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Stretching to reach high standards

10 November 2014

In order to raise achievement, teachers need to stretch their students with tasks that are neither too easy nor difficult, according to Geoff Masters.

ACER Chief Executive, Professor Geoff Masters AO, has warned school systems against attempting to raise student achievement levels by specifying unrealistic learning expectations.

Writing in Teacher Magazine, Professor Masters points out that some students begin the school year several years behind the majority of their age peers and the curriculum for their grade. Each year these less advanced students are assessed against grade-based expectations, and each year most fail to meet those expectations.

‘But are these students failing the curriculum, or is the curriculum failing them?’ Professor Masters writes.

The best way to assist students to reach high standards, according to Professor Masters, is not to assess students against where somebody would like them to be, but to target assessments and teaching on current levels of achievement, and give students ‘stretch challenges’ – tasks that are neither too easy nor unrealistically difficult.

‘If you aspire to be a world-class high jumper, is it better to set the bar at the world record height and keep attempting to clear it, or to lower the bar to a level you have a chance of clearing and work incrementally up from there?’ Professor Masters writes.

Professor Masters says this approach is not to be confused with lowering aspirations, rather, it is recognition that progress towards high standards often depends on using easier tests capable of identifying precisely where students are in their learning so that interventions can be better focused on current learning needs.

‘With time, motivation, effort and appropriate feedback and learning opportunities, most if not all students are capable of attaining high standards.’  ■

Read the full article:
Achieving high standards by starting from current performance’, written by Geoff Masters and published in Teacher Magazine, is available at < >

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