Larrakeyah Primary School, in the Northern Territory, was among the earliest adopters of Brightpath Progress. In a recent session of our EdChat series, Carmel Spruhan shared how the school’s remarkable journey with Brightpath has empowered its teachers to use formative assessments to drive student learning and school-wide writing improvement.
Here we present some of the valuable insights Carmel shared with us and how to make the most of these powerful formative assessments:
Understanding the purpose of formative assessments
Carmel began her presentation with a wise piece of advice. When introducing a new initiative, it’s imperative for teachers to appreciate the issue the leadership team aims to address, particularly if there’s a perception the initiative may increase teachers’ workload. At Larrakeyah, the leadership team took the time to explain the necessity for a fresh approach to assessing writing. They stressed to teachers this change was driven not only by low student performance but also by identified gaps in the teaching of writing.
Building a strong pedagogical framework for teachers
A recurring theme in Carmel’s presentation was the need for schools to establish a robust pedagogical framework and ensure it serves as a central reference point for both teaching and assessing writing. Larrakeyah Primary School exemplifies this by aligning its reading and writing programs, fostering cohesion between teaching and assessment. Their teaching and assessment programs are thoughtfully synchronized, with the Brightpath data serving as a vital tool in shaping scope and sequence planning.
‘We use the Brightpath data to inform our scope and sequence [planning].’
Supporting teachers in formative assessment proficiency
Carmel highlighted the importance of granting teachers time and support to recognize their expertise in assessing writing effectively. Carmel explained that despite initial reservations about using Brightpath to assess writing, Larrakeyah’s teachers soon discovered they already possessed the fundamental skills and knowledge to assess writing competently.
Gradual implementation of Brightpaths’s formative assessments
At the outset, teachers at Larrakeyah Primary School explored all Brightpath assessment scales simultaneously. However, they swiftly realised the need to slow down and take a measured approach. The decision was made to focus on one scale – specifically, the narrative scale. The leadership team integrated opportunities for teachers to meet and discuss their assessments, fostering a collaborative atmosphere. Additionally, teaching teams were encouraged to analyse students’ performances and the whole school engaged in moderation together.
‘I think that the confidence that teachers have been able to gain to knowledgeably get to the end point more quickly, has been very, very gratifying.’
Leveraging Brightpath’s data for student growth
Carmel rightly points out that whilst it’s gratifying to see how close teachers’ judgments are, the process is only valuable if teachers use Brightpath’s data to evaluate and reflect on their teaching. Teachers across the school use Brightpath’s performance descriptors and teaching points to identify areas of improvement, plan students’ next steps and inform conferences with students.
‘Students appreciate the balance of explicit teaching and the freedom to develop their craft on their own.’
Streamlining formative assessment administrative tasks
Larrakeyah Primary School’s leadership team has implemented systems to streamline administrative tasks associated with Brightpath. This delegation of responsibilities to administrative staff enables teachers to focus their efforts on assessment and using the powerful data to enhance their teaching.
‘I don’t believe that Brightpath will go away from our school anytime soon. It is too embedded. It’s too valued and if someone is overwhelmed, at first, they quickly get over it when they realise how rich it is.’
Carmel’s presentation underscores the school’s deep appreciation for Brightpath Progress and its enduring value as an integral part of their educational journey.
Watch the presentation here:
For more about Brightpath Progress request a demo here.