The theory of the multiple intelligences is reflected in the Steiner approach to schooling. Students who struggle with mathematics or reading and comprehension ability often display other skills and talents that can be supported and harnessed to build self-esteem. The schools use play as a constructive methodology for teaching through the infant and primary schooling years, while more formal academic approaches are adopted at secondary level. But what I wish to emphasize here is that even in the secondary years in Steiner schools, there is still a high degree of subject integration in the teaching approach. The encompassing ideas of philosophy and ecology underpin all their educational programs.
Queensland led Australia, if not the world, in a secondary education system that tried to break the tyranny of the examination based system of secondary education, that out-dated pedagogy that suppressed innovation in teaching and learning. The Radford Scheme of externally moderated school-based assessments was conceived in 1970, and implemented from 1972. Originally adopted as a means of improving the quality of teaching and learning in the senior school, the school-based assessment moderated against specific achievement standards has been so successful and internationally praised that it has now filtered down and been adopted in the Queensland junior and primary school system through the Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting (QCAR) framework (2008).
I was Geography Subject master at Mt. Gravatt High School in 1972 when the new system began, and was appointed as District Moderator and then State Moderator for all the Senior Social Science subjects (Geography, History, Ancient History and Economics). It meant I was deeply involved in making the scheme work, developing a moderating system recognized as being reliable and valid. Progressive assessment allowed teaches to introduce oral presentation, written assignments, and lab and field reports into the assessment mix. Suddenly libraries became central to the school organization. A multitude of reports and documents that were relevant to the subjects could be explored, and teachers could inspire students to think and apply their knowledge and skills, not simply swat up information and regurgitate it to pass examinations.
In those early days there were some misgivings and frustrations. Many teachers needed guidance in a new form of pedagogy where the set textbook based content didn’t rule, while standards needed to be established that could be universally accepted as fair and appropriate. There were new curriculum documents to be written which allowed for choice in content, and suggested different ways of measuring learning outcomes such as multiple choice tests, written assignments, folios of work from practical activities, and performance in work-shopped simulation exercises. The system unleashed the creative teacher who led by example. The bond of having to drill home content of the syllabus was broken. Schools were able to personalize the curriculum to local relevance and the student cohort’s needs.
The Radford Scheme has now evolved over the forty years since its first inception with various improvements and refinements. It has been investigated and evaluated by several independent research projects, allowing the Queensland Studies Authority to be able to claim how the evidence exists that, in over 18 subject areas where it is applied, ‘there is a rate of agreement in the assignment of levels of achievement at better than 85%’. This is a testament to the competence of our teachers in making judgments about the achievements of students as well as the reliability of the local review panel process.
These research results also suggests to me that teacher assessment under such a moderated system is sufficiently robust for it to be the sole basis for selecting students for tertiary entry in their chosen fields of interest. We don’t need the expensive and invasive Core Skills Test as a means to curtailing inflated school-based assessment judgments. What we need is quality in-service training for teachers and our trust in their professionalism. Somehow we do this with University lecturers and TAFE teachers, but still judge high school teachers to be less competent or ethical in awarding grades.