It is important for leaders to know what quality assessment practice looks like, as well as understand the ways in which to support teachers to do this work. “As you consider supporting teachers in refining and renewing their classroom assessment practices, don’t be deceived by how simple it appears to be to involve students in assessmentfor learning. The ideas themselves are simple, but implementing them in today’s busy classrooms will take some time. One of your roles [as a leader] is to assure teachers that the time spent in improving classroom assessment will be well worthwhile in terms of student learning and achievement” (Davies, Herbst, Parrott Reynolds, 2012a, p. x). Recent research has demonstrated the importance of working intentionally with school leaders to increase their own assessment literacy (James et al. 2008; Moss, Brookhart & Long (2013); Smith & Engelsen (2013); and Swaffield, S. (2013).
And yet in our work with schools and systems, we are reminded time and time again that leaders need to model assessment in the service of learning. As leaders we need to be prepared to demonstrate assessment for learning in action; “...[we] “walk the talk” along with the classroom practitioners. Remember that alignment build confidence, commitment, ownership, and “buy-in.” (Davies, Herbst, Parrott Reynolds, 2012b, p. 26)
As we’ve engaged in this work with many school systems across Canada, North America, and internationally this has been a key lesson for leaders if they are going to be successful in this work. “It isn’t good enough to say one thing and do another. As leaders, we need to be the change we want to see – including being a learner, a collaborative team member, a critical thinker, an effective communicator and a good person. Acting with integrity – that is, being aligned in words and actions – is difficult but essential. We need to be mindful at all times, modeling focus and dedication in order to lead others.” (Davies, Herbst, Parrott Reynolds, 2012b, p. 3)
It is also important to remember that when leaders put the responsibility for this work in the hands of those responsible for professional learning and ‘support from the side’ alone, the initiative will likely fail over time. That is, when the initiative hits the inevitable ‘implementation dip,’ (Fullan, 2001) the change initiative will be at significant risk. The implementation dip is only bridged if practice (on the part of everyone involved) actually changes. That can only happen when ongoing feedback is continually received from those in supervisory roles. (Davies, Herbst, Parrott Reynolds, 2012b, p. 79)
Davies, A., S. Herbst & B. Parrott Reynolds. (2012a). Leading the Way to Assessment for Learning: A Practical Guide, 2nd Ed. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. Available in Canada through Connections Publishing www.connect2learning.com
Davies, A., S. Herbst & B. Parrott Reynolds.(2012b). Transforming Schools and Systems Using Assessment: A Practical Guide, 2nd Ed. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. Available in Canada through Connections Publishing. www.connect2learning.com
James, M., McCormick, R., Black, P., Carmichael, P. Drummond, M. J., Fox, A., MacBeath, J., Marshall, B., Pedder, D., Procter, R., Swaffield, D., Swann, J. and Wiliam, D. (2008). Improving Learning How to Learn – Classrooms, Schools and Networks. London, UK: Routledge.
Moss, C., Brookhart, S. & Long, B. (2013). Administrators’ roles in helping teachers use formative assessment information. Applied Measurement in Education, 26 (3): 205-218.
Smith, K. & Engelsen, K. (2013). Developing an assessment for learning (AfL) culture in school: the voice of the principals. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice 16 (1): 106-125.
Swaffield, S. (2013). Support and challenge for school leaders: Headteachers’ perceptions of school improvement partners. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, (October 1, 2013), 1-16.