VAST

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How to assess capacity  |  How to report growth

Assessing the VAST framework.

Assessment stems from the Latin Assidere – to sit beside.

If we truly believe the traits for success drive learning and personal growth, we should explicitly teach the elements of the VAST scaffold. And if we teach these “soft skills”, we do need to evaluate how well each learner, personally, is flourishing – so we can reflect on how well we are teaching them.

The reliability of any judgment is based on the expertise of the person evaluating, and the quality of, the data used for reasoning – often referred to as “the facts”.

When we assess VAST, we are looking at human qualities. We use qualitative assessment.

VAST is assessed via observation, discussion, and personal judgment, usually of actions and interactions in social situations.  It is vital all people assessing VAST truly understand each element.  Therefore, professional learning is vital.

Living School purposefully plans opportunities to understand learners – and this is part of the assessment cycle, which is integral to the structure of the school year.  The year is structured to offer two semesters of three six-week terms.  The first week of each semester is a Challenge Week. Challenge Week offers emotional, intellectual, physical and expressive learning experiences.  Such experiences allow educators to observe and evaluate learners around the VAST elements (diagnostic pre-assessment).  Challenge Week is designed to allow educators and learners to develop positive relationships, to see each other’s vulnerability and to explore each other’s strengths. The last week of the semester is a revision week, whereby we reflect on our learning. This week allows summative assessment of VAST elements.  Each term is a six-week block, offering a range of learning experiences. Throughout each term, each week, and each lesson, there are opportunities for formative assessment of VAST capacity growth.

Our year is authentic and promotes oursness.  The VAST scaffold explicitly defines the traits that are so important for understanding our role in a network, a universal network. By understanding the elements of VAST we take personal responsibility to grow our capacity in each identified sub-element.

Education must be not only a transmission of culture but also a provider of alternative views of the world and a strengthener of the will to explore them.

Jerome Bruner

Reporting on VAST

By having a radar graph, we can plot the growth and changes on each spoke, generating a visual representing our capacity in each of the VAST elements.  The vertical axis is for outlining each student’s personal engagement and observed/evaluated creativity.

The evaluation is a flag – not a standard.  It leads to discussion and strategic directions – not a mark, a quadrant, a percentage, or a level.

How you could use this format:

  • Agree on a common number of measures – in this case ten.
  • Map onto each spoke the capacity observed in an activity, or over a number of activities.
  • Have the student mark their self-assessment on the radar graph.  Have the teacher add their judgment.  You could have parents also map their judgment.  Compare and contrast – then discuss.
  • Overlay different radar graphs over time – and animate – to show how capacity varies over time.

There are other graphical representations that could be considered, too.

So how do we judge each student’s capacity?