Why Strength-Based Learning to ground The Guide Assessment?
In strength-based learning, the ultimate goal is not to achieve a specific level of knowledge, but to gain behavioural strategies that permit one to engage with reality. Of course, a certain level of knowledge is necessary for this since learning is context-bound. It’s therefore important during evaluation to see whether students have expanded their behavioural strategies. For this reason, instead of using a traditional numerical system of evaluation, we use the OICO-principle (Observation, Imitation, Creation, and Originality) of evaluation, which is based on the integration of lower-order skills into higher-order skills. (https://www.teachmi.eu/strength-based : Learning processes). We will now attempt to explain this with an extreme, yet, realistic example.
A young person from a difficult neighbourhood has developed behavioural strategies to deal with conflict by using aggression to settle the conflict to her advantage. Thanks to her behavioural strategies, she has built up a certain reputation in the area, with the consequence that she is not bothered and rarely has to use the strategies. In school, she learns how to verbally defend herself, and is able to connect this with convincing non-verbal communication (self-confident and if needed aggressive). Now, she is able to combine these new verbal skills with her physical ones, should she need to use physical violence. This further solidifies her position in the neighbourhood. Should she choose, she can use these integrated skills for either legal or illegal purposes. Regardless, she is better prepared to live a meaningful life in this context (i.e., in a difficult neighbourhood) than other young people in the school, who achieve higher marks, don’t know the neighbourhood, don’t understand the customs, and are unable to apply physical behavioural strategies successfully.
Having said this, in this context, when young people are presented with enough lawful possibilities to live a meaningful life, there is a good chance that a young person will choose a lawful path. At least if the situation in the neighbourhood has not become so corrupted that the young person’s status is not diminished by choosing such a path. However, when the chances to use her strengths legally are too narrow, her possibility to achieve success increases by choosing an illegal path. This is what happens in neighbourhoods where youth unemployment is high, where policymakers have few positive plans for the area, and young people (as well as their parents) experience systemic discrimination.
When violent conflict arises, often policymakers (schools) make moral judgments about young people. What they’ve done is ‘unacceptable’; they are ‘rotten apples’. As a consequence, repressive measures are put in place. The young person’s strengths from the example (in this neighbourhood) are translated by policymakers into weaknesses, or their behaviour is seen as a result of injuries and deficits.
Strength-based learning assumes that skills are neither good nor bad, but that contexts force people to make choices that are either acceptable or unacceptable, legal or illegal. The central question then becomes how this young person can positively and lawfully use her strengths. For this reason, she must learn how to apply her strengths in diverse ways or expand her behavioural strategies, based on her strengths.
In this way, the concept of ‘responsibility’ is conferred a different meaning. A young person is responsible for expanding his or her behavioural strategies to better deal with reality. Policymakers (a school or teacher) are responsible for providing a context where a young person can use those skills legally and ethically. Both are responsible for adjusting the context so that the young person can use his or her strengths to learn what he or she needs to become more successful in society.
With this, we are not implying that punishment for breaking the rules or laws should be ignored. On the contrary! When someone breaks the rules (young people or supervisors), the consequences should be clear and the same for everyone. The discussion that happens after the rule-breaking is not about how ‘bad it was that it happened”, but about mapping strengths and determining what needs to happen in order to respond adequately in subsequent situations (expansion of behavioural strategies). This is then also connected to what needs to happen to rectify things for those who experienced some kind of disadvantage due to transgressive behaviour (restorative justice).
The assessment framework is supported by the OICO-principle of evaluation
OICO is an acronym that stands for Observation, Imitation, Creation and Originality. This principle was developed by Jacques Lecoq in École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. (https://www.teachmi.eu/strength-based). According to this framework, when the learning paths are diverse, it’s not easy to evaluate each student in the same way. It’s for that reason that students must be able to see where they are positioned within the context of the larger learning trajectory or curriculum. Working with rubrics provides a solution. A rubric is a category that describes the quality and extent of the criteria. It clarifies what the different levels of expertise of a skill are, and the direction the skill should develop to achieve a goal. The classification or arrangement from ‘basic’ to ‘expert’ is based on content and associated with thinking in terms of competencies. The use of the OICO-principle lays out a pathway for a student to develop to master a skill.
Pay attention and adapt
OICO is an alternative method of evaluation. It does not replace traditional methods but complements them in the context of newly arrived students. Often students from a refugee or migrant background have trouble with new grading or evaluation systems, because of language barriers, different emphases or planning of previous educational systems, gaps in learning, trauma, unrecognized learning difficulties, … When students are ONLY evaluated via a traditional grading system, they could fall through cracks. Instead of a numerical system, OICO follows the natural path of learning. For example, we first observe someone doing something, then, because it seems successful in others, we try to imitate that successful behaviour. Once we get some practice and overcome our inhibitions, we start doing it for ourselves. We build on these skills and re-create them in other activities. Finally, when we become very skilful, we can innovate and create something original, not only for ourselves, but for others. Now let’s look at the principles more closely:
Observation: I master (a part of) a skill, but not fully, and learn by looking at how it is done.
Imitation: I master (a part of) a skill in such a way that I can imitate others or do what they are doing (e.g., complete a similar task that they have done).
Creation: I master (a part of) a skill in such a way that I am able to do new things (for me) or create new things with my use of it.
Originality: I master (a part of) a skill in such a way that I can integrate the skill with other skills and can create things that are new and original for the class.
Respect strength base approach and OICO Principles
All the instruments are flexible. Although the TEACHmi method may use a preferential form or timeline to use it, teachers are invited to find their own way.
Pay attention and adapt
All circumstances are different. All students are different and all multicultural classes are demanding, so, please adapt the instruments according to your expectations and goals.
Respect strength base approach and OICO Principles
In the second phase of the Guide Assessment , the idea is to work with Contexts and with those who are affected using OICO Principles. In this context, we will present a step-by-step method for using the different instruments.