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A practical approach to micro reform

A new online approach to digitising existing teacher-created resources is changing day-to-day classroom teaching and learning.

Many educational reform efforts adopt macro strategies like the setting of explicit curriculum expectations and targets for improvement, performance measures, often in the form of student test scores, increased transparency, autonomy and accountability.

The problem, as Geoff Masters points out in ‘Is school reform working?’ is, ‘Too little attention has been given to the mechanisms by which macro reforms of this kind are expected to change day-to-day classroom teaching and school leadership practices.’

Macro strategies lead to quality teaching and leadership, and students’ learning, when they are supported by micro strategies.

Masters uses assessment to illustrate one micro strategy. ‘Rather than teaching, assessing and grading all students against the same year-level expectations, improved learning depends on the micro strategy of establishing and understanding where students are in their learning and then meeting individuals at their points of need.’

A new book from ACER Press, Using Data to Improve Learning by Anthony Shaddock, looks at how teachers and school leaders can collect and analyse data at the student, classroom, school and cluster level to evaluate the effectiveness of practices and programs, to better inform themselves about the best next steps in meeting individual students at their points of need.

One of the reasons that collecting more visible, instant and relevant information about students from the ‘bottom up’ remains difficult, however, is because assessment remains largely paper-based.

To address that, a new online approach to digitising existing teacher-created activities, assessments and homework now enables educators to collect meaningful and timely student achievement information in context, and analyse and learn from it.

ACER Q-Central, the result of a partnership between ACER and Literatu, enables educators to collect continuous formative assessment data directly from their own activity, assessment and homework materials, in any format.

Using ACER Q-Central, teachers are able to transform their own resources – paper-based or digital – into interactive activities and assessments simply by adding question response capabilities. They can also add guidance and media to support students in undertaking the activities delivered across iPad, Android or web platforms.

While all tasks in the ACER Q-Central platform are referred to as activities, they might take the form of a quiz or essay, for students in class or as homework. The platform both delivers the content and collects student responses, so as students complete activities, it stores their responses and, since marking is automatic, can provide instant feedback. If teachers choose, student responses can be passed back to the teacher for their review and subsequent feedback.

According to the Copyright Agency, more than 660 million photocopies were made for educational purposes in 2012 in Australia. As Literatu Managing Director at Mark Stanley observes, that suggests educators want to use materials of their choosing. The problem, says Mr Stanley, is that formative assessment data can easily be lost through paper interactions.

Ben Dawe, General Manager of ACER Press, says the platform allows educators to understand exactly where their students are in their learning and provide specific and timely feedback. ‘ACER Q-Central’s interactive and instant data dashboards give teachers continuous visibility and insights into the learning of all students because data down to the question level is captured along with live monitoring capabilities so they can see answers as they are being entered.’

ACER Q-Central combines the Literatu assessment platform with ACER assessments, currently addressing numeracy for Years 7 and 9 with Years 3 and 5 coming soon. Literacy and other integrated activities will be released in the coming months. The platform also draws on ACER’s Progressive Achievement Tests (PAT) and further PAT resources, to identify student progress and any gaps in learning, and the best next teaching steps to address these. ■

Further information:
ACER Q-Central is a partnership between ACER and Literatu. More information is available at http://acerq.acer.edu.au

Literatu was a finalist in the EdTech Digest 2014 Awards in the United States in the new product or service and assessment solution categories, and winner in the reporting solution category.

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