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Transforming Teaching, Learning and Assessment: A Global Paradigm Shift



This series of papers acknowledge that curriculum is a continuum, with potential philosophical and resourcing gaps between: (i) the official curriculum, as intended and specified at national level (ii) the curriculum as interpreted and planned at school level; (iii) the curriculum as interpreted and taught by teachers at classroom level; (iv) the curriculum as internally assessed by teachers and externally examined by statutory agencies; and (v) the intended and unintended curriculum as experienced and internalized by learners. The paper highlights that, without appropriate interventions at each level, the intentions and impact of the curriculum may be diminished at each subsequent stage, often due to the fragmentation of curricula reform processes and lack of sufficient long-term resources to support curriculum understanding, translation, implementation and evaluation.

This paper focuses on the transformation of teaching, learning and assessment to support the development of competence-based curricula and considers some of the main barriers and enablers to change. It considers the often-inhibiting effect of summative assessment and examinations on curriculum intentions. For reasons of cost, time and convenience, systems often assess what is easy to assess through pen and paper formats, with the result that external assessment is often insufficiently aligned with broader curriculum intentions. Because teachers and learners are often judged and held accountable by their performance on external assessments and examinations, teachers are understandably inclined to ‘teach to the test’ and learners understandably tend to focus on the same.  As a result, the assessed and examined curriculum may exert an inhibiting effect on curriculum intentions.

Competence-based curricula are necessarily more flexible than traditional subject-based curricula and demand more authentic forms of assessment. They also generally afford much greater opportunity for learner and teacher voice and agency to select relevant content, enrich interactive pedagogy, promote learners' intrinsic motivation, fulfillment and enjoyment of learning and engage in authentic assessment. However, the extent to which this potential is exercised depends on the close alignment of curriculum and pedagogy with internal and external assessment and examinations, as well as with other support systems, such as continuing teacher professional development and initial teacher education. 

The paper concludes that a shift towards competence-based curricula needs to be accompanied by a concurrent shift in assessment and examination reform and on-going professional support if competence-based curricula are to achieve their intended impact.

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