I attended a meeting of the Minister's Forum today where we had further discussion around what we can learn from the latest PISA results, and implications for future policy and professional decision making in the NZ education sector. 

We began the day by viewing a webcast from Andreas Schleicher, the international 'architect' of the PISA process (see video above). A key point he makes is that global comparisons such as PISA allow us to see what's possible in education – a useful perspective I feel as we begin to see the media frenzy begin. 

An old colleague of mine, and member of the forum, John Langley, chaired the meeting, and spoke about five different reactions he predicted we'll see emerge over the next weeks/months:

  1. "She'll be right" – those who continue on with business as usual, ignoring what the data is showing us, and hoping that in the fullness of time it will all blow over and somehow rectify itself.
  2. Puglaistic – where people initially retreat away into their respective corners to prepare themselves before coming out fighting with anyone who opposes their ideas or thinks differently. Includes those who choose to use the circumstances for personal or political advantage. 
  3. King Hit - the often seen, knee-jerk reaction where people of influence select a seemingly obvious solution and pursue it with vigor in the (often misguided) belief that it will be the solution.
  4. Shotgun – where a range of strategies are selected and applied in a 'shoot and hope' approach, scattering them in the hope that some might hit the mark and 'solve something'.
  5. Mr Spock - in memory of the famed Star Trek character who always approached a problem by collecting data, analysing it and using it to identify the most appropriate course of action. 

As with most lists like this, it's the last one that provides the preferred solution. In this case I agree – the collection and analysis of data is essential because we cannot assume that any group of people will share a common set of understandings about anything unless they're provided with the opportunity to make their thinking explict, or to share in the construction of shared knowledge. Only then can the community identify and pursue the 'next steps' to be taken.

And so it is with PISA – we need to add this data to our pool of information from which we can explore and construct together the strategies that will take us forward – for the sake of our future generations. 

2 Responses to “Learning from the PISA results”
  1. Conor Bolton says:

    Really enjoyed what Andreas Schleicher had to say – what a challenge for educators in NZ. As for reactions you have hit the nail on the head. Thank-you for sharing. 

  2. Allan Vester says:

    Thanks for making this available. I agree with the Mr Spock analogy. What John refers to as the "King Hit" I see as the "Silver Bullet" approach where we constantly look for the one off solution to what are multi faceted problems. PISA is admisinstered as a one off test, there is little build up for the students sitting it, and I suspect as a result many of them take it in a very casual way. While I am not interested in making excuses for our slip in performance I do wonder if all students in all countries sit the test with the same mind set that ours do? Carol Dwecks book, Mindset deals comprehensively with the issue that Andreas raises about different cultures attitude to the link between natural ability or hard work and successs.


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