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Student first assessment at St Hilda's Collegiate

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Judy Maw, assistant principal and network learning facilitator, discusses student first assessment in an English context.


When you’re looking at assessment, it’s really important that you realise why we are actually assessing. And what we want to assess is not necessarily always that content, it is also about the learning. And so therefore the learning will be slightly different for each student. This is much easier in the junior school or has been much easier in the junior school because you’re allowed to construct a certain number of assessments yourself. However with the aligned standards, we have a range of standards not every student has to do every standard. And I think that’s something that we have struggled with a little bit. We’ve had a bit of a feeling that the number of credits is the be all and end all.

The other thing that is important is that the aligned standards also are much more open to adjustment and to modification and so therefore I think putting a student first is that, for example when doing a speech assessment there is absolutely no reason why every student should have to do the same type of speech. That does make it easier for us in the classroom but in actual fact, that’s not what we’re assessing, that’s the task. And so I think assessment needs to be driven more on allowing students choice and allowing teachers flexibility to assess when they think that student is ready to be assessed. But what I think assessment will look like under the aligned standards is going to be much more like a choice board. So my teaching and learning might revolve around my extended text but I’m not going to teach extended text and then the essay that follows, followed by a speech. What I think that it will turn into is that over the first term we might look at a number of different things that are based around a particular idea or theme and then throughout that term there will be on offer a variety of different ways to assess how well that teaching and learning has gone and the students could possibly make the choice. Whether that’s going to be practical, again, aspirational possibly more than practical but I think it’s got potential that within the classroom, not only can the teacher choose when and how to assess, the student should be able to have some input into that as well.

I think the challenges of that are going to be very obvious in the fact that it’s a slightly more chaotic model - it’s neat and tidy to put your class through the same assessment at the same time at the end of a unit of work and it keeps it nice and tidy. However, it doesn’t give a lot of connection between the learning and it doesn’t give any ownership of the learning. So I think the challenge will be balancing who is the assessment for, with manageability. If you’re assessing in the way that meets the needs of student and meets the timing of when that student is ready for assessment you must get better results.

I think it’s very tempting because often senior leaders require you to put an assessment timetable in and that tends to restrict things. I think possibly the advice would be to hold your ground and say this is our first timetable, it may change, we may modify this, there are two options here, there’s three options here and that’s how we want it to stay. It may be one of the battles that has to be fought.

Published on: 15 Jul 2011