Assessment for Education: Standards, Judgement and Moderation

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Valentina Klenowski & Claire Wyatt-Smith

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    About the Authors

    Valentina Klenowski is Professor of Education at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. She has research interests in curriculum and assessment reform and development, assessment and learning, evaluation and social justice. Recent research interests include fairness in classroom assessment, culture-responsive assessment and pedagogy, teacher judgement and social moderation in the context of standards-driven reform. Valentina has published in the fields of assessment and learning, curriculum and evaluation, and has held positions at the Institute of Education, University of London and the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

    Claire Wyatt-Smith is Executive Dean and Professor of Educational Assessment and Literacy Education, Australian Catholic University, Faculty of Education. She first became interested in assessment and literacy as a high school teacher and Head of Department, English. Building on this foundation she developed her considerable expertise in researching professional judgement and teachers' assessment literacies, including the use of standards and social moderation. Claire's work in the field of professional judgement relates to teaching at all levels, including higher education and clinical practice. Current, large-scale funded projects include studies investigating digital assessment, gaming and the nature and effects of standardized testing upon learners and reluctant readers. Claire has an extensive history of working closely with the teaching profession and in advisory roles in curriculum and assessment policy, both within Australia and internationally.

    Foreword

    This is a remarkable book, not only because it presents a new and yet achievable vision for state assessment systems, but also because it presents, in its account of how this vision has been realized, the evidence of others who have found the system both practicable and rewarding. However, running through this account is a deeper lesson – that only teachers themselves can insightfully discern and so engage with the new problems and opportunities that society now presents to the work of teachers and schools.

    In 1999, in an article entitled ‘The knowledge creating school’, David Hargreaves argued that schools now had to prepare students not just for increasingly higher levels of knowledge and skills, but also ‘in the personal qualities that matter in the transformed work place – how to be autonomous, self-organising, networking, entrepreneurial, innovative’. To these he also added the capability to re-define the needs for skills and to find the resources to learn them. Whilst this is by now more widely recognized, Hargreaves took his argument further in the following way:

    It is plain that if teachers do not acquire and display this capacity to re-define their skills for the task of teaching, and if they do not model in their own conduct the very qualities – flexibility, networking, creativity – that are now key outcomes for students, then the challenge of schooling in the next millennium will not be met. (1999: 123)

    One obstacle to the development of this process is that there are some who believe that they know and understand the new professional knowledge that is needed and, through their influence, seek to implement their recipes through state systems. The consequence is sadly familiar:

    An effect of recent educational reforms has been to discourage teachers from engaging in the process of professional knowledge creation by which, in rapidly changing social conditions in schools and society, the profession generates new knowledge to become more effective. (1999: 123)

    Nowhere is this baleful influence more evident than in assessment. It is baleful because it discourages teachers from engaging in the generation of the new professional knowledge that is sorely needed in this key area.

    Assessment is a key feature in this scenario because its role within a larger picture of pedagogy has always been distorted. In theoretical writing it has not been seen as central. In professional practice, it has come to be regarded as the negative dimension of learning, a view strongly enhanced by authorities who see in it no more than a tool to impose accountability and ‘drive-up’ standards. The toxic product of this process is the teacher who feels obliged to ‘teach-to-the-test’, where the test is often a collection of short written questions, structured so that they are easy to mark. Moreover, externally imposed accountability tests serve as a model for the year-on-year assessments which schools themselves compose and which are used to review the progress of their pupils. They thereby undermine the quality of that advice and of decisions which follow. This is a depressing picture, the more so because it is a fairly accurate account of the interaction between assessment and teaching in many state systems.

    This book presents a very different picture. The authors bring together a strong positive vision of the central role of assessment in teaching and learning, and also an emphasis on the need to respect and support the professional autonomy and insights of teachers so that this vision can be realized.

    What makes this book a uniquely valuable contribution to the field of assessment studies is that it combines a clearly articulated vision of how assessment could and should operate at the heart of pedagogy, with a wealth of practical experience of the operation, over many years, of a state system where this vision has been realized. The authors are fortunate in being able to work in the Australian state of Queensland, but have taken advantage of this opportunity to present concrete and detailed evidence, whilst drawing both on this experience and on the experience of initiatives in several other countries.

    Several features of their account are crucial. One is that the summative assessments by teachers will only be trusted if they can be shown to be dependable on standards which are so shared between teachers that their interpretations are comparable across all of the teachers involved. This need can be met by moderation, the process in which teachers compare their grading of the same samples of students' work and, in the process of reaching agreement, develop a shared understanding of those standards. This may be seen as a burden of extra work, but the experience of teachers who have engaged in this process is that, as familiarity develops, it makes an increasingly positive contribution to many features of their work. It gives them confidence in their assessments, and it enables them, by drawing on their shared experiences and insights, to seek for validity in the assessment tools which they used.

    This enhancement of validity is one of the main benefits that follows from giving teachers responsibility for summative assessments. The evidence that can be brought to moderation can reflect a variety of types of achievement: formal tests, projects requiring search for evidence and information (in libraries and on the internet), exploratory inquiries in science, creative writing in various genres, and so on. Each subject may define its own portfolio of tasks to reflect its particular learning aims. In producing such a portfolio, a student will be involved at several times and in several different contexts. All of these features strengthen the validity of the outcomes. At the same time, each student's portfolio becomes their personal product and the teacher can guide students to take personal responsibility for their portfolios by helping them to understand the aims and criteria of quality that are relevant to each component.

    None of this is achieved easily or quickly. The successful examples all show that investment in supporting teachers to develop the skills, the practices and the confidence to make such an approach workable, has to be substantial and has to be sustained over several years. This book is a guide for those engaged in this process, for it contains a wealth of detail, grounded in experience, to help others foresee the needs and the pitfalls. But it is also rich in evidence of the rewards.

    Many policy makers in education take the system, of high stakes accountability through external testing, for granted: yet outside education there is no arena of human activity in which personal achievement is appraised by the capacity to produce in writing – on one's own, from memory and without access to resources – accounts of the products of several years of learning, within a situation made stressful because one's future opportunities depend on the outcome. One reason for this paradox is the failure to accept the alternative – which is to trust, and to invest in, the professional development of teachers. This is obviously a far better alternative, and this book helps to show both how such investment can be made to work and the fundamental rewards that it can secure.

    Reference
    Hargreaves, D. (1999) ‘The knowledge-creating school’, British Journal of Educational Studies, 47, (2): 12244.
    Paul BlackEmeritus Professor of Science Education, Department of Education and Professional Studies, King's College London

    Acknowledgements

    Throughout the book we have referred to assessment as a social process involving judgement and participation in communities of practice. In the writing of this book we have been fortunate in our participation with a community of scholars, researchers, teachers and policy officers, all of whom have an interest in assessment for the improvement of student learning. Our understanding of assessment has benefited from conversations, challenges and feedback we have received from participating in this assessment community.

    There are many colleagues, friends and family who have also supported and encouraged us throughout the writing process. It is not possible to name them all, but we do wish to acknowledge a few in particular. First, individually, we would like to thank our respective family members. Valentina's brother, George Klenowski, has offered kind support and read willingly draft chapters with careful attention to detail in his commentary. To David Smith, Matthew Smith and Rachelle Wyatt-Smith, Claire thanks them for their continuing support for her endeavours.

    There are many colleagues we would like to acknowledge for their helpful contributions and support. Specifically, we wish to thank Professor Paul Black for agreeing to write the Foreword and for sharing his wisdom with us. Special thanks to Dr Kay Kimber for her work in pushing the boundaries of digital literacies and multi-modal assessment, with her research having direct application to classroom practice. As a longstanding, valued colleague at Brisbane Girls Grammar School and fellow researcher at Griffith University, the conversations we have enjoyed over many years have been foundational to the thinking in Chapter 8. Colleagues from the Department of Education and Training, the Catholic and Independent Education sectors, and the Queensland Studies Authority are also thanked sincerely for their educational ideals and professional values. Our thanks are also given to all of the teachers and students who allow us to study their assessment practices. The partnerships we enjoy with you and your professional values have made this book possible. We extend our thanks to Belinda Hampton for allowing us to reference her materials and those of her students in Chapter 7.

    Special thanks to our long-term colleague, Dr Peta Colbert, who has assisted us with the book's creation and has facilitated our communications with our editorial consultant, Dr Renée Otmar. Renée's keen editorial eye has been invaluable and she has most assuredly enabled the smooth progression in preparing the manuscript for submission.

    For permission to reproduce copyrighted materials, we wish to thank the following:

    • Queensland Studies Authority – Figures 2.1 and 2.2
    • Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority – Figure 2.3
    • Australasian Curriculum, Assessment and Certification Authorities – Principles of Assessment F1–12 in Chapter 7
    • Dr Kay Kimber – Table 8.1 on p. 148 and quotes on p. 139
    • Department of Education, Training and Employment – materials included in Chapters 2 and 4
    • Belinda Hampton – classroom materials in Chapter 7
    • Figure 2.3 in this publication is subject to copyright under the Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth) and is owned by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). ACARA neither endorses nor verifies the accuracy of the information provided and accepts no responsibility for incomplete or inaccurate information. In particular, ACARA does not endorse or verify the work of the author. This material is reproduced with the permission of ACARA.

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