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Learning Progressions CCSSO 2008

Learning Progressions CCSSO 2008

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Published by Brian Burnett
LEARNING PROGRESSIONS:
SUPPORTING INSTRUCTION AND FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT. By its very nature, learning involves progression. To
assist in its emergence, teachers need to understand the
pathways along which students are expected to progress.
These pathways or progressions ground both instruction
and assessment. Yet, despite a plethora of standards and
curricula, many teachers are unclear about how learning
progresses in specific domains. This is an undesirable
situation for teaching and learning, and one that
particularly affects teachers’ ability to engage in
formative assessment.
LEARNING PROGRESSIONS:
SUPPORTING INSTRUCTION AND FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT. By its very nature, learning involves progression. To
assist in its emergence, teachers need to understand the
pathways along which students are expected to progress.
These pathways or progressions ground both instruction
and assessment. Yet, despite a plethora of standards and
curricula, many teachers are unclear about how learning
progresses in specific domains. This is an undesirable
situation for teaching and learning, and one that
particularly affects teachers’ ability to engage in
formative assessment.

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Published by: Brian Burnett on May 14, 2012
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 L
EARNING
P
ROGRESSIONS
:
 
S
UPPORTING
I
 NSTRUCTION AND
F
ORMATIVE
A
SSESSMENT
 
M
ARGARET
H
ERITAGE
 
 N 
 ATIONAL
 ENTER FOR
 R
 ESEARCH ON 
 E 
VALUATION 
 ,
 
TANDARDS 
 ,
AND
TUDENT 
 ESTING
(CRESST)
 
G
RADUATE
S
CHOOL OF
E
DUCATION AND
I
 NFORMATION
S
TUDIES
 U
 NIVERSITY OF
C
ALIFORNIA
,
 
L
OS
A
 NGELES
 
 Paper prepared for the Formative Assessment for Teachers and Students (FAST)State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) of theCouncil of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
 
THE
!
COUNCIL
!
OF
!
CHIEF
!
STATE
!
SCHOOL
!
OFFICERS
!
!
The
!
Council
!
of
!
Chief
!
State
!
School
!
Officers
!
(CCSSO)
!
is
!
a
!
nonpartisan,
!
nationwide,
!
nonprofit
!
organization
!
of
!
public
!
officials
!
who
!
head
!
departments
!
of
!
elementary
!
and
!
secondary
!
education
!
in
!
the
!
states,
!
the
!
District
!
of
!
Columbia,
!
the
!
Department
!
of
!
Defense
!
Education
!
Activity,
!
and
!
five
!
U.S.
!
extra
"
state
!
 jurisdictions.
!
CCSSO
!
provides
!
leadership,
!
advocacy,
!
and
!
technical
!
assistance
!
on
!
major
!
educational
!
issues.
!
The
!
Council
!
seeks
!
member
!
consensus
!
on
!
major
!
educational
!
issues
!
and
!
expresses
!
their
!
views
!
to
!
civic
!
and
!
professional
!
organizations,
!
federal
!
agencies,
!
Congress,
!
and
!
the
!
public.
!
!
Formative
!
Assessment
!
for
!
Students
!
and
!
Teachers
!
State
!
Collaborative
!
on
!
Assessment
!
and
!
Student
!
Standards
!!
The Council’s
State
!
Collaborative
!
on
!
Assessment
!
and
!
Student
!
Standards
!
(SCASS)
!
strives
!
to
!
provide
!
leadership,
!
advocacy
!
and
!
service
!
in
!
creating
!
and
!
supporting
!
effective
!
collaborative
!
partnerships
!
through
!
the
!
collective
!
experience
!
and
!
knowledge
!
of
!
state
!
education
!
personnel
!
to
!
develop
!
and
!
implement
!
high
!
standards
!
and
!
valid
!
assessment
!
systems
!
that
!
maximize
!
educational
!
achievement
!
for
!
all
!
children.
!
!
!
COUNCIL
!
OF
!
CHIEF
!
STATE
!
SCHOOL
!
OFFICERS
!!
Rick
!
Melmer
!
(South
!
Dakota),
!
President
!!
Elizabeth
!
Burmaster
!
(Wisconsin),
!
Past
!
President
!
T.
!
Kenneth
!
 James
!
(Arkansas),
!
President
"
Elect
!!
Gene
!
Wilhoit,
!
Executive
!
Director
!!!!
 John
!
Tanner,
!
Director
!
Center
!
for
!
Innovative
!
Measures
!
Duncan
!
MacQuarrie
!
and
!
Douglas
!
Rindone,
!
Co
"
Coordinators,
!
FAST
!
SCASS
!!!!
Council
!
of
!
Chief
!
State
!
School
!
Officers
!
One
!
Massachusetts
!
Avenue,
!
NW,
!
Suite
!
700
!
Washington,
!
DC
!
20001
"
1431
!
Phone
!
(202)
!
336
"
7000
!
Fax
!
(202)
!
408
"
8072
!
www.ccsso.org
!!!!!
Copyright
!
©
!
2008
!
 by
!
the
!
Council
!
of
!
Chief
!
State
!
School
!
Officers,
!
Washington,
!
DC
!
 All
!
rights
!
reserved.
 
 
L
EARNING
P
ROGRESSIONS
:
 
S
UPPORTING
I
 NSTRUCTION AND
F
ORMATIVE
A
SSESSMENT
 
M
ARGARET
H
ERITAGE
 
I.I
 NTRODUCTION
 
By its very nature, learning involves progression. Toassist in its emergence, teachers need to understand the pathways along which students are expected to progress.These pathways or progressions ground both instructionand assessment. Yet, despite a plethora of standards andcurricula, many teachers are unclear about how learning progresses in specific domains. This is an undesirablesituation for teaching and learning, and one that particularly affects teachers’ ability to engage informative assessment.The purpose of formative assessment is to providefeedback to teachers and students during the course of learning about the gap between students’ current anddesired performance so that action can be taken to closethe gap. To do this effectively, teachers need to have inmind a continuum of how learning develops in any particular knowledge domain so that they are able tolocate students’ current learning status and decide on pedagogical action to move students’ learning forward.Learning progressions that clearly articulate a progressionof learning in a domain can provide the big picture of what is to be learned, support instructional planning, andact as a touchstone for formative assessment.There is no shortage of standards or curricula ineducation today. However, as the Committee on ScienceLearning K-8 (2007) notes, "many standards and curriculacontain too many disconnected topics that are given equal priority. The way many standards and curricula areconceived limits their utility for planning instruction andassessing learning. Too little attention is given to howstudents' understanding of a topic can be supported fromgrade to grade" (p. 231). Although the authors arereferring specifically to science, this charge can beleveled equally at other domains.Even though meeting standards is the ultimate goal of instruction, most state standards do not provide a clear  progression for understanding where students are relativeto desired goals. In fact, many state standards do notnecessarily even provide a clear picture of what learningis expected. In the main, they consist of propositionalknowledge for different ages, without providingoperational definitions of understanding (Smith et al.,2006). While most existing standards describe whatstudents should learn, by a certain grade level “they donot describe how students learn in ways that aremaximally useful for curriculum and instruction” (NRC,2001:256). It is fair to say that if the standards do not present clear descriptions of how students learning progresses in a domain, then they are unlikely to be usefulfor formative assessment. Standards are insufficientlyclear about how learning develops for teachers to be ableto map formative assessment opportunities to them. Thismeans that teachers are not able determine where studentlearning lies on a continuum, and know what to do toclose the gap between current learning and desired goals.Explicit learning progressions can provide the clarity thatteachers need. By describing a pathway of learning theycan assist teachers to plan instruction. Formativeassessment can be tied to learning goals and the evidenceelicited can determine students’ understanding and skill ata given point. When teachers understand the continuum of learning in a domain and have information about currentstatus relative to learning goals (rather than to the activitythey have designed to help students meet the goal), theyare better able to make decisions about what the nextsteps in learning should be.There are a number of reasons why many curriculaare also problematic for planning learning and formativeassessment. Curricula are often organized around scopeand sequence charts that specify procedural objectives to be mastered at each grade. Usually, these are discreteobjectives and not connected to each other in a larger network of organizing concepts (NRC, 2000). In thiscontext, rather than providing details about the status of the student’s learning relative to the desired learning goal,(the hallmark of formative assessment) that can inform pedagogical actions, assessment related to the objectiveswill be of how well the student completed the task.Textbooks suffer from the same problems. Many mathand science textbooks, for example, cover a wide array of topics, (which are not always organized in a logicallyconnected way – see, for instance, Stern & Roseman,2004), often leading to superficial coverage of ideaswithout building connections between and among them.This situation contrasts with how curricula are organizedin countries that outperform the U.S. on internationalassessments and leads to charges that students in the U.S.experience a curriculum that is a “mile wide and an inchdeep” (Schmidt, McKnight & Raizen, 1997:1)Curricula organized into “units” of instruction around particular topics present better, but less than optimal,opportunities for instructional planning and formativeassessment. When ‘units’ are described in terms of a coreconcept or “big idea” and supporting sub-conceptsteachers are more easily able to map formative assessment
T
HE
C
OUNCIL OF
C
HIEF
S
TATE
S
CHOOL
O
FFICERS
T
HE
FAST
 
SCASS
 
!
 
F
ORMATIVE
A
SSESSMENT FOR 
S
TUDENTS AND
T
EACHERS
 
2

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