of the principals meet quite often but some of us in the lower levels in our schools get to meet doing this. And we have building relationships together and confidence in each other’s work, and discussing. I’ve enjoyed that. A chance to discuss and talk about our assessment practices at that level has been really good.
I think the useful thing for us has been a chance to get into other schools and see their processes and see how they moderate work. Not only schools in the Upper Hutt region but also outside of the Upper Hutt region as well.
The richness of moderation is actually in the conversations that teachers have. It’s teachers being able to challenge other teachers, ask them to justify the decisions they’ve made, have intellectual debates if you like, about what comprises a quality piece of writing. And that actually makes you think as a teacher, which is actually what it’s all about, thinking about your practice, thinking about the assessments you’re making, thinking about how best to help a child learn more effectively.