Principles for Assessment and Reporting in NSW Government Schools
Assessment is the process of identifying, gathering and interpreting information about students' learning. The central purpose of assessment is to provide information on student achievement and progress and set the direction for ongoing teaching and learning.
Reporting is the process of communicating information about student achievement and progress gained from the assessment process. The purpose of reporting is to support teaching and learning by providing feedback to students, parents and teachers. Students' learning achievements and progress are also reported to other schools and to employers. This information about students' achievements is valuable for school and system wide planning and reporting.
Student achievement progress can be reported by comparing:
- the students' work against a standards framework of syllabus outcomes
- the students' prior and current learning achievements
- the students' achievements with those of other students.
Reporting can involve a combination of these methods.
In recent years teachers in New South Wales government schools, as part of a curriculum shift to an outcomes-approach to teaching and learning, have embraced a wide platform of assessment and reporting practices. The successful implementation of an outcomes-approach depends upon appropriate assessment and reporting practices being embedded in the teaching and learning process. The Board of Studies is currently developing syllabuses with outcomes in stages that define the standards framework. As part of the move to an outcomes-approach, schools will need to review aspects of their current assessment and reporting policies and align them with a standards framework.
Assessment and reporting within an outcomes-approach
Classroom assessment and reporting practice is a key element in an outcomes-approach to the curriculum.
The highly competitive and changing world that confronts young people has increased the demand for schools to develop competent citizens, capable of flexible thinking and independent learning. To meet these demands schools must have an ongoing commitment to an appropriate and relevant curriculum, with quality teaching and learning informed by good practice in assessment and reporting. Students must be given continual support as they strive to reach their highest possible standards of achievement.
Integral to this process will be the way schools perceive assessment and reporting.
The norm-referenced assessment practices used in schools will need to be reconsidered and integrated with an outcomes-approach to assessment.
Parents and industry have recognised that schools need to do more than merely rank students from the highest to the lowest achievers. Schools are being asked to assess and report on what students actually understand, know and can do.
An outcomes-approach that clearly defines expected learning provides a much stronger focus for higher quality curriculum, assessment and reporting processes than we have ever had before.
Norm - Referenced Assessment and Reporting
Assessing and reporting a student's achievement and progress in comparison to other students.
Criterion - Referenced Assessment and Reporting
Assessing and reporting a student's achievement and progress in comparison to predetermined criteria.
An outcomes-approach to assessment will provide information about student achievement to enable reporting against a standards framework.
Acknowledges that students, regardless of their class or grade, can be working towards syllabus outcomes anywhere along the learning continuum.
Principles of effective and informative assessment and reporting
Effective and informative assessment and reporting practice:
- Has clear, direct links with outcomes
The assessment strategies employed by the teacher in the classroom need to be directly linked to and reflect the syllabus outcomes. Syllabus outcomes in stages will describe the standard against which student achievement is assessed and reported.
- Is integral to teaching and learning
Effective and informative assessment practice involves selecting strategies that are naturally derived from well structured teaching and learning activities. These strategies should provide information concerning student progress and achievement that helps inform ongoing teaching and learning as well as the diagnosis of areas of strength and need.
- Is balanced, comprehensive and varied
Effective and informative assessment practice involves teachers using a variety of assessment strategies that give students multiple opportunities, in varying contexts, to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do in relation to the syllabus outcomes.
Effective and informative reporting of student achievement takes a number of forms including traditional reporting, student profiles, Basic Skills Tests, parent and student interviews, annotations on student work, comments in workBooks, portfolios, certificates and awards.
- Is valid
Assessment strategies should accurately and appropriately assess clearly defined aspects of student achievement. If a strategy does not accurately assess what it is designed to assess, then its use is misleading.
Valid assessment strategies are those that reflect the actual intention of teaching and learning activities, based on syllabus outcomes.
Where values and attitudes are expressed in syllabus outcomes, these too should be assessed as part of student learning.
- Is fair
Effective and informative assessment strategies are designed to ensure equal opportunity for success regardless of students' age, gender, physical or other disability, culture, background language, socio-economic status or geographic location.
- Engages the learner
Effective and informative assessment practice is student centred. Ideally there is a cooperative interaction between teacher and students, and among the students themselves.
The syllabus outcomes and the assessment processes to be used should be made explicit to students. Students should participate in the negotiation of learning tasks and actively monitor and reflect upon their achievements and progress.
- Values teacher judgement
Good assessment practice involves teachers making judgements, on the weight of assessment evidence, about student progress towards the achievement of outcomes.
Teachers can be confident a student has achieved an outcome when the student has successfully demonstrated that outcome a number of times, and in varying contexts.
The reliability of teacher judgement is enhanced when teachers cooperatively develop a shared understanding of what constitutes achievement of an outcome. This is developed through cooperative programming and discussing samples of student work and achievements within and between schools. Teacher judgement based on well defined standards is a valuable and rich form of student assessment.
- Is time efficient and manageable
Effective and informative assessment practice is time efficient and supports teaching and learning by providing constructive feedback to the teacher and student that will guide further learning.
Teachers need to plan carefully the timing, frequency and nature of their assessment strategies. Good planning ensures that assessment and reporting is manageable and maximises the usefulness of the strategies selected (for example, by addressing several outcomes in one assessment task).
- Recognises individual achievement and progress
Effective and informative assessment practice acknowledges that students are individuals who develop differently. All students must be given appropriate opportunities to demonstrate achievement.
Effective and informative assessment and reporting practice is sensitive to the self esteem and general well-being of students, providing honest and constructive feedback.
Values and attitudes outcomes are an important part of learning that should be assessed and reported. They are distinct from knowledge, understanding and skill outcomes.
- Involves a whole school approach
An effective and informative assessment and reporting policy is developed through a planned and coordinated whole school approach.
Decisions about assessment and reporting cannot be taken independently of issues relating to curriculum, class groupings, timetabling, programming and resource allocation.
- Actively involves parents
Schools and their communities are responsible for jointly developing assessment and reporting practices and policies according to their local needs and expectations within the Principles outlined in this document.
Schools should ensure full and informed participation by parents in the continuing development and review of the school policy on reporting processes.
- Conveys meaningful and useful information
Reporting of student achievement serves a number of purposes, for a variety of audiences. Students, parents, teachers, other schools and employers are potential audiences. Schools can use student achievement information at a number of levels including individual, class, grade or school. This information helps identify students for targeted intervention and can inform school improvement programs. The form of the report must clearly serve its intended purpose and audience.
Effective and informative reporting acknowledges that students can be demonstrating progress and achievement of syllabus outcomes across stages, not just within stages.
Good reporting practice takes into account the expectations of the school community and system requirements, particularly the need for information about standards that will enable parents to know how their children are progressing.
Student achievement and progress can be reported by comparing students' work against a standards framework of syllabus outcomes, comparing their prior and current learning achievements, or comparing their achievements to those of other students. Reporting can involve a combination of these methods. It is important for schools and parents to explore which methods of reporting will provide the most meaningful and useful information.
Examples of good classroom assessment strategies
Some assessment strategies are more suitable for assessing particular syllabus outcomes than others.
Teachers need to select strategies appropriate to the outcomes they are teaching.
A Portfolio is more than an eclectic mix of student work samples. It can be a deliberate, strategic and specific collection of student work, or evidence of student work (for example, an observation sheet), that demonstrates that learning has occurred. A portfolio must have a clear intent and purpose that is linked to the syllabus outcomes.
Depending on the purpose, portfolios can be short term (for example, covering a unit of work or topic) or long term (for example, covering a stage of schooling) with either students or teachers assuming responsibility for its management.
Three way assessment and reporting provides a forum where students, teachers and parents can acknowledge student progress and achievement. Three way assessment and reporting involves students taking work home that has been assessed by the teacher and themselves. Parents then respond with a comment regarding the student's achievement and progress. Clear links between the piece of work, the assessment criteria and the syllabus outcomes must be established.
Three way assessment and reporting can also involve student led conferences. In this strategy students lead a parent, teacher and student conference by explaining their learning achievements using a portfolio of their work.
Three way assessment and reporting involves parents and students in the learning process and facilitates parental understanding of an outcomes-approach to teaching, learning, assessment and reporting.
The next support material will elaborate on the examples of good classroom assessment strategies that are briefly discussed here. Each strategy will be clearly described and demonstrated through examples that are currently being used successfully in NSW government schools.
Performances include everyday teaching and learning activities such as projects, debates, assignments, speeches, experiments and athletic sequences. When performing, students are applying their skills in a way that is integral to the teaching and learning process.
Assessment of performance is achieved through a well considered list of specific performance criteria that enables an informed judgement to be made. The performance criteria should specifically relate to the relevant syllabus outcome. Peer and self assessment are valuable strategies that can be employed in conjunction with performance assessment.
Observation sheets can be used by teachers and students to record the achievement of specific skills, behaviours and evidence of achievement and progress over a learning period. The specific skills, behaviours and achievements being monitored must be linked to the syllabus outcomes and be readily observable. The most common observation sheets are individual student checklists and whole class grids.
Individual checklists and self-checklists facilitate Peer and Self Assessment strategies which contribute significantly to the learning process.
Journals ask students to reflect on their learning and to clarify meaning following a teaching episode. Journals are most effective when students are engaged in the learning process and have a clear understanding of the intended learning outcomes and how they will be assessed.
Teacher made tests are an integral part of the teaching and learning process when they are clearly linked to the syllabus outcomes and flow from the lesson as a normal classroom activity. Tests may also be used at the end of a learning cycle or at defined periods of time to measure progress.
Teacher made tests allow students to monitor their own progress and provide valuable information for teachers in planning further teaching and learning activities.
Class tests should not dominate assessment practice. They are just one of a number of strategies employed by teachers to gauge student achievement.
To assist teachers in making judgements about student achievement and progress, annotated work samples will be incorporated into future support documents from the Board of Studies.