The purposes of assessment
Within the educational system everyone has a stake in the outcomes of schooling: students, parents, business and industry, government and society. Each group for different reasons feels the need to be aware of the progress that is being made in students’ learning. Assessment is the means by which this learning can be monitored and improved (Brady & Kennedy: 2009). Therefore each group has its own views on the purpose of assessment, so as to answer their questions and fulfil their needs. Eisner (2001) has put forward, what he believes to be the five major purposes of assessment. The first being, to describe the ‘Educational Health’ of the country. This purpose can be seen as the governments’ main aim in assessments. As the expenditure of education represents a significant proportion of the government’s budget, they wish to monitor this closely (Brady & Kennedy: 2009). This requires testing, and examining the students nationally, collating the national information and determining how well Australian students are performing compared with the rest of the world. Thus providing grounds for further decisions on expenditure of education depending on results. The second purpose is to direct students along certain pathways (i.e. preparing them for specific jobs). This purpose can be implied, as business and industry supported. The owners of business and industry are interested in what graduating students can contribute directly to their economic activities. “They are concerned with knowledge and skills that can be applied immediately to specific work requirements” (Brady & Kennedy: 2009, pg 5). This requires assessments to identify students with strengths in certain skills, as well as providing opportunities to be ranked or streamed. This leads to identification of students’ potential for further education and recommendations to the appropriate facilities (i.e. Tafe, tech schools, university or specialist colleges). The third purpose of assessment is to provide feedback to teachers, parents, students and the community about the student’s work and progress. Parents and the greater community want to know how their children and the youth of our society are performing at school. “Celebrating student achievement is a key to further success of students at school. By providing feedback and celebrating student achievement, we encourage, and build the self esteem of our students, supporting and empowering them to achieve further” (personal communication, E. Heyman practising high school teacher, March 7, 2009). The fourth purpose is to determine whether a KLA/topic outcome has been achieved. In an educational sense this is the main purpose of assessment, as the ultimate goal of education is to encourage and facilitate learning. To do this we must know where students are at, in order to take them further (Masters & Forster: 2000). The last major purpose is to indicate how effective a unit/ program has been. This purpose is teacher orientated, it looks at teacher evaluation and whether the unit/ program was satisfactory or whether it needs modifying to better suit students’ needs. A teacher should always be constantly assessing and adapting teaching strategies and content, to information obtained through; students’ results, observations of students and feedback from unit lessons (Brady & Scully: 2005).

The principles of assessment
1. Assessments should facilitate learning, looking at both the process and the product of the assignment. Assessment should encourage the desire to learn within students. An assessment should be used as a teaching tool in itself to teach children how to learn. We are only now just beginning to realise how assessments themselves, can help students to learn and that it is important to acknowledge both the process and the product of work (Broadfoot: 1991). 2. Assessments should refer to criteria that are explicit. Communication of assessment criteria is a vital component to the students’ understanding and to the successful completion of the assessment according to the teachers’ set standards. Therefore regular and explicit clarification of the assessment criteria is required for each assessment (Fair Test: 2007). 3. Assessments should provide more than one opportunity for students to meet requirements and should be predominantly informal. The primary purpose of assessments is to support, improvement in learning. Therefore there should be numerous opportunities for students to display their knowledge, as various factors can influence student performance when being assessed (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu: 2007). Assessments should also be predominately informal so that student learning is natural (pressure free) and used to inform teachers, in order to prepare further lessons. (Brady & Scully: 2005). 4. Assessments should enable self and collaborative assessment. Self and collaborative assessment is an important tool in enhanced teaching and improved learning, as it gives students opportunities to produce work that leads to deeper development of their knowledge, skills and understanding (Board of Studies NSW: 2006). 5. Assessments should provide opportunities to work together and negotiate required tasks. Student input and teamwork are vital components of the classroom. Student input provides new points of ideas and creates a sense of ownership of the students’ education, creating higher morale and greater enthusiasm towards the assessment. Peer collaboration (teamwork) creates internal scaffolding within the students’ learning context allowing students to learn from one another. The importance of providing opportunities for students to work together and negotiate required tasks is highlighted by the incorporation of this principle in the Tasmanian Department of Educations’ ‘Assessment Principles’ (2008). 6. Assessments should be sensitive to gender, culture, linguistic, physical disability, socioeconomic status and geographical locations by using a range of assessment strategies addressing different learning methods. It is against the law to discriminate against people on the basis of various factors including gender, race and religion. Therefore assessments need to be sensitive to all these disadvantaged groups. This can be achieved through a range of assessment strategies which address the different learning methods of humans. Since the primary purpose of assessment is to improve student performance and an excellent assessment is based on an understanding of how students learn, assessment requires the use of a variety of strategies (NSW Department of Education & Training: 2008). 7. Assessments should be formative, continuous and diagnostic. Assessment works best when it is ongoing rather than episodic. All assessment methods should allow students to receive feedback on their learning and performance so assessment serves as a developmental activity aimed at improving student learning. Assessment should also provide students and staff with opportunities to reflect on both their practice and their learning overall (Victorian Curriculum & Assessment Authority: 2007).

The practice of assessment
“Assessments should facilitate learning, looking at both the process and the product of the assignment.” HSIE • • • CCS3.1 Explains the significance of particular people, groups, places, actions and events in the past in developing Australian identities and heritage. CCS2.1 Describes events and actions related to the British colonisation of Australia and assesses changes and consequences. CUS1.4 Describes the cultural, linguistic and religious practises of their family, their community and other communities.

For a Stage 3 class learning about ‘Change and Continuity’, the topic of study could be ‘The Gold Rush’ looking at the various events and migrants that came to Australia and shaped the nation. Within this topic assessment strategies such as ‘checklists’ and ‘rating scales’ can be effectively used in conjunction, with an assignment activity such as role play to facilitate learning, as well as looking at both the process and the product of the assignment. Here the students are required to produce a product both verbally and kinaesthetically. Through the use of ‘checklists’ and ‘rating scales’ the teacher can assess the role play production, to determine the students’ understanding of the topic. To produce an effective assignment, the students would be required to research and learn large amounts of information on the gold rush topic to understand, and create their final product. Therefore the ‘checklists’ and ‘rating scales’ would facilitate learning, and would assess the assignment from the beginning of production, looking at both the process and the final product of the assignment. In terms of a Stage 2 class looking at ‘Change and Continuity’, the topic of study would be ‘The First Fleet, and the colonisation of Australia’. In this topic the use of the assessment strategy ‘projects’ would be an obvious choice for an assignment. Similar to the use of checklists and rating scales in combination with role play in Stage 3, the use of a ‘research project’ would facilitate learning as well as looking at both the process and product of the assignment as it requires the same ‘backstage’ work as a role play except that the ‘research project’ would be produced in a written format. Lastly a Stage 1 class within the HSIE KLA could be learning about ‘Cultures’, and more specifically within this strand, they could be looking at the ‘cultural, linguistic and religious’ differences between themselves and the rest of their classmates. Using the assessment strategy of ‘concept maps’ in addition to the teaching method of ‘collaborative discussion’, students and the teacher can discuss research and share information with each other about their culture. Students can then collate and display their knowledge in a simple and neatly structured pro forma concept map. If the teacher deems the concept map to be too complex for their class, the use of a simple table can be substituted. Through the use of this assessment strategy, learning is facilitated and the appreciation of the process of learning as well as the product is taken into account.

“Assessments should refer to criteria that are explicit.” HSIE • • • SSS3.7 Describes how Australian people, systems and communities are globally interconnected and recognises global responsibilities. SSS2.7 Describes how and why people and technologies interact to meet needs and explains the effects of these interactions on people and the environment. SSS1.8 Indentifies roles and responsibilities within families, schools and the local community, and determines ways in which they should interact with others.

Within a Stage 3 class studying the strand ‘Social Systems and Structures’ the topic of the lesson may be ‘universal human needs and the efforts of organisations to meet these needs’. An assessment strategy that could be used in relation to this topic is ‘short answer questions’. In terms of assessments referring to criteria that are explicit, this can be achieved within ‘short answer questions’ by bolding the relevant verb within the question e.g. Describe or Evaluate. Additionally specifying how many lines or words you expect can be provided in brackets at the end of the question e.g. (3-4 lines) or (100 words). Furthermore the identification of the worth on the question in terms of its marks, within a formal assessment (such as a unit test) can be used to inform students of the quality of work expected for each question e.g. (2 marks) usually refers to a sentence or two points where as (4 marks) refers to a paragraph or four points. Likewise when teaching a Stage 2 class about how changes in technology have affected lifestyles and the environment, ‘short answer questions’ can be used again, and the same principles of providing explicit criteria are applied. The only difference between teaching the two stages and the topics, is that the content and the quality of working expected from each stage is usually different. Furthermore in relation to Stage 1 and providing assessments with explicit criteria, this is especially necessary. For example when teaching Stage 1 the topic of ‘roles, rights and responsibilities’, the use of the assessment strategy ‘interviews’ is highly recommended as students at this age usually find it easier to verbally express themselves compared to writing a short answer response. Additionally through the use of ‘interviews’, this allows teachers to set explicit criteria and communicate this to every student when they are interviewed. This results in the desired outcome, with the teacher receiving more depth and knowledge (through further probing questions if need be), than normal if the teacher had just asked the students to write a response to set questions.

AUSTRALIAN CURRICLUM STUDIES ASSOCIATION (1994). Principles of Student Assessment: An ACSA Policy Statement. Curriculum Perspectives, 14(2), 38-9. BOARD OF STUDIES NSW (2006). General Principles for Planning, Programming, Assessing, Reporting and Evaluating. Accessed on 11 March 2009 from <>. Brady, L. & Kennedy, K. (2009). Celebrating student achievement: assessment and reporting (3rd Ed.). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia. Brady, L. & Scully, A. (2005). Engagement inclusive classroom management. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Education Australia. Broadfoot, P. (1991). Assessment: A celebration of learning. Canberra: ACSA. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (2008). Learning, Teaching and Assessment principles. Accessed on 11 March 2009 from <>. Eisner, E. (2001). The educational imagination: on the design and evaluation of school programs (3rd Ed.). Prentice Hall: Macmillan. FAIR TEST (2007). Principles and Indicators for Student Assessment Systems. Accessed on 11 March 2009 from <>. Groundwater-Smith, S., Ewing, R. & Le Cornu, R. (2007). Challenges and dilemmas (3rd Ed.). Sydney: Thomson. Masters, G. & Forster, M. (2000). The assessments we need. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational research. NSW DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING (2007). Principles for Assessment and Reporting in NSW Government Schools. Accessed on 11 March 2009 from <>. VICTORIAN CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT AUTHORITY (2007). Assessment Principles. Accessed on 11 March 2009 from <>.

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