Coming off more than 18 months of hybrid learning and online learning fatigue, student wellbeing and mental health have never been more important.

Schools must do their best to create a supportive, nurturing learning environment for all students. Unfortunately, modern research shows that traditional approaches to assessments aren’t doing the job.

They create additional stress, don’t lead to the required educational outcomes, and fail to capture each student’s personal learning styles.

 

What does the research say?

Leading research by the Gonski Institute over the past two years have pushed for the introduction of ongoing assessments over traditional, end-of-year exams. These ongoing assessments can create a better idea of learner profiles beyond exam scores — including the way students learn and how they apply their knowledge.

The elimination of exams would also move away from ‘high-stakes’ testing, which are known to cause stress, anxiety and unhappiness for students.

Central to the development of ongoing assessments must be the integration of technology and learning analytics into the curriculum. These kinds of analytics can help teachers see the holistic student journey, including learning behaviour and areas for improvement.

That way, they’ll be able to give personalised feedback to nurture the growth of each student. Notably, ongoing and personalised assessments should significantly improve equity in the classroom — providing additional assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This kind of growth- and student-focused learning (as opposed to rote learning designed to pass exams) is especially critical after two consecutive pandemic-interrupted school years. Year 11 student Ahelee Rahman, writing in The Age, sums up the point beautifully:

As well as studying, school is where we learn to communicate, collaborate, build friendships, take leadership roles and be a part of a community — the learning that doesn’t feel like learning. And this is one of the most important parts of school.

 

How traditional end-of-year exams fall short

In their 2020 report on the NAPLAN, the Gonski Institute showed that NAPLAN has only resulted in improvements for primary school students but delivered no discernible progress in secondary schools.

The writing test was a particular point of concern: student writing performance has not improved in Years 3 and 5, and even declined in Years 7 and 9.

The latest Gonski Report recommends moving academic assessments away from end-of-year examinations and towards ongoing progress assessments. To go hand-in-hand with this, teaching should be personalised for each student, ensuring each individual grows and progresses in a healthy, meaningful manner. Leveraging a learning analytics platform is crucial to informing and providing insights into how to encourage this growth.

Data and analytics are somewhat dirty words in the education sector — it often makes you think of schools turning into education factories and students losing their individuality. But it’s inflexible examination systems like the NAPLAN that often lead to this kind of thinking, as they emphasise scores and data over student wellbeing, individuality, and holistic performance.

NAPLAN uses aggregate test scores to measure the overall performance of the school, which is then conveyed back to parents. However, this approach fails to take into account student-centric growth and learning.

Instead, all students are jumbled together within each school. To create a truly student-centric learning experience, teachers should be able to identify personalised learning journeys for students.

 

A more holistic approach to measuring education

The Gonski Institute report recommends the adoption of a new national assessment system with ongoing assessments. Assessments would then become more holistic, skills-focused, and teacher-led rather than government-led, reducing the emphasis on memorising and passing tests.

Spread out over the full school year, these ongoing assessments would provide several benefits to students:

  • Lower stress levels with no ‘high-stakes’ examinations
  • A more holistic idea of student performance beyond exam scores
  • More insightful data into student success

Ongoing teacher-led assessments then provide an opportunity to create individual learning plans for students. The NAPLAN occurs once every two years for each student, meaning there is limited scope to benefit student learning.

Instead, the NAPLAN mainly benefits government and parent visibility. But truly individualised ongoing assessments will allow students to learn in a manner that genuinely caters to their needs and maximises their own potential.

The idea of moving away from traditional end-of-year exams is already making rounds across the education sector, even at Years 11 and 12. South Australia has recently decided to implement learner profiles for each student as an alternative to the ATAR.

Understanding each student’s personal learning style can provide additional benefits to each child, not least because it moves away from traditional ideas of student success associated only with study scores and exam results.

 

How a learning analytics platform helps you

In the new ideal education environment of learner profiles and ongoing assessments, traditional ideas of ‘teaching to the test’ become far less emphasised. Instead, more employment-ready skills can be elevated, including how to creatively apply ideas, how to research, and how to work in a team.

Of course, this kind of teaching represents a learning curve to staff members and will be more difficult than evaluating exams to a certain grade. That makes analytics critical to facilitating the change, simplifying the process for teachers, and letting them understand whether their new approach is working.

However, this may also mean teachers need to upskill to learn how to analyse data. An effective analytics platform should be able to do all the work for you, letting staff members focus on their teaching.

Bloum, for example, pulls out educational insights by using powerful machine learning to consolidate data from various sources, without the user needing to analyse the data to extract their own conclusions.

Built on a modern, cloud-based platform, Bloum is designed to allow teachers to get an accurate snapshot of how each student is performing at any point during semester.

The benefit of obtaining these insights during each term rather than at the end of a reporting period means teachers can more actively assist students at the exact point where they need help.

These analytics should be able to capture more of what happens in the classroom beyond test results. For example, education analytics that track student behaviour, progress, learning tendencies, and areas for improvement allow for the development of individualised learner profiles, boosting student happiness and progression.

Education analytics is crucial to making the new system of ongoing assessments work. Using that data intelligently and turning them into those personalised plans can be quite difficult for teachers.

A platform like Bloum eases the transition by doing all the work for teachers, allowing staff members to focus only on their teaching.

 

What next for schools?

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use learning analytics to empower student progression, speak to the team at Bloum today.