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Fostering Critical Reflection Within AQs

Resources that support design from an inquiry and anti-oppressive stance.

By Stuart Foxman
Photo: istock

Teacher and students in class learning with Lego.

As she develops an AQ on student assessment and evaluation, Kimberly Arfo, OCT, keeps a few College resources nearby. One is on intentional design, the other is about critically reflecting on your practice.

These standards-based teacher education resources β€” part of AQ capacity-building β€” give Arfo questions to ponder when she sits down and writes. How might I design this AQ to ensure an anti-oppressive stance? How will members of the learning community surface questions that lead to educator-driven inquiry? What narratives do I invite into this AQ to illuminate theoretical concepts? How do I support the democratization of knowledge through honouring AQ candidates' goals?

These and many more prompts have been invaluable to Arfo, in thinking about AQs at a whole other level. "It helps me to go much deeper in the writing of the course, and how I'm presenting the information," says Arfo, who served with the Peel District School Board.

That's the benefit of being intentional. AQ designers and facilitators have a framework to rely on to critically explore course content, and address other critical issues like how to create truly inclusive learning environments, and whose voices and world views are being included.

In practice, Arfo will have candidates co-construct the norms to follow when in the course. That's to ensure that everyone's learning needs and voices are heard. She also makes a conscious effort to embrace multiple protocols. "Everyone benefits from different ways of learning," she says. And she's including material on checking your privilege, "to ensure there's an equitable mindset to how we teach and assess."

Beyond the intentional design resources, educators are contributing to other material to inform AQ development. Peter Bagnall, OCT, was part of a review of the AQ guidelines for religious education. Later, he updated a conceptual framework for the guidelines, which resulted in a new Companion Resource: Supporting Religious Education in Catholic Schools.

"We wanted to get to the heart of what it means to be an educator in a Catholic school," says Bagnall, who currently works as a consultant for religious education and family life.

He hopes the resource will serve as a personal reflection for educators. What was it like to walk with someone through a difficult time? Which teaching and learning processes establish trusting relationships and instil hope? How have relationships in my life inspired personal transformation?

The answers pertain to religious education, but transcend any course. "We're using a faith foundation to reflect on the β€˜art of accompaniment' and personal inquiry, to look at transformation in professional practice," says Bagnall.

Enhancing AQs that way ideally provides a more meaningful learning experience for teachers β€” one that translates into even more benefits for their students.

"Going back to the standards of practice, this will allow teachers to have a better understanding of assessment and evaluation, and help them be more aware of how to support their students," says Arfo. "The ultimate goal is higher achievement levels and a growth mindset."