Learning Progressions:

Let’s ensure the professional voice of teachers is heard

Mark Northam
Assistant Secretary

Education Services Australia (ESA), Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) have carriage of implementing Learning Progressions and Online Formative Assessment on behalf of the Federal Government.

The route to implementation at the state and territory level will be where recommendations come alive and determine what effect this has on teachers.

The interest in Formative Assessment and Learning Progressions stem from the second Gonski report and when implemented will ideally assist teachers monitor individual student progress and provide appropriate feedback to ensure improvement continues.

Mechanical matters aside, classroom practitioners should (and will) insist on a line of sight back to the mandated curriculum and syllabus documents.

It is important that there is a clear relevance to both the Learning Progression and the assessment tasks so that it avoids any duplication. There are also concerns regarding suggested timeframes – such as implementation by 2021 – as these are too tight to provide for deep engagement with the profession across a range of different contexts. Unless both issues are grounded in the reality of teaching they will flounder.

Assessment via the existing emphasis on testing is already a crowded space and has a number of interested stakeholders.

Teachers are already dealing with a profusion of standardised testing models, some of which compete with each other. The lack of a unified approach means teachers often end up doing more testing than may be required – at the expense of teaching.

An evolutionary approach to online formative assessment will be required. Also, the recent NSW experience with NAPLAN online will be a considerable barrier to overcome for the online component of this assessment.

The Union welcomes the notion of a ‘discovery phase’ as opposed to a pilot program. The experience of many schools in relation to the literacy and numeracy trial Learning Progressions was not entirely positive.

Employers should not be rushing to implementation until a firm position is adopted and clear goals are set in terms of reducing workload, rather than increasing it.

The level of engagement with teachers must be beyond AITSL’s Teacher Practice Reference Group. Genuine consultation requires a much broader process.

Much is said of Learning Progressions being optional. This is not the experience of IEU members when they are simply directed to implement flawed versions of progressions.

A carefully staged implementation and ensuring teacher judgement is paramount are the way forward.