Success at Imagine High Integrated Arts and Technology Secondary School

Imagine High is a secondary school in Chilliwack, British Columbia. They have been on a journey of competency-based grading and learning and student empowerment. Principal Brooke Haller was kind enough to share some of her thoughts on how this approach to learning and assessment impacts the school’s mission and culture.

Imagine High has an integrated environment with a unique structure and approach to learning rooted in competency-based learning and assessment. Their learning experience thrives in a collaborative culture that values relationships, empathetic human design processes, an authentic audience, ongoing learning dialogues between and among teachers, learners, and community experts, and the manifestation of student learning that is visible, transparent, and inspires further learning conversations.

This learning culture is not possible without positive, learning focused assessment experiences for all students.

The Imagine Assessment Experience

Assessment at Imagine centers around the creation, presentation, and exhibition of learning artifacts that are the result of self-critique and feedback from peers and teachers. Teachers engage students regularly in formative assessment and continuous feedback as a powerful and integral component of student success. Our goal at Imagine is to support teachers in building a culture that promotes and values feedback that is meaningful, clear, and timely and allows students to learn from mistakes. Teams of teachers break prioritized standards into specific learning targets which become the basis for instruction, assessment, and communication of student achievement. A key focus of this shared work is planning for instruction and competency skill development that aligns with the BC (British Columbia, Canada) curriculum. As a team, they discuss and analyze what they are collectively learning about their students to determine the next best instructional steps to support student learning.

Collaborative Planning Based on Assessment Evidence

Teachers teach in integrated teams and have a member of their Inclusive Design Team embedded in the planning and delivery of learning experiences. Teachers work in collaborative communities over the course of the year that come together daily to co-plan, co-create, and co-assess. The teachers have daily aligned prep schedules and are able to constantly engage in discussion that shares and grows practice in instruction and assessment.

A Teacher’s Perspective on Impact of Formative Assessment

Teacher Matt Slykhuis shared these thoughts below about what it’s like to teach and learn at Imagine.

One unique characteristic of Imagine, is the degree to which our teachers’ practice is guided by formative assessment. Classrooms have learning targets and core competencies embedded on walls, and teachers refer to these regularly to link learning experiences back to course goals. Meaningful self-assessment is baked into daily exit slips in many classrooms, which results in students regularly interacting with assessment language while also having the opportunity to get a snapshot of their own progress toward those goals.

Students are encouraged to make mistakes and take risks. This is evident in classes where students perform course-long self-assessments. Students are not afraid to assess themselves as “emerging” early in the term, as they know they will have time for instruction and growth as they work through the term or semester. When they return to those goals later in the term, they feel a sense of accomplishment, realizing they can now do things that they marked as “emergent” skills earlier in the term.

It’s obvious that Imagine High is a great place to teach and learn. Together we can make this a reality anywhere if we shift toward competency based learning and reporting and restructure the system to support collaboration and planning for teachers and risk taking within the formative assessment process for students.