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World Educational Leadership Summit 2016: Points to Ponder

In early April 2016, I attended the World Educational Summit, where I heard many thought leaders speak about learning.

I would like to share 3 main ideas that I pondered over as I listened to the speakers:

  1. Emphasis on order and objectivity in curriculum practices.

Dr Eric Mazur noted how in the name of reliability and fairness, schools tend to value assessment structures that enable order and predictability. But problem-solving in a real world occurs amidst erratic and dynamic conditions. Are we then imposing artificiality in learning? Dr Mazur even asserted that the focus on reliability and fairness tilts assessment design to one that favours lower order thinking because complex, higher order thinking may not be adequately captured through standard assessment settings.

So, how do we address this issue?

Some ideas that Dr Mazur recommends include open book testing, performance assessments, use of rubric and reflection. He particularly emphasizes formative feedback, a conviction shared by other speakers as well.

I pondered over the progress we have made at RGS over some of these practices. We have already embraced and sustained innovations like the Performance Task. I hope we will continue to gain ground on these practices rather than to wilt under undue concerns.

  1. Compliance and standardization are often rewarded in student achievement.

Assessments need to move away from the reproduction of knowledge in prescribed ways, a practice that tends to get rewarded in high-stakes testing. But Sir John James asserts that the complexity of issues to deal with in the real world, requires a shift from logic to empathy, from data- reliance to the big ideas, from function to design. As teachers, we should encourage cognitive dissonance to enable students to reason through issues.

Basically, Sir James asserts that learning requires a shift from the usual left brain function to the right brain.

Recently, I have been pondering over the importance of Creative thinking as a complement to Critical thinking. Sir James’ sharing has added to my contemplation on the power of creative thinking for problem-solving and to energize the mind.

  1. Professional Learning Community

Researchers note that teacher collaboration in lesson planning can contribute to student achievement (Goddard & Heron, 2001; Goddard & Tschannen-Moran, 2007 & Pounder, 1998).

At the Summit, Douglas Reeves echoed this as he argues that teacher collaboration is the most critical factor in enabling student achievement.

Dr Reeves notes that teacher collaboration should centre on student learning outcomes. He cites 4 main questions to guide discussions:

  • Have my students learnt?
  • How do I know?
  • What do I know if they have?
  • What do I do if they have not?

I was pleased to hear this because these questions echo the Professional Learning Space (PLS) cycle which I introduced to RGS in 2014; ie, the Create-Implement-Review cycle. (see below image).


The PLS is RGS’ contextualized version of the PLC. During the PLS session, which is a weekly scheduled slot, teachers meet to collaborate on their unit design and assessments and share their teaching approaches.

Emerging findings from a current PeRL research conducted by 2 Specialists are already suggesting the importance of grounding our PLS conversations on this cycle.

Posted by Mrs. Mary George Cheriyan

Deputy Principal

Centre for Pedagogical Research and Learning & Community Engagement

Raffles Girls’ School


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