Taking a progress approach to learning: one school’s journey

Issue: Volume 96, Number 7

Posted: 1 May 2017
Reference #: 1H9d7R

The Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) is being used in rich and interesting ways by teachers, students and the wider community at Rotorua’s Lynmore School.

The Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) was introduced to primary schools in 2013 to help teachers better understand the learning taking place in their classroom and across a school.

PaCT helps teachers make dependable judgements on student progress in reading, writing and mathematics in The New Zealand Curriculum.

It’s no secret that the use of PaCT has faced some reluctance in schools across New Zealand. But the tool was designed to address certain challenges faced by the teaching profession – in particular, how to make dependable judgements of progress within and between schools, and ensuring these are consistent over time.

Unlike approaches in other countries, in New Zealand there is a firm belief in the professionalism of teachers and an understanding that they are in the best position to make accurate judgements about the progress of their students. PaCT supports primary teachers in their important work.

PaCT at Lynmore school

Lynmore School is a large state primary in Rotorua where PaCT has been in use since its implementation four years ago.

Principal Lorraine Taylor says the tool has changed the way teaching, learning and reporting happens at the school.

“When we first introduced PaCT at the school, I thought it would simply be a new summative tool, and I didn’t think much beyond that,” she says.

“But now it’s embedded across the school, and we’ve been using it in a deeper way, I realise that summative assessment is only a very small part of how it can be used."

“PaCT has become the framework we use to look at how we deliver the curriculum, in particular reading, writing and maths, but also the wider programme of learning,” she explains.

“It helps us define the essential components of each curriculum area, and it’s led to a curriculum redesign, actually. We’ve found we’ve changed the way we teach, which led to a reorganisation of how we assess student work, and how we report to parents and the board.”

Looking at things in a different way

Year 5 teacher at Lynmore Tineke O’Callaghan has been leading the use of PaCT within the school.

In particular, she has been working with fellow teachers, keeping a close eye on consistency and alignment across the school. She has also accompanied Lorraine to other schools to share her experience with the tool.

“Establishing the use of PaCT in a school is an ongoing journey,” she says. “Everyone looks at things quite differently, and you can only go as fast as the teachers can absorb the information – it’s good to work on one step at a time."

Tineke believes a key element to the tool’s success is the willingness of teachers to be reflective about their practice.

“I do think you need to be open to it – to really read and deconstruct the exemplars and to be open to really thinking about your teaching practice,” she says.

She highlights the sense of accountability that comes with data-gathering and reporting.

“At first, we weren’t using PaCT to its full extent. But now we’re using it to report to parents, there is a lot more accountability riding on it. We’ve realised you can’t make a judgement without hard evidence to support it. If you’ve not taught, for example, geometry, or it hasn’t been part of your programme, you can’t say that a child is at a particular level if you have no evidence for that."

“So then it comes back to a teacher to really look at their planning, their teaching practice, and the content of their classes – and to make sure you’re covering each area frequently. So we’ve seen a big adjustment in our planning, self-reflection on our teaching practice, and thinking about the individual needs of each student here at Lynmore.”

PaCT allows teachers to be responsive, in accordance with the direct needs of students, says Tineke.

“I’ve found we’re adapting our teaching practice quite often."

“The tool allows us to really see where our students are at – in our individual classes and across our teaching team and wider school as well. It informs the planning for what we need to be doing next."

“And because it’s a tool that goes from year 1 to 8, we can quite easily see where the strengths and weaknesses are across year groups.”

Tineke says that for many teachers, PaCT has highlighted the complexity of each core subject, and cites reading as an example.

“Where beforehand we might have graded children’s reading skills in terms of their reading age, now we’re able to see the nuances of what the subject is really made up of – for example, critical thinking, audience, purpose and comprehension."

“There’s so much more to reading, and we’ve done a lot to change the way we teach it at Lynmore. And of course it’s integrated right across the curriculum – so we’ve had to integrate our planning and teaching much more as well.”

“PaCT allows us a variety of ways to gather evidence about a child’s learning – to see more about what they can do,” she says.

“While some students do well in tests and struggle with everyday learning tasks, others show their skills in everyday activities, but are maybe not so skilled at writing answers in a test environment. I think PaCT allows individual skills to shine, and it helps us look more holistically at a child’s learning journey.”

PaCT within a community of learning

Year 5 teacher Sam Harliwich has been closely involved with helping establish the Eastern Rotorua Kāhui Ako and part of this work has been sharing Lynmore’s experience and knowledge of PaCT.

“We’ve got other schools starting to work on PaCT within the Community of Learning l Kāhui Ako,” says Sam.

“We want the other member schools to use the tool so that we’re able to align our student data across the community."

“The idea is that as students move through their learning journey, their data will follow them and so when they leave our school, then go to the intermediate in our CoL, then their data will be easy for their new teachers to access."

“It will just come up with their enrolment information. It’s already there – they won’t need to do any more testing or anything. It will show their progression."

Sam describes this as as a journey towards “comparing apples with apples”, and says the sharing of knowledge within the Community of Learning is integral to its success.

“We’re not going to be comparing apples with oranges anymore. You’re getting experienced teachers saying to the less-experienced teachers, ‘Here it is, this is what it looks like, this is how we can achieve streamlined data’.”

Sam says that becoming familiar with PaCT has been a learning curve for her and many of the teachers at Lynmore, but it has changed their teaching practice in positive ways.

“I think it’s changed the way I plan my classes. It’s definitely been a bit scary as an experienced teacher – I feel like I’ve had to let go of a lot of stuff."

“But it’s also really exciting – I feel like our planning now, and our teaching, is much deeper. It’s not so focused on surface features or content – it’s about application – you’re looking at different sources for your information about achievement. I feel that the discussions we have are deeper and we’re collaborating more as team members as well."

“It’s all about gathering richer information on how our students are doing in their learning.”

Sharing progress and Achievement

Lorraine believes the levels of consistency achieved by using PaCT makes it an especially useful tool for reporting on student achievement within a large school like Lynmore.

“I do think the tool would work in any school situation, but the advantage at our school is that it allows a consistency that might otherwise be more difficult, due to our size."

“I think the more students and teachers you have, the more opportunities for inconsistencies. So it’s useful in making sure we’re all on the same page in terms of moderation,” she says.

Reporting and feedback to parents has been transformed, and the data is easily shared at board of trustee meetings.

“Before, reporting to parents was a hugely onerous task – it took time to write reports and gather all the evidence, and when we would look at the reports there was some degree of inconsistency – in terms of the comments and describing next learning steps."

“What PaCT has given us is a consistency of reporting and the way we talk about progress and achievement. Parents have become really used to that language and they genuinely like seeing how far above and below the standard their children are at.”

Lorraine says reporting to the school board has become simpler, too.

“In terms of reporting to the board, my job is easier. The data is at my fingertips – it takes a couple of minutes to bring it up on my laptop, so overall student progress is immediate and more transparent.”

It’s also been an opportunity to take a fresh look at the school’s information-gathering systems.

“PaCT has given us a chance to review what data we collect and why, what we do with it, and actually given us the opportunity to get rid of things that weren’t serving a purpose anymore,” she says.

PaCT and student agency

A current and future focus at Lynmore School is to harness the power of PaCT to increase student agency in their own learning progression.

This is already off to a good start at the school, says Tineke, whose students are familiar with PaCT and can use it to articulate where they are at with their learning.

“They’re aware of how it works and I use it with them to talk about how they can improve their skills in knowledge in different areas,” she says.

“For example, today I interviewed one of my students about it. She said ‘It’s really helpful, because now that I know what my goal is, I have it written at the top of my book every day, so that I remember what I need to focus on’.”

Lorraine agrees that PaCT facilitates a constructive way of talking to students about their own learning, and while it is happening in pockets across the school, she hopes it will eventually become the norm.

“The framework is so comprehensive that it’s really useful for our students to be able to see where they sit within the framework for themselves, and clearly see what they can do to take the next steps,” she says.

“It’s helping our children to have agency over their own learning progression, and the idea is that they can help their teacher to make the Overall Teacher Judgements – they can say, ‘I think my work best fits here, based on this evidence’, and so their voice is very much taken into account too.”

What is PaCT?

PaCT is an online tool designed to help teachers make dependable judgements on students’ progress and achievement in relation to The New Zealand Curriculum.

Its frameworks, developed in partnership with The New Zealand Curriculum experts, break down and illustrate the different aspects of mathematics, reading and writing. Its ‘engine’ captures judgements on the aspects and recommends an overall judgement that a teacher can confirm or review.

Find more information about PaCT at https://pactinfo.education.govt.nz.

What does it do?

  • Unpacks the curriculum content of mathematics.
  • Prompts teachers to notice how students use reading and writing to support learning across the curriculum.
  • Illustrates the significant steps that learners take as they progress in mathematics, reading and writing.
  • Supports moderation.
  • Informs teaching programmes.
  • Supports consistent overall judgements of student progress and achievement.
  • Creates reports that help teachers and school leaders monitor the progress of students.

The PaCT has:

  • learning progression frameworks that break down mathematics, reading and writing and illustrate the stages of learning.
  • an ‘engine’ that captures teacher judgements on aspects of mathematics, reading and writing and recommends an overall judgement that a teacher confirms or reviews.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 2:56 pm, 1 May 2017

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