Please list the full names and positions of other staff members involved in the project.

  • Renee Macdonald – Teacher of English
  • Michelle Suddaby – Teacher of Integrated Studies
  • Euan Simpson – Teacher of Physics
  • Vicky Brown – Teacher of PE and Health
  • Pete Smalley – HOLA for Integrated Studies and Teacher of Outdoor Pursuits
  • Craig Jeffries – Teacher of Physics, Computing and Data Lead
  • Dawn Bosley – Teacher of History and Social Sciences, SEN co-ordinator
  • Emily McRae – Head of Learning Area for the Arts
  • Ed Waddington – Head of Learning Area for Social Sciences
  • Julian Hardman – RTLB
  • Nick Steenson – School IT Manager

Problem Definition

What is the problem, issue or challenge that you/your school is facing and that your innovation will address? Please include any data or evidence you have collected in your school that identifies the problem or challenge e.g. student achievement data, student engagement data, teacher or student voice. (200 words)

Identified Need: To develop an assessment scheme for our school that removes significant roadblocks to the development of collaborative teacher work, cross-curricular and project-based learning and the embedding of learner disposition into the assessment and feedback schemes in the school. To do so in a way that that reduces teacher workload and opens our doors to the community and wider educational sphere.

Currently the assessment of student progress in our school revolves around the expectation that we demonstrate a students’ achievement against the curriculum. The tools used to determine these grades are a combination of nationally standardised (such as asTTle or PAT), nationally moderated tools and exemplars, such as those provided by NZCER, and internally devised tasks, projects and tests, which are internally moderated. To our mind, these tools fail the students due to the fact that their design and implementation are largely focussed on the needs and expectations of the school institution and the national curriculum, as opposed to the needs of students. This has lead to:  assessment practices that are divorced from the authentic purpose of a task, tasks that are set narrowly in order to demonstrate curricular performance, reluctance to assess student work in context and strong resistance to assessing work using different strands and across different levels of the curriculum. In addition to this, assessment tasks are largely timed and operated by teachers for whole cohorts of students, as opposed to arising as a result of progress and being selected for individual students. Moderation of teacher assessment is currently unwieldy and haphazard.

We want to shift the locus of control towards the students, putting them in charge of their attainment and offering them true agency in relation to their pathway through learning. The students will be able to identify for themselves what they must do to achieve in school and, if they wish, submit work for accreditation at any time. Their portfolio of achievements (which will sit alongside their digital work portfolios which are already in an advanced stage of development) will be available to them at all times, allowing them and their families to access detailed and reliable information about their progress at any time.

We have identified the needs of students as being better met by our ‘badge’ based micro-credentialing system because:

  1. It is standards-based, so all assessment outcomes are clear to all parties concerned.
  2. A badge is either unlocked or it is not, ensuring that students strive for the highest possible outcomes, and provides a very powerful mechanism of goals and a meaningful overview for students who are still working towards achieving these.
  3. A student can attempt a badge as many times as they wish, making their learning a progressive, individualised experience and failure a natural part of learning
  4. Badges are durable. They carry their achievements forward from year to year, preventing repetition of the same learning across years.
  5. Attainment is awarded by the teacher, so the outcomes of learning are precise and relevant to the experience of learning
  6. It is contestable, so students, their families or other parties are able to discuss the quality of a student’s work and clarify what is truly required for a standard to be reached
  7. It is flexible, achievements can be created for every facet of learning that is deemed important by those who develop the programmes of learning – including, for example, dimensions of learning described by the Key Competencies.
  8. It is valid, because the context and criterion are developed in concert with each other and described in clear, factual terms with exemplification
  9. Achievements are transferable, once a capacity is defined, it may be demonstrated in a range of different modes or settings. For example, quality of reading can be assessed in both the verbal and the written mode. The quality of non-fiction writing can be assessed outside of the English domain – in a science or PE report, for example.
  10. It is precise, allowing for much more detailed and useful tracking of student attainment. Instead of knowing a student is “Level 4B and has made 1.4 levels of progress” you can determine that a student has not yet demonstrated the skill of: “Literary Writing, Expository Writing, Non-Fiction Reading and Perfect Accuracy”. At a whole-department or whole-school level, this information is immediately useful – but to parents, it’s gold.
  11. It lends itself to effective moderation. In our school, a variety of teachers will take responsibility for moderating specific badges, calling for the work of individual students who have unlocked particular badges and checking this against the standards. See an example of moderated work below.

As yet we have not surveyed Mount Aspiring College students on this approach, as it is not yet implemented in its pilot form. A limitation of student voice surveys in pedagogical development is that it is difficult for students to critique a system that is the only one they know. This project proposal includes the setting up of a pilot and exploring the impact of micro-credentialing with the students as we go. While our students already perform well against the curriculum on the whole, this does not mean there is no ‘problem’ for us to solve.

I implemented this system in a school I worked at in the UK in 2015/2016. I have some empirical evidence of its impact on student achievement in that setting and some subjective commentary from teachers and students to help validate this project for the NZ context.

Existing Evidence*

Briefly describe what the existing research and evidence says about how the problem could be approached or addressed. This may include examples of how other schools or countries have attempted to address the challenge. (200 words)

There appears to be a paucity of research in the field of micro-credentials for secondary school students. Having implemented a project of this kind already in a London school, one of the better case studies comes from my own experience. This site http://achieve.community.edutronic.net/ contains the credentials we developed and some explanations of how it worked in that context. Much of this will easily be translated to the NZ context. (The linked website demonstrates a working example of the platform we propose to use for this pilot project)

One significant field of research that supports this initiative is Carol Dweck’s work on what she calls the Growth Mindset https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/ – Simply by virtue of the fact that the digital badges we propose can be earned at any time by any learner in any context, it supports the notion that a learner can always acquire a skill or knowledge. It encourages independence and the fact that badges may be attempted many times, they also encourage resilience. The “Not achieved YET” phrase is key to this.

Equally, the fundamental importance of formative feedback in assessment, as explored in Dylan Williams “Inside the Black Box” http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/003172171009200119 can be significantly amplified in settings where the dimensions of an achievement (badge) can be articulated with such precision and detail.

This study of a teacher micro-credentialling project (where the teachers gain badges, as opposed to students) formed 9 relevant conclusions: https://www.fi.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/microcredentials.pdf

Organisations currently engaged in work with NZQA in the micro-credentialing area can be found here: http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/quality-assurance/micro-credential-pilots/ – The outcomes of these three pilots should be released in late 2018.

A summary of relevant research compiled by US researcher Samuel Abramovich: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=l80nkqEAAAAJ&hl=en

Design Principles for Micro-credentialling http://dpdproject.info/files/2014/05/DPD-interim-report-v4-january.pdf

A New Zealand article referring to this pilot: http://educationreview.co.nz/micro-credentials-a-sea-change-for-tertiary-education/

Innovation*

Briefly describe the innovation or new approach that you would like to implement and evaluate, and how it will address the problem identified. (200-250 words) Your answer should cover: (1) Description of the innovation/new approach you want to develop and implement (2) What year level(s) and/or subject areas the innovation will focus on (3) The number of students and teachers involved in the trialling of the innovation (4) Your current stage of progress in designing and/or implementing the innovation in your school (it is ok if you have not made any progress to date)

  1. The innovation we propose to pilot is a micro-credentialing system designed for use in Secondary school classrooms. These digital badges will be designed to support assessment of students across a wide breadth of the curriculum, initially concentrating on Year 10 learners. See an expanded exemplar of how this will work here: https://chris.edutronic.net/unlock-achievement/
  2. The initial pilot will concentrate on Year 10 learners in a selected array of classes across the curriculum. Teachers from The Arts, English, Science, Computing, Social Sciences and PE have expressed interest in this in-school pilot.
  3. The initial pilot will involve a team of 9 teachers and around 200 students.
  4. We are currently at the initial stages of designing and implementing this project in the school. The technical framework is in place and teachers are working collaboratively to develop their expertise so they are able to design effective standards-based assessment tools in their own contexts. We have a Slack group and a badge website set up to facilitate this development work.

Initial Evaluation Approach*

As part of the grant you will be working with staff from The Education Hub to evaluate the impact of your chosen innovation. It is ok at this stage if you do not have all the answers to the bullet points below. However, we would like to see that you have given some thought to how the innovation might be evaluated. (200 words)

  1. Research questions: what is the specific question(s) you want to answer with your evaluation
  2. Sample/participants: who will be participating in this innovation – year levels, particular students, and particular teachers?
  3. Measures: what are the data collection methods and data sources you will employ to measure the impact of your evaluation?
  1. Research question: Can micro-credentials improve student engagement and learner attainment in secondary schools?
  2. Student participants: Mount Aspiring College Year 10 Cohort. Teacher participants: Renee Macdonald – Teacher of English, Tracey Hames – Teacher of English, Michelle Suddaby – Teacher of Integrated Studies, Euan Simpson – Teacher of Physics, Vicky Brown – Teacher of PE and Health, Craig Jeffries – Teacher of Physics, Computing and Data Lead, Dawn Bosley – Teacher of History and Social Sciences, SEN co-ordinator, Emily McRae – Head of Learning Area for the Arts, Ed Waddington – Head of Learning Area for Social Sciences, Julian Hardman – RTLB, Nick Steenson – School IT Manager, Pete Smalley – HOLA for Integrated Studies and Teacher of Outdoor Pursuits.
  3. We will devise three means of assessing impact, across three domains of interest. 1: A student survey, 2: A parent survey, 3: Tracking of student achievement, including reference to control groups outside the pilot.

Work Plan & Resourcing*

How do you plan to implement your innovation over a 1-year period and what resourcing will you require? (200 words)

Your answer should include:

  1. Who will be involved in the innovation project and what experience and expertise will they bring?
  2. What, if anything, needs to happen before the innovation can be implemented in your school?
  3. Resources and costs. You can apply for up to $30,000 to cover costs over 2019 and 2020. What resources will you require to implement your innovation? This might include teacher release time, support from experts, buying particular resources? Please provide estimates of costs associated with the resources.

We are eager to engage with a wide array of experts in the field of standards-based assessment in our journey towards introducing micro-credentialing to our school. We embrace this opportunity as much because it brings us into contact with the expertise we need as for the money.

I have the technical expertise to set the initial badge site in order to provide an interactive experience for the students. This includes links to a phone app and website where they are able to view and share their credentials. The technical cost of maintaining this site: $2,000.00 in the first year (this includes hardware and developer hours).

The time needed to develop, test and reform these assessment tools is significant. For the first year of the pilot we expect to develop between 10-15 digital credentials per curriculum area. The time involved in this is estimated at 5 hours per credential: 15 credentials, 5 curriculum areas, 375 teacher hours: $25,500.00 release costs. The timeframe for this initial set-up stage is set at 9 months, followed by an implementation stage that overlaps but involves very little additional cost.

Cost of external support, including some on-site visits to our school in Wanaka: $1,000.00 per day including transport and accommodation.

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