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HundrED Impact Stories | Innovations Do Spread : The Story of Two Rivers Assessment

4.9.2019 | BY KHIZER HUSAIN
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Two Rivers Assessment, which was featured in HundrED’s 2019 Global Collection, is an assessment tool that gives educators unique insight into how well they are meeting the needs of the students. The assessments focus on critical thinking and problem solving, which is broken up into 5 constructs; ‘Effective Reasoning,’ ‘Problem Solving,’ ‘Decision Making,’ ‘Schema Development and Activation,’ and ‘Innovation and Creativity.’ The idea is that these cognitive skills are content-neutral and so should be able to be applied across the curriculum. Their feature in the HundrED collection has provoked more thought and discussions around the impact of assessments and lead them to convene a Deeper Learning Cohort, a model in which educators learn about their philosophy and approach.

We reached out to the innovators behind Two Rivers Assessment to hear how being in the HundrED 2019 collection has helped them spread their innovation.

 


What does it mean for Two Rivers Assessment to be recognized as a leading education innovator in the HundrED 2019 Global Collection?


Most people - even in the world of education - don’t get excited when they hear the word assessment. We think they should. HundrED, too, thinks that they should. The recognition from HundrED has catapulted our work to the world stage. We are attempting to assess something that is both difficult to measure but also has been named as an important outcome for learning in the 21st century. When we think about how to prepare our students - students across the planet - for the modern economy, there is a common theme that critical thinking, or deeper learning, (decision-making, effective reasoning, and problem-solving)  are essential; but people don't have a good way of knowing what that actually looks like in classrooms and of measuring whether or not kids are actually developing those skills.  We have created a set of rubrics that explicitly defines for different age bands what proficiency looks like for deeper learning. Coupling this with thinking routines, which are mental frameworks for tackling messy problems, teachers have a clear picture of the rigor needed in their classrooms and the way to teach it. The last component is the assessment - the performance task that highlights students’ thinking and evaluates whether or not it is at grade-level. 

Recognition from the HundrED has elevated our work for those who normally do not occupy their time thinking about the impact of assessments in defining the path of classroom instruction. If assessments are too narrow, it only stands to reason that instruction is also narrow and thereby not properly equipping young people for success beyond the walls of the school.


What are your biggest takeaways from the HundrED Innovation Summit?

Jeff Heyck-Williams, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, represented Two Rivers at the first HundrED Innovation Summit in 2017. The experience was spectacular - rare is the opportunity to have education innovators from across the globe come together to share their work. We routinely present in American conferences and workshops - EL Education’s conferences, Harvard University’s Project Zero local chapters, Deeper Learning Conference at High Tech High in California. The HundrED Innovation Summit is unique in its geographic reach and its scope. At the same time, the event is surprisingly intimate. We loved sharing the stage with Pekka and engaging in conversation with Saku. We enjoyed sharing why performance tasks that measure deeper learning can be an important lever for better instruction in any school environment and engaging with other innovators throughout the Summit. 

Everyone at the Summit had amazing innovations to share and this keen interest in learning from others. This combination of sharing and listening invigorating.

 

How has the HundrED Summit and global recognition helped progress the impact of Two Rivers Assessment?

Since being recognized, we experienced sufficient interest in our innovation to convene a Deeper Learning Cohort, a model in which educators learned our philosophy and approach and could tinker with our tools (rubrics and performance task assessments) over the course of an academic year. The cohort model, with bimonthly consultative workshops, allowed educators to interrogate our efforts (which is a terrific mechanism for feedback) and incorporate something new into their classrooms. As a culminating event, cohort members presented the fruits of their labor for an audience of educators at our annual spring symposium, Evening of Learning Seminars. Without the HundrED Summit and global recognition, it is unclear how many people would elect to join this cohort or engage with our materials. 

Our educator-facing website, Learn With Two Rivers, is a curated gallery of high-yield practices; however, real sustainable change in practice, we argue, comes from face-to-face interaction, conversation, and reflection. A website is necessary but not sufficient. The HundrED Summit was the moment to spark curiosity in the innovation among a community of educators and funders. These funders invested in our idea to support a cohort-based approach so that our innovation can spread sustainability into other environments. Since our “grain size” is teachers, it is important that they are supported and the cohort gives them the time and space to try, talk through challenges, celebrate successes, and make meaning of their journey.  


So, what is next for Two Rivers Assessment?

We have a few things in store. One, we are thrilled to be invited to New South Wales, Australia to present our approach to a host of educators, who are intrigued by our innovations and want to learn more. For our part, we are very curious to see how they think about deeper learning and the challenges of teaching students for long-term success, whatever that means in their environment. 

Second, we launched on July 17, 2019, our second Deeper Learning Cohort, consisting of nearly two dozen educators. Our second cohort is three times the size of our first one, an increase that is exciting and manageable.   Our doors in Washington, DC are always open to educators and leaders interested in improving education in their neck of the woods.


What would you say to innovators who are looking to connect with HundrED? Why should they be part of the global community for change?

The HundrED website is a fantastic repository of education innovations and the Summit is the place to see the people behind these practices - understand the context, appreciate the challenges, and interpret how others’ innovations can reap rewards in your own environment. Innovation requires meaningful collisions of ideas. To be involved in this global community is to share ideas but also to improve from feedback, thereby accelerating innovation.

 


Do you have an exciting innovation changing the way we educate our students, share your work on HundrED Open.

If you want to inspire your local community with global and local innovations, explore the HundrED Ambassadors program with members from over 70 countries.