Powerful assessment can transform learners 

Issue: Volume 100, Number 11

Posted: 2 September 2021
Reference #: 1HAPMF

In March 2021, the New Zealand Assessment Institute (NZAI) launched three new assessment resources to provide a simple overview of accepted principles of assessment that support learning. 

NZAI has been concerned to find ways to support educators to be able to evaluate the extent to which their assessment practices do actually support teaching and learning. 

They were delighted then to launch ‘Assessment to Improve Learning: Principles, Practices and Proof’, and its associated Companion Guide, at a function held at Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Wellington.    

Sacred Heart Cathedral School principal, Bernadette Murfitt, reflected the view of NZAI when she introduced the session ‘Assessment done right is one of the most powerful influencers of learning’.  

NZAI have drawn on the expertise of many across our sector to help schools evaluate current assessment practice and proficiency by aligning assessment theory, policy and practice for the betterment of teaching and learning. 

“In my opinion these booklets are going to be incredibly useful as our amazing curriculum gets a refresh to meet the changing needs of our 21st-century learners.” 

Bernadette believes that the secret to improved outcomes for all students is purposeful, relevant assessment that is future focussed and builds on sequential learning.  

The booklets provide a framework as well as a consistent approach that can be used across both primary and secondary school settings.  

“That in itself is something quite special as well,” she says.  

Assessment for teaching and learning 

NZAI believes that assessment can provide the basis for really powerful teaching and learning.  

However, they say this has not been realised despite the large amount of information about assessment available in New Zealand.  

“Many teachers still struggle to feel confident in their knowledge and practice of sound assessment. Too many educators feel that they either under-assess or over-assess and that in the end it does not help their improvement efforts as they might have expected,” says Michael Absolum of NZAI. 

NZAI wishes to support teachers to fulfil the fundamental purpose of assessment within the classroom – to develop and use assessment practices that promote and improve their teaching and students’ learning. 

The NZAI executive has drawn on their expertise and national and international literature to articulate what they believe are the fundamental themes – principles, practices, and proof – of good assessment practice within an education system that learns.  

This has led to developing three resources:  

  • Assessment to Improve Learning: Principles, Practices and Proof (PPP). 
  • Assessment PPP Companion Guide. 
  • Bank of links and assessment resources. 

The Companion Guide sets out discussion starters and activities for principals and leaders, teachers, students, parents/whānau, PLD facilitators, initial teacher education providers, the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office, researchers and others. 

“We all know that it is through strong partnerships between home and school, and parents/whānau knowing practical ways they can support their children’s learning that we will see greater progress and more equitable learning achievement for all learners,” adds Bernadette. 

“I believe that these booklets are a recipe for success.” 

The resources can be accessed online at nzai.org.nz(external link)

Assessment to improve learning 

The principles: 

  • The primary purpose of assessment is to improve learning and teaching.  
  • Assessment in the classroom is integrated with, and acts as the bridge between, learning, teaching and curriculum. 
  • Students and teachers trust and use effective assessment practices to guide learning and teaching and to make improvements. 

The practices:  

  • Students and teachers together consider the impact of a teaching-learning-assessment cycle and discuss what might need to be improved. 
  • Teachers consider how they can enhance each student’s learning and give feedback accordingly. 
  • Students, teachers, parents/whānau, schools, clusters of schools (kāhui ako), and government agencies consider the evidence of progress, achievement, excellence and equity, and deliberate on what might need to be improved. 

The proof: 

  • Students report that they work in partnership with their teachers, using assessment to determine their next steps in learning. 
  • Teachers’ planning refers to or aligns with assessment information, showing intent to meet the diverse needs of students.  
  • There is evidence of progress for all students.  
  • There is evidence of improvement in equitable outcomes.  
  • Local and national curricula are periodically adjusted in response to assessment information. 
  • Educational agencies use assessment information to contribute to policy and decisions about priorities. 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:38 AM, 2 September 2021

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