That something is a good thing to do and will improve learning outcomes for all students, is not sufficient reason for doing it.
I have recently become aware of the Learning Progression Framework. As explained in a previous post, there are multiple ways of expressing the level of learning in maths for learners in New Zealand schools, including the New Zealand curriculum (broad brush), Numeracy project stages (fine uni-dimensional and embraced by Primary teachers) and National Standards (no longer current, but casting a long shadow.) To this the LPF adds steps, using language from the Numeracy project, and indirect alignment with the New Zealand curriculum. The steps are defined with the help of a series of annotated exemplars. It is yet another place to go when trying to plan a unit of work.
Clearly much money and time has gone into developing the Learning Progression Framework (LPF). It has a professional appearance, and tutorials and guidance to help teachers adopt it. This makes me suspect that it was a precursor to National Standards (similar to National Testing) for years 9 and 10 in New Zealand schools. A previous Minister of Education, Ms Parata, was very keen on National Standards, called Years 9 and 10 the Forgotten Years, and the National Government was moving towards performance pay for teachers. This has her handprint on it.
My question, whenever I see an initiative like this, is “What problem has this been developed to solve”? I cynically expect the answer to this question to be well hidden underneath multiple rationalisations. So I dug away, with the kind help of Jake Wills, and found the following statement appearing multiple times in documentation around the LPF. The conclusion to the ERO report, Literacy and Mathematics in Years 9 and 10, July 2012, includes this statement:
“Secondary leaders and teachers urgently need to improve their practice in using literacy and mathematics assessment information for planning, implementing and reviewing the curriculum for all Years 9 and 10 students.”
At times Years 9 and 10 have been called the “forgotten years”, between intermediate school and assessment years. I have tended to think of them as the learning years, where you can still be innovative before NCEA looms too large. One of the benefits of reducing NCEA level 1 would be to gain another learning year.
But the level of assessment is lower than in later years. This, I believe is one of the main reasons for the development of the LPF.
Some might say that, of course this is a good thing, because it will help the teachers have a better idea of what level the students are at, and what progress they are making. Developing learning programmes based on evidence of attainment seems like a good idea. But does it provide a greater benefit for students than the same amount of time spent helping students or some other worthwhile activity, while using a more broad-brush, less time-consuming measurement system?
The question that is not asked often enough in education, is, “Does the benefit to be accrued justify the amount of time that will be needed from teachers to execute this?”
Teacher time is not an infinite resource. When something is added to their workload, something needs to be removed. Sadly, the things that get removed seem to be lesson preparation and professional development. In the maths area I am aware that the addition of workload in the form of NCEA internal assessment has been to the detriment of local mathematics associations. With regard to the LPF we need to examine whether the amount of time needed to work through each member of the class and decide what step they are at for the different areas of mathematics (called numeracy) is going to provide commensurate improvements.
When I found out about LPF through my participation in the Teacher Education Refresh Course , I was interested to find out what the uptake and response has been. I found that teachers from highly regarded schools know nothing about it. Some schools are using it, and advisors seem to like it.
I wonder what mechanism has been used to promote the use of the LPF. Is it yet another thing that is too hard to add to the many things that teachers and schools need to do? Should more money be put into promoting it, or are we better to let it remain on the periphery?
There is the facility to put your student results in a central LPF database, which will then convert steps in to curriculum levels. This is supposed to be an advantage, but my dealings with teachers have shown that there is low trust from teachers towards any centrally held data. If you are teaching a group of children who struggle with life, and mathematics is only one of their many challenges, are you wanting to put your data into a database where the Ministry of Education can find it and point the finger at you for the lack of progress in your learners? This is not my own idea, but one I have gleaned from teachers reluctant to use the related “PACT” tool.
There are good things too. The Mathematics LPF covers all areas of the mathematics and statistics curriculum, and not just “Number” . The exemplars show innovative teaching and assessment methods. Exemplars can help teachers compare their learners with a baseline.
Of course we need as teachers to make sure that our students are making progress in Years 9 and 10. I’m just not sure the Learning Progression Framework holds the key.
What do you think? I would love to hear from teachers and schools who are using the LPF, and I would like to know what activities they have stopped in order to have time to do this.