Key Learning from CSSE 12: Evaluative Thinking, Complexity, Assessment As Learning

The annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education is the premier conference for researchers, teachers, administrators, and policy-makers in education in Canada. This year it took place in the City of Waterloo, hosted by the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University.

Having attending a few academic conferences so far, I find that one of the best reasons to attending them is hearing others to talk about what they do, and why they do what they do. Among the educators, I find that there is often a sense of social justice, curiosity, and a genuine sense of trying to make a difference in the lives of children and learners.

The Ontario Ministry of Education, Student Success Unit, presented a lovely session on evaluative thinking, where they reported on their efforts on infusing evaluative thinking through all levels of their work. They used a prism metaphor to describe how evaluative thinking permeates all levels of the education system– from classroom teachers to school district, school boards, the Ministry, and to high-level policy makers. They drew attention to how developmental evaluation helps them remain adaptive to changing conditions on the field.

The theme of complexity came up in various sessions. There seems to be a growing recognition and acceptance of it. The question of what we can do about it (i.e. how to operate with complexity/lead within complex environments/manage complexity) seems, to me, to be emerging topics of discussions.  My supervisor, Lyn Shulha, and I are beginning to look into this in greater depths; the key may lie in operating at the interface of complexity and simplicity.

I attended a pre-conference workshop by Dr. Lorna Earl on understanding methodological and substantive issues in classroom assessment research. She provided a historical context to understanding the development of educational assessment and shows how classroom assessment grew out of that development. She  positions Assessment as Learning as part of the larger umbrella of Assessment FOR Learning.

A CCGSE workshop session on publishing and writing gave me the following tips:

  •  When responding to comments from a peer-review, think of it as a defense.  Reply with a cover page, detailing the  changes, and explain your reasoning behind your changes.
  • Collaobrating with another author can be energizing; but be careful to choose who can carry their own weight and one who could add to the project.
  • Consider about splitting up a masters thesis/doctoral dissertation for publication: lit review & empirical article. One angle, strand. Use tables, figures. Professional/practical aspects.
  • A good sentence is usually one that you can say in one breath.
  •  Find an editor
  •  Various software/websites could help with writing: Stylewriter, Whitesmoke.

Finally,  quick shout-outs to: my partner in crime, King Luu (@YGK) for being a wonderful collaborator; my new friends at CRAME, University of Alberta; and CERA, TATE, and CCGSE for having us!

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