Tony Moffa – Senior School Learning Director and Project Leader

Current discussions in education circles regarding the reliability of a single score such as the ATAR has fuelled debate at the education and employment level for new ways of recognising attainment in learning that is more valid and reliable.

A Learner Profile, highlighting skills, attitudes and predispositions the student has demonstrated could give tertiary institutions and employers a more rounded tool with which to assess applicants to possibly be used together with an ATAR rather than just a score alone.

In the above possible exemplar, as students engage and progress through their secondary education, they are given opportunities to demonstrate predispositions (general capabilities) from thinking creatively and analytically to demonstrating integrity and ethical decision making.

The idea for a learner profile wheel highlights to the intended audience, be it the student, parent or prospective employer, the student’s strengths as well as areas that could be, or need development. In this example the student has demonstrated strengths in leadership, teamwork, integrity and ethics but also has gaps in their global perspective as well as analytical and creative thinking. What I like is that the student has the opportunity to focus on areas requiring attention in the available credits offered by the curriculum (as shown below).

Featured Credits:

  • 7b Foster integrity, honesty, fairness and respect
  • 3b Lead through influence
  • 3c Build trust, resolve conflicts, and provide support for others
  • 3g Coordinate tasks, manage groups, delegate responsibilities
  • 3h Implement decisions and meet goals
  • 8e Persistence

(Source: Sandra Milligan, Assessment and Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, 2019)

The rhetoric for too long has been around schools abandoning the explicit teaching and learning of the 3 R’s for the sake of focussing on developing capabilities. I argue that we can still and should be doing both. Why? Because that’s what employers and academics are telling us students need. The world Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children entering primary school will find themselves in occupations that don’t currently exist.

My son recently began a new job in a large multinational company in Melbourne and his interview was a group exercise where they were given a problem, in this case how to deal with a product line that was losing market share. The group had one hour to come up with a plan to solve the problem.

His group was observed, and assessment decisions were made on his, and the group’s ability to demonstrate the aforementioned predispositions, not what grade he got for subjects in Year 12 or in Business Management at University.

He was fortunate to progress to an interview and at that point was informed that if he was the successful candidate the company would teach him what he needed to know on the job, what they couldn’t teach was how to collaborate, think creatively and make ethical decisions.

Our challenge as educators is twofold;

  • How to create opportunities for students to demonstrate these capabilities, and
  • Making valid and reliable assessment judgments on how well they demonstrate them.

This year Cornerstone is one of four independent schools selected by AISSA in conjunction with the South Australian Principal’s Association, Catholic Education SA and the University of Melbourne to conduct a pilot project on Learning and Accreditation Through a Learner Profile. This aligns with our Future Direction 2020, strategic vision which has at its core, the development of the 21st century dispositions.

“Our aim is for all students to achieve individual excellence which, in turn, empowers them to flourish and contribute to an ever-changing world”, Cornerstone Future Directions: 2020 & Beyond.

As pointed out by Peter Mader, the SA Secondary Principal Association President in The Advertiser on Monday, 3 February, “the aim of the project is to develop valid, reliable and useful assessment of the ACARA General Capabilities”. (Source: The Advertiser, SA schools to work with University of Melbourne on ‘learner profiles’ as ATAR alternative)

SACE is also heavily invested in exploring the way potential graduates present their achievements to the world as outlined in The Advertiser article last October.

I am looking forward to being involved in the project as part of a team of our staff and sharing with our community how this will help shape our direction for learning at Cornerstone in the future.