Accelerating Learning

Welcome to Accelerating Learning: Te Kete Hono’s blog, dedicated to exploring the ever-changing realm of education. Join us, as we share education insights, practical ideas, and discuss advancements in the field of learning. We aim to provide a fresh perspective on education that inspires, informs, and sparks new possibilities. 

The Challenge of Changing Teaching Practice at Scale (using Cynthia Coburn's 2003 change model)

The big question that we, at Te Kete Hono are obsessed with, is "how do we help to improve formative assessment practice at scale" while at the same time making it a doable and reasonable ask of teachers?

In 2003 Cynthia Coburn published her seminal article " Rethinking Scale: Moving Beyond Numbers to Deep and Lasting Change" (EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER 2003 32: 3) and suggested that the issue of scaling improvements is the critical challenge of school reform. The questions she raised then, are even more relevant now. How, indeed, do we accelerate the spreading of good practice and "sustaining change in a multilevel system characterized by multiple and shifting priorities". This is no straightforward change management exercise in the education sector of today!

Coburn's argument is that "definitions of scale must include attention to the nature of change in classroom instruction; issues of sustainability; spread of norms, principles, and beliefs; and a shift in ownership such that a reform can become self-generative". Getting big numbers involved in change does not necessarily reflect "the degree to which it is sustained, or the degree to which schools and teachers have the knowledge and authority to continue to grow the reform over time." Scaling or spreading change needs to take account of the sustainability of the changes in practice over time.  This remains the transformation challenge of our times, over 20 years later.

There have been numerous methods employed over the years in the quest to spread changes in teaching practice in schools - formal networks, informal clusters, PLD programme priorities, targeted funding initiatives. All have relevance and potential impact, and some have produced sustainable and lasting improvements in many schools. A recent example is the Growth Coaching framework that has seen millions of $ invested in PLD across the sector and in many schools this has transformed the mentoring and development of inexperienced teachers although the impact on learner outcomes is very challenging to measure.    However, as a education system in New Zealand, we remain challenged by the degree of variability in student achievement especially within schools, which suggests that we are not meeting Coburn's criteria for deep and lasting change (PISA 2022: Aotearoa New Zealand Summary Report, Education Counts)  

"While there are differences between schools in achievement, most of the variation in achievement in Aotearoa New Zealand is due to differences between students within schools. This means that most schools in Aotearoa New Zealand have a large range between high and low performers."

Scaling changes in teaching practice for deep and lasting impact is complex and challenging and there are no silver bullets. We would like to suggest that there is more to this than constructs that facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences between educators. Sustainable change requires systems thinking which means designing systems that facilitate, support and embed the practices that are known to be effective; lowering the workload for teachers and providing data to monitor progress and measure impacts over time. We would like to suggest that digital solutions like our SchoolTalk platform are part of such a systems approach. SchoolTalk codifies the practices of formative assessment, prompts students and teachers to engage in these practices every day and generates data that allow schools to track months from expectation for all students.

It is not simple to implement systemic approaches to change, but this approach does seem to deliver on Coburn's challenge to assess the success of reform programmes in terms of depth, sustainability and shifts in ownership as well as the volumetric measure of spread. 

Building a Future of Digital Equity

Walking the Assessment Tightrope

Formative assessment: A key pedagogical strategy to accelerate learning

Assessing Impact in the classroom

Strategy and Measurement for Schools wanting to Improve Learning Outcomes

Online Facilitation: Fostering meaningful connections 

Fostering a strong relationship with a child's teacher

Is PLD hitting the mark for your teachers 

Reflections of a teacher-turned facilitator

Effective Strategic Planning for teachers

Supporting a system that learns

Rediscovering Teacher Wellbeing

Celebrating Progress