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Gathering evidence of achievement
Standards-based assessment is about recognising learner achievement. For internally assessed standards the teacher or assessor decides how evidence can best be collected and judged against the standard. Assessors use innovative, valid and fair ways of recognising achievement without overburdening themselves or the learner with too much assessment.
"Evidence" of achievement is the learner's work which demonstrates achievement of the assessment criteria. It needs to be recorded in ways that can be verified by another subject specialist or a moderator. Forms of evidence include written assignments, portfolios, tests, videos of performances, detailed checklists of observed performance, photographs, transcripts of oral explanations, audio-visual recordings. If no video of a performance is practicable or the evidence has come from conferencing with learners, assessors need to provide a checklist or an annotated file note with a standard-specific description of the evidence viewed to justify the judgements made. This annotated file note could be added to the mark sheet/results notice which is returned to the learner. A copy must be retained by the assessor for moderation purposes and for future reference.
In group performances, the learners must be identified and assessed individually.
Building close links between the learning process and assessment allows teachers or assessors to engage in assessment for better learning. Sometimes this is called formative assessment. It has been traditional to draw 'final' conclusions about achievement from what has been called summative assessment. This approach may overlook some existing evidence of achievement or not show learners how to close the gap in their learning because it provides no explanation of where they went wrong and how to improve. The organisation's assessment policy should assist assessors with strategies for gathering evidence and to report results for a learner's best performance where standard-specific, authentic, verifiable documented evidence exists.
Assessment expert, Anne Davies, says her research in schools has shown the importance of teachers employing "a process to create and articulate their assessment criteria and to clarify curriculum expectations through the development of (their own) exemplars" in collaboration with their students. It is important that students understand what she calls their 'learning destination' because it is they who have to show evidence of having reached it. "The teacher has to be able to look at the evidence of learning a student provides and say 'this is adequate proof, you have accounted for your learning, and I know this because you have shown me the evidence and I have observed you engaged in this type of work and I have talked with you and you have been able to articulate your understanding over the course of this unit'." (NCEA Update 21, July 2004, NZQA.)
If we think more broadly about assessment it is clear that assessors are free to use any valid evidence of achievement they have recorded. Assessment for qualifications does not have to be by a separate event. In fact a 'one off' assessment is likely to be less reliable than a range of assessments.
Assessment over time
Many teachers or assessors of performance-based subjects are familiar with building a picture of learner achievement over a period of time. They do this by accumulating (or asking learners to accumulate) evidence of achievement in a portfolio of work. The evidence may come from a range of activities (observation checklists, practice activities, home and classwork, workplace activity) completed by learners during the course of the training or teaching and learning process in the lead up to a final reporting date. Where evidence is accumulated over time, assessors will provide feedback at regular intervals during the preparation of a final version for assessment, thus building their knowledge of learner competence.
In some cases learner performances in formal assessments fall short of their previous work. Assessors are encouraged to supplement evidence of achievement from formal assessment activities with standard-specific evidence drawn from authenticated classwork, assignments or practical activity. Learner entries in their workbooks or elsewhere, verified by the assessor, can provide valid evidence.
Learning is not increased by repeated summative assessment, but by extensive feed forward and feedback. Learners should not be assessed for a standard until the assessor is confident that achievement of the standard is within their reach, or until the final deadline for assessment, if there is one.
The need for further assessment can be minimised when assessors:
- ensure learners understand the standard and the test, brief or assignment (evidence requirements, the range statement and, where applicable, link with the curriculum)
- discuss exemplars of successful work in different contexts with learners
- give learners adequate practice opportunities
- assess learners when they are ready.
A further assessment opportunity occurs when a new, quality-assured assessment is provided after the first opportunity and after further learning has taken place.
Schools may offer a maximum of one further opportunity for assessment of a standard within a year.