In mathematics, the word ‘evaluate’ means literally to ‘determine the value of’ (as in ‘evaluate the integer’). In a wider sense, we spend most of our time in schools evaluating something: whether to intervene in a lesson or situation, what individual progress has been made, the impact of school initiatives, etc. These processes work best when our aims are clearly stated at the outset. Even with published mission statements, though, it can be challenging to ensure that what we are measuring is what we have really set out to achieve, especially when the achievement of our goals is not easily quantifiable.

I have only somewhat jokingly said over the past few years that I am keeping a list of ‘COVID advantages’. It seems to me that there is so much that we can learn from having our fast-paced world stopped (or at least slowed down) and, as we prepare to reset in many ways, we should revisit our values in light of our new awareness and the many changes we have experienced. 

As technology enables us to reduce the distances among us, the concept of being a global citizen has become tangible for even our youngest learners. This, coupled with the exponential increase in knowledge resulting in the impossibility of maintaining a content-based program, requires a value-based paradigm to ensure we effectively prepare our students for the future.

Back in 2018 at the International Baccalaureate World Conference in Vienna, I remember feeling slightly uncomfortable and yet totally inspired as two separate keynote speakers (Will Richardson and Heidi Hayes Jacobs) sent clear and loud messages about needing to change to a more all-encompassing way to evaluate student success in school, posing the ultimate question of who would change first – the universities or the schools sending their students to them? The fact that the inquiry-focussed IB culminates in content-heavy exams and number-based results and yet chose presenters who would challenge participants and the IB itself was encouraging. Enter the ‘COVID advantage’ of universities needing to change the focus of their admission criteria only a short time afterward, and we find ourselves in a perfect place to capture the swift and positive changes that have resulted in this typically slow-moving domain as a result of the pandemic.

If your school is like many and outlines aims for students that include empowerment, responsibility, success and perhaps even the especially tricky ‘reaching potential’, you will have faced the challenge of finding ways to collect and analyze learning data to help you measure your school’s overall impact.

The dimensions of global competence, OECD 2018

PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) is an international education survey used in more than 90 countries to measure the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds every three years. It is a comprehensive and reliable indicator of students’ capabilities and a powerful tool that can be used to fine-tune education programs, especially as it reflects the changing values of education. The test was last given in 2018 and included the assessment of Global Competency (Global-competency-for-an-inclusive-world.pdf) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for both students and schools. (This year, PISA will measure creative thinking and, in 2025, learning in the digital world.) 

Sample questions that were asked (and a summary of results below):

  • Self/Interpersonal: What I think of my life and future; whether I believe I have the capacity to grow and improve; how well I relate to others. 
  • Global issues: How easy would it be for you to discuss the different reasons why people become refugees or to explain why some countries suffer more from global climate change than others?
  • Beliefs and Attitudes: I can change my behaviour to meet the needs of new situations; I think my behaviour can impact people in other countries.
  • Action taken: I reduce the energy I use at home; I participate in activities promoting equality between men and women. 
  • Interests: I want to learn more about how people live in different countries.
  • Opportunities for learning at school: I learn about different cultures; I am often invited by my teachers to give my personal opinion about international news.

There is even a section for teachers to provide similar information about themselves.

 2018 Results (Volume VI): Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World?, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/d5f68679-en.

As someone regularly looking for ways to simplify complex things, I believe the term ‘Global Competence’ is immensely helpful. As evident in the example questions above, Global Competence encompasses international mindedness, global citizenship, Education for Sustainable Development, Identity, Diversity, Equity and Access (I-DEA), socio-emotional skills and attitudes and many aspects of wellbeing. These important beliefs and skills likely form those more difficult-to-measure overall aims for our students, and we can support our schools, teachers and students themselves by first agreeing on what to call them. This supports us in choosing well-grounded research-based guidance and tools and in effectively sharing our experiences in the educational community. Working together, we can ensure our students are reaching important aims by evaluating what we truly value.

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