Over the past two years, Scotch Oakburn College has been committed to an important role in the evolution of Australia’s education system. From late 2020, when the College was accepted as one of only 37 founding schools in the University of Melbourne’s New Metrics For Success Program, it has been intimately involved in the development of ground-breaking assessment rubrics, a pilot program and more recently, an extensive validation trial, all of which aim to deal with the challenges of how to best teach, measure, assess and report on complex personal competencies like character, collaboration, learner agency and ethical decision making. the motivation behind this major study, which has brought academics together with teachers and schools, is ultimately to formulate a system of student assessment that focuses more on the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values that will help them thrive in life, rather than on simple cognitive components.
Scotch Oakburn College was perfectly placed to be awarded a coveted role in this program due to the work we had already undertaken around four years ago to identify and incorporate the ten Learner Attributes into our curriculum and reporting processes. The College’s Round Square affiliation has always encouraged this philosophy of developing the whole student to
ensure they see themselves and their capabilities beyond the simplistic notion of an ATAR score or an A, B or C mark. We have been actively embedding this philosophy into the College for years and so this University of Melbourne research project was a very natural fit, and the types of goals it sought to achieve were already familiar to our teachers.
The aim of the New Metrics for Success Program that ran throughout 2021 was for academics from The University of Melbourne to team up with ‘first mover’ partner schools, to explore and identify genuine methods of measuring a student’s personal capabilities and development; or in other words, to create methods of assessment that could measure how each student
is good, not just how good each student is. By halfway through 2021, a set of rubrics, or frameworks, had been formulated based around eight complex competencies (what we at Scotch Oakburn would call Learner Attributes). In Term Four 2021, a small pilot program was undertaken by all partner schools to help fine tune the frameworks that would be used in the New Metrics Validation Trial in 2022.
In Terms One and Two of 2022, the College, together with now 39 other schools from across Australia representing State, Catholic and Independent education systems, embarked on the extensive New Metrics Validation Trial; collectively they have generated a huge amount of data to ensure the study can stand up to rigorous peer review. In real terms for Scotch Oakburn, this Validation Trial meant that 13 of our teachers volunteered to assess their class (if in Junior School), or one of their classes (if in Middle or Senior School) against the frameworks
designed in the pilot program to see just how useful and useable it was. Whilst it has been found to be somewhat unwieldy in its current state, the early analysis, and importantly the feedback from our own participants, has been overwhelmingly positive. The real learnings for both staff and students that have grown from this trial have been immense with staff recognising life-changing outcomes for their teaching practices and for those being taught.
As it stands, the New Metrics for Success program is poised for some very exciting data findings in the near future that may well be a game changer for Australian Education given that authorities and universities themselves are finally beginning to recognise the fallibility of the ATAR and traditional assessment practices. As a school, we are just so proud to be at the coalface of such important progress and even more proud to have the largest cohort of participating staff from any of the schools in the Validation Trial. This really does reflect how our Scotch Oakburn College teachers are passionate, life-long learners who are willing to go the extra mile for our students and it would be remiss not to recognise their enormous efforts.
Sarah Lillywhite (Director of Curriculum 6-12) and Stuart Walls (Head of Senior School) have without a doubt been the passion behind this project from the beginning, but they have been joined by Louise Ockerby, Louise Viney, Renee Hodgetts, Rachel Buck, Simon Dray, Katy McGuinness, Sharon Geale, Leigh Cordell, Carrie Dunham, Mark Hassell and Hugh Baird for the major trial, with Kate Gard, Kyla Thorp, Susie Bennett, Nicky Reid and Justin Smith also assisting in the pilot; each has participated in this important study in their own time to ensure that year levels from Early Learning to TCE have been represented. Their enthusiasm and commitment is so appreciated and we hope to share more details about how the Validation Trial played out in each of their classrooms very soon.