Early Years Evaluation - Allocate educational resources

Effective Feedback is More Than Just Correcting Student Work: How to give better feedback to improve student learning

Teachers have never-ending opportunities to provide feedback to students. Amidst all the different sources of feedback students receive, neither marks or grades have the biggest impact on student learning. These matter, but they give students little information as to how they can increase their learning or demonstrate more accurately what they have learned. Written and in-person feedback that is specific to the task at hand has the greatest impact on improving learning outcomes.[1] Feedback, when done well, has a powerful influence on student learning.[2] In fact, research suggests that spending slightly less time teaching in order to provide more constructive feedback increases student learning.[3]

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The Learning Bar is an Award Winner

The Learning Bar is announced as the Large Business Award Winner as The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce Celebrates their Best and Brightest

The Business Excellence Awards acknowledges the accomplishments of businesses in the Fredericton area ‐ both members and non‐members of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. The Large Business Award recognizes a company with 51 or more employees that has been operational for at least five years and has demonstrated professional integrity, excellence in customer service, success through innovation and a commitment to the community.

The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce hosts the Business Excellence Awards gala annually to recognize and exemplify leadership in the city.


Blog - Dr Willms - Chamber of Commerce Awards 2019
Dr. J. Douglas Willms, Founder and President
of The Learning Bar
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Blog - Educational Prosperity - Helping Countries Provide Foundational Learning for All

The Educational Prosperity Framework: Helping Countries Provide Foundational Learning for All

By J. Douglas Willms, President of The Learning Bar Inc.

On World Teachers Day, this blog presents an assessment framework, called Education Prosperity, that can be used to track the success of teachers, families, communities and public institutions in developing children’s cognitive skills and their social, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.

As the president of the International Academy of Education, I am often invited to share ideas about school reforms. During a recent trip to Latin America, I found myself in a discussion focused on classroom improvements as a way to boost PISA scores. The conversation was illuminating, because the policymakers in that room—like so many others around the globe— had the best of intentions, but were nevertheless stuck in a model that had them looking in the wrong places.

As I told the group, the foundations for learning are established years before students sit down for the PISA exam or even enter a classroom. In a country that suffers from maternal and child malnutrition, where that particular meeting had taken place, understanding the ways that achievements in education are interconnected—and cumulative— is key to making policy changes that ensure our children are thriving.

These interactions form the basis of my new paper published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), Learning Divides: Using Data to Inform Educational Policy. As the international education community prepares for the upcoming meeting of the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (17-18 October in Hamburg), understanding the interconnectedness of children’s learning processes is critical to measuring progress towards key SDG 4 targets.

Understanding and using data to inform policy

Despite our best attempts, students’ reading skills have not improved over the past fifteen years and if we are to move forward and make real progress, we need a better way of understanding data to inform policy. Indeed, ahead of the GAML meeting, we need to be advocating for a comprehensive and holistic framework—what I call “educational prosperity”— that acknowledges the importance of the foundations for successful learning. Our framework increasingly needs to embrace a life-course approach that considers the impacts of various processes from conception through late adolescence—and we need to be using these data to craft more effective policies.

Traditional approaches to measuring education progress have proven to be insufficient and are failing to capture a critical nuance: Looking at exam results for 15-year-olds—or even 10-year-olds— is misleading. Many of the existing frameworks have misled policymakers for decades because they ignore the cumulative result of a number of factors that affect children’s development. As researchers would put it, we’re using test results to make causal claims and while assessment is critical, it only captures the reality of a specific moment in time, rather than the cumulative and foundational factors that led up to it. Poor reading results in fourth grade, for example, are often the result of poor foundational support for literacy in the early years—and so may be an indication of misguided early childhood development policy or insufficient family support and not necessarily school policy, poor infrastructure, or low teaching quality.

An alternative approach through the education prosperity framework

The “educational prosperity” framework presented in the new UIS papers offers an important alternative that can use existing monitoring data to track the success of families, communities and public institutions in developing children’s cognitive skills, as well as their social, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. The framework provides a multi-dimensional understanding of development at each stage that looks at the role of families, institutions and communities. These ‘Foundations for Success,’ which drive outcomes along six stages of development, provide an important visualization of the ways that success can be cumulative and non-linear.

For example, prosperity outcomes for children in early primary school may include literacy and numeracy, but success is not dependent on institutional factors such as quality instruction and adequate learning materials alone. Rather, the framework operates under the understanding that success is also built on family factors such as parenting skills and family involvement, as well as community factors such as adequate resources and social capital. The framework uses a wider lens for understanding student outcomes—recognizing the reality that school factors and inputs alone are not the sole foundations for student achievement.

Focus on early reading

The educational prosperity framework is based on three interconnected premises. The first is that early reading needs to be the primary focus of educational monitoring systems. The reason is simple: literacy is a pre-requisite for later success in lower and upper secondary levels and provides the scaffolding for developing so many other skills, including numeracy, problem solving and socio-emotional know-how. Indeed, a failure to develop strong skills during the early years increases the risk of school failure.

Second, to better capture ‘school effects’, we can build an informative educational monitoring systems which incorporate the findings of over twenty years of research on the causal factors that lead to better student outcomes.

Third, results from the international studies need to be coupled with national studies and small controlled experimental studies, which can provide educational administrators with information for setting achievable goals, allocating resources, and creating policies for change. We don’t need to keep gathering data on things we already know and instead, should focus on the small-scale testing of reform and studies that focus on a small number of factors. We need to be measuring these in greater detail while tracking them longitudinally.

To be clear, I am not calling for the abandonment of large-scale international studies. Much of my research is based on PISA data, which has played a critical role in helping countries understand how well their students compare with students in other countries while generating the political will for investing in education. But it’s time to look beyond the international studies and consider additional ways to measure and guide our educational policies.

As countries decide to join cross-national assessments or continue to develop their own, I am hopeful that the “educational prosperity” framework will be an essential guide for individual countries—and the global community as a whole—to craft effective strategies that promote educational opportunity for all children.

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Blog - Rick Hansen Foundation Logo

New collaboration aims to make learning inclusive and accessible for all students

The Learning Bar and the Rick Hansen Foundation have teamed up to help educators assess the level of inclusivity and accessibility within their school environment. Through the collaboration, the OurSCHOOL Student Survey, developed by The Learning Bar, now includes questions of students’ awareness of the barriers facing peers with physical disabilities, and their willingness to take action. The data will enable educators to monitor the success of programs aimed at increasing awareness, accessibility and inclusion. Click here to find out more.

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Blog - Using student data to reduce anxiety and enhance school climate

Using student data to reduce anxiety and enhance school climate at St. Dominic Fine Arts School, Calgary, AB.

Implementing the OurSCHOOL Student Survey at St. Dominic in 2015 allowed former Principal Kevin DeForge and Assistant Principal Joelle Marshall to learn that 32 per cent of students reported feeling medium to high levels of anxiety at school. Knowing it’s not just the data that matters, but what you do with it, Kevin and his team sought to understand what was driving this.

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Insights Manitoba: Developing literacy skills for vulnerable children

Educators in Manitoba and Saskatchewan came together at Insights Manitoba to address the literacy barriers for the most vulnerable early learners. Our guest speakers were joined by Dr. J. Douglas Willms who presented his framework outlining the factors that most strongly influence a child’s learning from conception through to adulthood.

Details of the day are outlined below.

9:00 – Overall welcome
Christine Hole, Product Director, The Learning Bar (MC)

9:10 – Introduction – Positive indicators of literacy development among vulnerable children
Gordon Martell, Superintendent, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

9:30 – Educational prosperity in Manitoba’s schools
Dr. J. Douglas Willms, President, The Learning Bar

10:45 – Breakout Session

11:15 – Improving early elementary school experiences for vulnerable learners
Christian Michalik, Assistant Superintendent, Louis Riel School Division

1:00 – Engaging with data to empower action
Christine Hole, Product Director, The Learning Bar

1:30 – Using data to inform programming, build relationships, and engage the community
Deborah Burnside, Student Services Coordinator, Swan Valley

2:00 – Imagine: First Nations early learners as Nation Builders
Lori Whiteman, Executive Director, Treaty 4 Education Alliance

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Visit us at booth 47 at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, July 26 – July 28

We are proud to be supporting our partners Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute(KTEI) and Treaty 4 Education Alliance at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE), A Celebration of Resilience. The event, taking place in Toronto July 24 – 28, is the largest and most diverse Indigenous education event in the world and continues to lead the discussion on education that support Indigenous world views.


Join us at Ignite Session 63, July 28th – 10:00-10:45


Hear Lori Whiteman Executive Director, Treaty 4 Education Alliance and Debbie Debassige, Director of School Services, KTEI present on the subject of culturally responsive education and how they are using Confident Learners Literacy Program in their schools to identify and meet the literacy learning needs of their students. We will also be at booth 47 if you’d like to come by and ask any questions.

The event is an outstanding opportunity to learn about:

Health and Wellness
Indigenous Knowledge and Ways of Knowing
Innovations in Indigenous Education
Justice and Equity
Language and Culture
Partnerships in Education

We hope to see you there.

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Insights Alberta: Thanks to everyone that attended or joined us online

Building a Data Culture

Thank you to everyone who was able to attend or tune in to hear our presenters discuss how schools and districts are using their student data to make informed school improvement decisions. If you were unable to join us or if you wish to revisit the experience or share these strategies and interventions with colleagues, the videos of the individual presentations are now available online along with copies of the slides. 

Equality, equity, and educational prosperity – what does it mean to Alberta schools?
Dr. J. Douglas Willms, President and CEO, The Learning Bar

Duration: 1:01 mins

“Breathing life into data”: St. Dominic Fine Arts School Case Study
Kevin DeForge, Principal, St. Dominic Fine Arts School and Supervisor of Educational Technology, Calgary Catholic School District

Duration: 22 mins

Building skills and taking action: System supports for connecting student voice to quality instruction, collaborative practice and purposeful engagement
Joanne Pitman, Director of Administration and Learning, Grande Prairie School District

Duration: 38 mins

Student Engagement
Doug Stevens, Director of Distributed Learning, Foothills School Division

Duration: 9 mins

Data Analysis and Collaboration
Carra Aschenmeier, Lead Teacher of Assessment and Mentorship, Grande Yellowhead Public School Division

Duration: 29 mins

Using OurSCHOOL data to inform a focus on mental health and wellness in Fort McMurray Public Schools
Dr. Brenda Sautner, Associate Superintendent, Fort McMurray Public School District

Duration: 27 mins

Engaging students in district planning
Dr. Marianne Barrett, Associate Superintendent, St. Albert Public School Division

Duration: 10 mins

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Are your students ready for life after graduation?

The critical process of career planning starts in early childhood and intensifies during adolescence. Despite the emphasis placed on identifying a vocation before graduation, less than 20 percent of students make a stable career choice by age 17.

Do you have the complete picture?


The new Career Pathways module was developed by our in-house research team to help educators better understand and support their Grades 7-12 students’ transition from school to higher education and employment. 

The module, a part of the OurSCHOOL Secondary Survey, consists of 10 main question areas which capture:

student aspirations after graduation;
level of commitment to a particular job;
current exploration into career options;
students’ career knowledge;
perceived obstacles;
current use of school-level resources and opportunities; and,
perceived importance of specific skills.
How can you use the data to prepare your students for success?

A Thematic Report outlines student goals, vocational knowledge and career identity. Make informed decisions on the support and instruction students need to explore careers, guide them to relevant programs, and gain the vocational experience they need to succeed.

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