Learning Progressions implementation

– let’s get it right

The National School Reform Agreement has been signed off by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The agreement provides for three ‘reform directions’. 'A' is of most significant for classroom teachers.

A: Supporting students, student learning and student achievement.

enhancing teacher assessment of student attainment and growth against clear descriptors

assisting teachers monitor individual student progress and identify student learning needs through opt-in online and on demand student learning assessment tools with links to student learning resources, prioritising early years foundation skills, and

reviewing senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training.

Learning Progressions as a component of the national agenda is deserving of a common understanding. A variety of interpretations will not be useful. In the Sydney Morning Herald (18 November) UTS Senior Lecturer Don Carter said of Learning Progressions: “It has workload implications for teachers, and there needs to be an investigation into how best to implement such an approach that doesn’t impact negatively on teacher workload”. As a minimum, a period of two years is appropriate to ensure that:

a common and comprehensive understanding of Learning Progressions is achieved

significant professional development is provided, and

appropriate support is required for implementation.

Currently a cross-sectoral trial is underway in NSW. The trial’s conclusion in 2020 would be the appropriate time for the wide scale introduction of Learning Progressions. Learning Progressions provide a useful mechanism to assist teachers, but the existing reporting system is flawed. If national consistency is desired, the pause button must be pressed.

For Learning Progressions to be a professionally enabling experience and not an imposed system, teacher professional judgement has to be front and centre.

This space requires careful consideration. Learning Progressions are not quasi-curriculum. They are observable behaviours which have the capacity to be beneficial if introduced effectively. Disappointingly, the Union understands certain dioceses have provided advice that Learning Progressions should be extended into Years 3-6. This is premature and an extra claim on teachers.

The trial has not yet been concluded and the national school reform agreement is in its infancy. The risk of implementing Learning Progressions too hastily, before ensuring it is not about data gathering or ‘point in time’ assessment, but rather a personal learning path, is considerable. Learning Progressions guide the curriculum, they are not a substitute for the curriculum.

IEU members report that the adjustment of trial school requirements has been of assistance but have concerns as to what support structures will be provided going forward.

An inclusive approach to implementation is required. In June 2018, Catholic Schools NSW said:

“Be assured that Catholic Schools NSW, together with the Catholic school agencies it represents, are most mindful of the need to progress all school-based reforms and innovations with the full input and cooperation of teachers”.

It’s time to pause and get the implementation of Learning Progressions right.

Mark Northam
Assistant Secretary