Dylan Wiliam – Where to now?

I really enjoyed Dylan Wiliam’s presentation on Wednesday and we have been very lucky to have all our teaching staff see him at the same time. It gives us a rare opportunity as a teachers to discuss formative assessment and how it can be done better at PBAS in a way that had only 3 or 4 attended would not be possible.

Some of the things that I got out of the day that were new or reinforced beliefs I held included:

  • It was great to hear Dylan acknowledge how hard the teaching “game” is and how no one ever perfects it.
  • Pedagogy trumps curriculum every time.
  • Focus on the things that matter.
  • We fail all the time and that’s ok as long as we avoid repeating mistakes and strive to improve.
  • We should worry about growth mind set in teachers. There is no place for teachers who think they can’t get better.
  • Formative assessment is most effective when it is used every day in every lesson (at least once every 20 minutes).
  • Always ensure students understand the learning intention and direction of the lesson.
  • Planning questions is important and using statements rather than questions can promote deeper responses.
  • Dumbing things down does not help our students.
  • Questioning should cause one of two things or both: 1. The student to think and 2. produce data that informs teaching.
  • Hard work and practice can trump talent.
  • Grades do not contribute to improved learning.
  • Comments do contribute to improved learning.
  • Combining grades and comments do not contribute to improved learning. Once a grade is seen the comment is ignored.
  • A great range of strategies to improve formative assessment.

Now that we have heard Dylan Wiliam’s research and classroom strategies and have his book as a resource we should discuss the “where to now?”.

Proposal – Formative assessment

My initial reaction is to take on formative assessment as a focus for 2014 (and maybe 2015). When I say focus I mean as part of our personal development plans where every teacher commits to improving an aspect of formative assessment. Team meetings will provide time to discuss formative assessment and allow staff to share what they are doing in terms of improving formative assessment in their classroom. I also believe there is plenty of scope for choice within formative assessment for teachers to select what they think will help improve their teaching and student learning.

My proposal is that all teaching staff select at least one strategy around formative assessment to put into their performance development plan.

Formative Assessment also allows us to engage in sections of TfEL and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers as well as giving focus to classroom observations if a teacher chooses.

How does Formative Assessment  link with TfEL and Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

By focusing on formative assessment we will also be covering part of TfEL Domain 2, Element 2.4 and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers Standard 5.1 and 5.2.

TfEL: Domain 2 Create Safe Conditions for Rigorous Learning

Element 2.4 Challenge students to achieve high standards with appropriate support.

  • (Teacher) Teach students how to seek feedback and offer timely feedback to move their learning forward.
  • (Teacher) Engineer learning conversations that extend students thinking.
  • (Student) Look forward to getting feedback from others to help take the next step.

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers: Standard 5 Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning

I have only included the Proficent and Highly Accomplished levels below. To view Graduate and Lead descriptors go to the AITSL page at the top of the blog. 

Assess student learning


Develop, select and use informal and formal, diagnostic, formative and summative assessment strategies to assess student learning.

Highly Accomplished

Develop and apply a comprehensive range of assessment strategies to diagnose learning needs, comply with curriculum requirements and support colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of their approaches to assessment.

Provide feedback to students on their learning


Provide timely, effective and appropriate feedback to students about their achievement relative to their learning goals.

Highly Accomplished

Select from an effective range of strategies to provide targeted feedback based on informed and timely judgements of each student’s current needs in order to progress learning.

I believe it is important that all teaching staff who attended the day contribute a comment about where we should go now with Dylan Wiliam’s work. What are your opinions/thoughts around PD, classroom observations, TfEL and the Australian Professional Standards and using formative assessment to tie them all together? Can we make this work?

Classroom Observations at PBAS

I hope that the Eudunda presentation achieved its purpose of getting us to start thinking about how we might go about developing quality teaching and learning through classroom observations at PBAS.

Key points that I got from the presentation were:

  • I like the concept of One in all in. Developing a whole school agreement through discussion will be important.
  • Time is required to ensure any process is effective. Time for both the development of the process as well as implementation i.e. Eudunda underloaded its secondary staff and provided release time for its primary staff. What would work at PBAS?
  • Eudunda embedded ‘Quality Teaching’ into their Site Improvement Plan. Where does improving quality teaching through classroom observation sit in relation to all the other things we do at school?
  • How do we embed aspects of the TfEL or the National Professional Standards for Teachers (or both) into a document that is then useful and easily used?
  • Staff familiarisation with TfEL and the National Professional Standards for Teachers will be ongoing. The hot dot task was a fairly easy simple way to get staff to have a look at and think about these.
  • The concept of deprivatising the classroom appealed to me. Broadening the types of pedagogy we are exposed to will be an important part of developing teacher quality.

This by no means exhausts the list of questions and issues that teachers may have about classroom observations at PBAS. They are just my initial thoughts after listening to Eudunda’s story.

Click here to read my first post on Classroom Observation written in early October.

How do we measure the value of a teacher?

Since standardised testing has made its way into the national spotlight through NAPLAN and the MY School website teachers have continued to discuss the issues of using these test results as a measure. Currently NAPLAN compares schools in a very public way. What would you do if that comparison was no longer the school but you? What if your name was published alongside your ‘value’ ranking (percentile) which was determined by how well your students did on their annual standardised test? What would you do if this result impacted on your job security and could get you fired? Would you narrow the curriculum to push your kids to achieve in the areas to be tested? I think I probably would! This is the case in some US States and educational districts. Below is a link to a thought provoking and emotional article by a teacher named Maribeth Whitehouse who ranked in the 99th percentile based on her students doing very well in the standardised tests.

Click here to read Measuring My Value.

National Professional Standards for Teachers

Extracts from a statement by The Hon. Peter Garrett, Minister for Education, 25th Nov. 2011 regarding teacher performance and development.

The National Professional Standards for Teachers will be used to develop an accreditation scheme for all teachers which will include reward payments for the top two levels. Personally I am think the National Professional Standards for Teachers are a great thing for our profession, however I’m not sold on ‘Reward Payments’.

“Under improvements to the Reward Payments for Great Teachers initiative, teachers who are accredited to the highest level of the standards will be rewarded with $7500 for Highly Accomplished teachers and $10,000 for teachers who achieve the Lead Teacher level.”

These payments are not that far away!

  • I wonder how this process will work?
  • How equitable will it be?
  • Will it encourage or discourage collaboration between teachers?
  • Will it be divisive within schools?
  • Will it make teachers ‘teach to the test’ more to get great NAPLAN results?

“In line with the Government’s election commitment, the first reward payments will be delivered in 2014 for teachers who have been assessed against the standards in 2013.”

All teachers will be required to undertake a review of their performance. Again, how this process works will be very interesting indeed. Physically observing teachers and collating parent feedback etc for every teacher in Australia will be a big job.

  • Will this process be conducted by people from outside the school?
  • If not what will be the increase in workload to staff?
  • If the process is run internally by schools how will it remain fair when a potential payment of $7500-$10000 is one of the end results?

“The Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework will deliver a yearly appraisal of every teacher in every school.”

Mr Garrett said under the new performance framework all teachers will receive regular and constructive feedback on their progress, as well as opportunities for further professional development. The framework will set out the aspects of a teacher’s performance that will be assessed and will include lesson observations, student results, parental feedback, and contribution to the school community.”

Are you interested in research about what motivates us? Suprisingly it is not always money! You tube video of Daniel Pink who is the author of several provocative, bestselling books about the changing world of work.

It seems the teachers in Victorian trials for performance pay are not jumping at the chance.

Read full release from  the Minister here.

To view the National Professional Standards for Teachers click on the page link on this blog.