Queensland’s new senior curriculum, standards and assessment processes will commence in 2018. Internationally there are calls to enhance teacher assessment literacy to position systems to enhance the outcomes of such changes. This research focuses on a case study of the subject with greatest enrolment, senior English. It will investigate how teachers and their students negotiate and resolve issues of validity, reliability and equity as they make curriculum, assessment and pedagogic decisions. It will develop resources and an open-access, online professional development module to provide critically reflective assessment literacy at scale, as well as a model for policy and future research.
Assessment is not always a topic that engages students in learning. Yet assessment is really an invitation to students – “show me what you have learned”. Well-designed invitations to engage in authentic assessment can inspire students to demonstrate and celebrate learning progress, and make plans for new learning.
Educators around the world look up to Queensland teachers as they are trusted to create authentic summative assessment. Since 1972 senior school teachers have developed their skills as assessors, and maintained the quality of assessment through a system of peer review or social moderation. This system is currently undergoing substantial and rapid change.
New senior curriculum, standards and assessment processes, including high stakes external assessment, commence in 2019 in Queensland. We know from the experiences of many other countries that increasing the quantity of external assessment usually leads to a narrowed curriculum and diminished development of students’ agency, creative and critical thinking. There is a real risk that the rich assessment knowledge that teachers create through social moderation will quickly disappear.
The challenge for Queensland teachers, and for us as researchers, is to find ways within the developing new system to develop and extend the role of teachers as innovative assessment professionals. We also want to know from our students, especially those who find assessment challenging, how they think we can improve assessment design. There is an opportunity to create new ways of approaching assessment, so that all students can find success.
Teachers and students in two case study schools with track records for quality English teaching are being early adopters. They will try and be as innovative as they can within the guidelines of the new Senior English syllabus. Their challenge is to find new ways for students to develop their critical and creative agency.
The teachers will get feedback from the research team, and from students about their curriculum design, assessment task and pedagogy. Along the way they will be asked to reflect on what has been successful, what has been challenging and how they resolved any issues of validity, reliability and equity in assessment. Also the teachers and researchers will share what they have learned so other teachers can build on that learning.
It is still early days, but from this in-depth collaborative research we hope to communicate our findings through (a) resources and an open-access, online professional development module to support teachers as they develop their new assessment practices, and (b) recommendations and a model for policy and future research.
The experiences of these early adopters will inform the developing policy, making the transition to the new ways of doing assessment in Queensland smoother for students and teachers. It is hoped that the resources and processes might also inform teachers in other subject areas, and lead to a larger scale study. If we can find ways for teachers to advocate for the intellectual quality of their work, we hope that we can build on Queensland’s proud history of teacher assessment literacy.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Department of Education and Training or the Queensland Government.
Funding / Grants
- Education Horizon Grant, Department of Education