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Redesigning learning

03 October 2016

Traditional ways of thinking about learning, assessment and educational qualifications are being challenged, writes Geoff Masters.

Writing in Teacher Magazine, Professor Masters notes that universities are feeling the impact of these challenges as online courses reshape teaching and learning and raise questions about the future role of education institutions, but schools are also being impacted by new technologies and new ways of thinking about learning and assessment.

New ways of thinking about learning

As Professor Masters notes, first challenge comes from new ways of thinking about learning itself.

‘At the heart of this challenge in understanding learning as an ongoing and long-term process is the need to redesign teaching and learning in ways that recognise and respond to the very different stages that students are at in their learning, set stretch challenges for every learner and monitor learning progress over extended periods of time,’ Professor Masters explains.

New expectations of assessment

A second challenge, says Professor Masters, arises from new expectations of assessment.

‘At the heart of this challenge is the need to redesign assessment processes so that their primary purpose is to establish and understand where individuals are in their learning (that is, what they know, understand and can do) upon entry and at various times across the senior years.’

Doing so would provide a better basis for targeting teaching on student needs, monitoring the progress that individuals make over time and recording the points students reach by the end of school,

A new approach to the curriculum

A third challenge relates to the kinds of learning valued in the senior secondary school.  Professor Masters argues that a general challenge is to rethink the amount of content in some courses with a view to developing students’ deeper understandings of a narrower range of fundamental ideas.

Many senior secondary courses were designed to ensure that students have the subject knowledge they will require for further study at university. For this reason, many subjects introduce students to factual and procedural knowledge on a wide range of topics, meaning that teachers lack time to develop deep understandings.

A general challenge, he says, is to rethink the amount of content in some courses with a view to developing students’ deeper understandings of a narrower range of fundamental ideas.   

‘At the heart of this challenge is the need to explore ways of giving greater priority to the development and assessment of the skills and attributes required for contemporary life and work.   

‘For example, consideration could be given to providing opportunities for students to work collaboratively on meaningful, complex problems that require the application of learning from a number of disciplines, and then using performances on these cross-disciplinary problems as sources of information about the development of students’ general capabilities.’ ■

Read the full article:

‘Reform and the senior secondary school’, written by Geoff Masters and published in Teacher Magazine, is available at

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