CREATE Week: The Definition of Insanity by John Fischetti

This is John Fischetti, Dean of Education/Head of School, at the University of Newcastle in Australia. We are one of Australia’s largest providers of new teachers and postgraduate degrees for current educators. We are committed to equity and social justice as pillars of practice, particularly in evaluation and assessment.

Lessons Learned:

It is with that equity lens that I want to share an Australian story.

In early May 2018, the Australian government launched a new report on the failure of Australian schools. It challenges the current schooling system by calling out the vestiges of the assembly line industrial age of education and the current lack of investment in “individualized” learning and future-focused skills. It calls for new types of online formative assessment and new progression of learning schemes to focus literacy and numeracy skills early and to reinvent years 11 and 12 of high school to more creative and innovation based.

The premise of this new scheme is line with the best thinkers in the world (from Guskey to Zhao) and the most progressive nations in the world (yes, sorry folks, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands). However, the assessment recommendations are a reboot of more of the same. Assembly-line assessments in the early years are perhaps the opposite of how to boost literacy and numeracy early on. The report asks for massive changes to an assembly line reality by advocating for more assessment assembly-lines. And some of the recommendations in the report are already failing elsewhere, such as New Zealand’s system where young people can face a test a day.

Hot Tips:

I recommend that all of us who work in schools and with student performance data spend time this year advocating for reinventing the systems. We are to prepare children to be successful in their futures. To do that they need knowledge, skills and dispositions to be passionate, vibrant, dynamic, curious, open-minded, engaged (and literate and numerate) participants in their own journeys. We can’t assembly-line assess that.

One urban legend definition of insanity is “doing the same things over and over again and expecting better results.” When assembly line schooling is transformed to individualized learning, but the assessment scheme is from the same original mindset, we have the cart in front of the horse. And that is insane. “Stop, drop and test” assessment schemes are obsolete. It is time we in the field called this out and moved forward to build learning centers instead of testing centers. 

Rad Resources:

Gonski Review Attacks Australian Schooling Quality and Urges Individualized Teaching Approach

Thomas Guskey. What we know about pre assessments.

Yong Zhao: What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Consortium for Research on Educational Assessment and Teaching (CREATE) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of CREATE. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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