Intro Part 3: Effective measurement of learning

Measurement of Performance in Education (Why it is Important)

Morningside Academy in Seattle, founded in 1980 by Dr Kent Johnson, is a school that incorporates the measurement of learning into their everyday practice. They guarantee a child’s academic performance to improve by a minimum of one year’s growth in their weakest academic skill, within six-months of tuition and fluency-building practise. As such it is an impressive example of the effectiveness that can be achieved to combat academic failure when performance is measured and the teaching adjusted accordingly to meet the requirements of individual learners (Johnson & Layng, 1994; Johnson & Street, 2004).  Morningside Academy incorporates performance measures to determine each learner’s academic improvement at different times throughout the academic year: daily (micro), weekly or monthly (meta), and once or twice yearly (macro). Data collected for each learner for every skill enable teachers to predict future growth and adjust instruction accordingly to ensure that they maintain the learner on the appropriate learning trajectory to meet targeted progress goals. If such interventions can remediate deficits then learners may be able to effectively move from their current position in this distribution of deficit and approach or even enter the normal distribution of their typically performing peers.

Most schools and educational systems already utilise Macro level systems of measurement (e.g., standardised yearly achievement tests), and these offer benefits of being able to locate children with respect to their peers on key areas of the curriculum. However, these types of measures have three important limitations: (1) they are expensive and time consuming to administer, (2) they cannot identify learning problems when they are first developing, and (3) they typically offer little guidance on how teachers can intervene with specific learning issues.

On the contrary Meta and Micro level assessments are designed to be quick to administer, specific in how they identify learning problems, and offer simple guidelines on what types of intervention are needed to correct particular failures in individual learning (Johnson & Street, 2004). Thus Macro level of assessment can be viewed more as testing devices used to ascertain children’s current performance level, whilst both Meta and Micro assessments should be viewed more as taking precise, individual measurements to ensure that adequate learning is taking, and continues to take place.

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Using a multi-level system of assessments to inform instructional decisions and determine programme effectiveness. After Johnson, K. R., & Street, E. M. (2004). The Morningside model of generative instruction: What it means to leave no child behind. Concord, MA: Cambridge Centre for Behavioral Studies.

The main way that Meta and Micro level measures differ to Macro assessments is that the teacher can use these quick assessments to make instructional decisions. These levels of quick assessments should not be equated with testing children, but rather measuring learning in ways that can help teachers design individual programmes so that each child achieves their potential. The teaching process thus becomes reactive and individualised in the sense that teachers are far more able to identify learning problems in a timely fashion for each learner. These help the teacher alter learning strategies until adequate progress is being maintained, and in the case of learners who are falling behind their peers, aid them to make significant gains to catch up to the expected level.

Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM), Response to Intervention (RtI), and Precision Teaching (PT) Measurement Systems

There are three main methods that allow measurements to guide teaching within the classroom, and through their use the teacher is facilitated to react to the data inductively: CBM, RtI, and PT. Each of these methods allow a scientific approach to be adopted in the classroom and also each is of course an example of practice-based evidence.

These three procedures also mesh nicely with the whole philosophy of the RtI model (see Figure below), which is “. . . designed to allow for early and effective responses to children’s learning and behavioral difficulties, provide children with a level of instructional intensity matched to their level of need and then provide a data-based method for evaluating the effectiveness of instructional approaches” (Fox, Carta, Strain, Dunlap, & Hemmeter, 2009, p. 1).

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Response to Intervention three-tier pyramid. After Fox, L., Carta, J., Strain, P., Dunlap, G., & Hemmeter, M. L. (2009). Response to Intervention and the pyramid model.

Because each child is an individual, each child’s educational needs differ; these approaches allow those with the least need to progress as normal, but also enable children who do require additional support to receive that support in a planned, focussed and timely manner, and the effect of such support can be measured effectively and adjusted accordingly as and when required. Therefore the implications of increasing the more widespread use of procedures such as RtI, CBM, and PT could significantly impact educational achievement across all essential skills areas.

Within the RtI model, all pupils are initially targeted for the core primary interventions with progress being measured approximately once every three months. Should data indicate that a more intensive level of intervention be required, individual children receive additional support with more strategic secondary interventions (measured every two weeks) or an even more intensive individualised tertiary intervention, with progress being measured once per week (National Centre for Response to Intervention, 2010). If even more intensive support is required then the daily measurements of a system like Precision Teaching would benefit learners even more.

In the next blog post I will begin to introduce Precision Teaching.

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Effective measurement of learning by Dr Mike Beverley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

References

Fox, L., Carta, J., Strain, P., Dunlap, G., & Hemmeter, M. L. (2009). Response to Intervention and the pyramid model. Retrieved from http://www.challengingbehavior.org/do/resources/documents/rti_pyramid_web.pdf

Johnson, K. R., & Layng, T. V. J. (1994). The Morningside model of generative instruction. In R. Gardner, D. M. Sainato, J. O. Cooper, T. E. Heron, W. L. Heward, J. W. Eshleman & T. A. Grossi (Eds.), Behavior Analysis in education: Focus on measurably superior instruction (pp. 173-197). Pacific Grove, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

Johnson, K. R., & Street, E. M. (2004). The Morningside model of generative instruction: What it means to leave no child behind. Concord, MA: Cambridge Centre for Behavioral Studies.

National Centre for Response to Intervention. (2010). Essential Components of RTI – A closer look at response to intervention. Retrieved from http://www.rti4success.org/images/stories/pdfs/rtiessentialcomponents_051310.pdf

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