Log in

The future of assessment?

It's interesting that you don’t see a great deal of research or discussion into how the model of assessment will change now with technology becoming such powerful influence in both our social and working lives. As life is getting more complicated it seems the single subject approach is becoming less relevant. There are some excellent tools helping with assessment such as Eportfolios but my thinking is slightly more radical, school structures. As much as we hate to admit it, the senior school is based 100% around assessment of content/skills based on content, devided into seperate subject areas.

I recommend watching the following video:


Some of NCEA's new alignment tasks are opening up to more "skills based" assessment model that leads perfectly to a more critical thinking approach in terms of learning.  Even with this, some teachers at least in core subjects are stuck having the need to "memorise and understand" a key set of information.  Is the information or the skill sets to filter the ever increasing information bank (the www) more important? Maybe we need to focus on both?

It is also great to see some secondary schools creating more project based courses that no longer are categorized into subjects, the blended model of subject areas into a single course is an exciting aspect of the NCEA system and going towards what primary schools have been doing for years without the overarching eyes of assessment.

I see cross curricular project based courses as being the future for at least part of a student’s schooling, especially for the lower ability secondary school students. I still think there will be a need the traditional style of classroom

Is anyone out there successfully trying this model and if so how did you organise it in terms of timetables and teachers? Should we be modelling the tertiary environment or our actual lives?


  • Diane Mills

    Mike, you raise some relevant issues here and very timely.  To my mind assessment in its current form is driving what happens in secondary schools and making the single subject areas more important, making students more dependent on teachers, and I would add stifling creativity and natural curiosity.  How often do we hear students ask: 'will this be assessed and how many credits?'  Followed of course by 'tell me what I have to do to pass'.  So it is good to see a shift to more of a critical thinking/inquiry based approach.  Project based learning opens the way to integrating across subjects and the need for curricula to be written from a whole school approach rather than subject based as many schools are still doing.  I am sure you are aware of Sam Cunnane's project at Fraser High School and what they are trialing.

  • Mike Wilson

    Yes, I look forward to see how the trial at Frasers turn out (I am sure it will be successful). Assessment will never be removed (society always needs comparisons) and the secondary system will always have its place in traditional academic subjects as a feeder to tertiary. I have hinted in other places that often in the classroom the "21st century teacher" as academics often write about probably won’t produce a "typical" high testing student but one with more creativity and the ability to gather and make use of new information. Do you know of any research that has looked at the effect of inquiry models on achievement? 

  • Fastpaddy

    Thanks for sharing this Mike. Couldn't agree more with the idea that our secondary schooling structures need to change, with assessment being one of the major ones. I have recently had this very discussion around the fact that the focus on credits and league tables is stifling teachers' will to try something new for fear of being blamed for their students lack of credits. Principals are being pressured by parents, BOTS and the MoE for "results", while on the other side teachers are being asked to be innovative, take "risks", develop critical thinking and learning to learn. This is all fine for years up to year 10, but after that it's all about credits. At the end of the day, our secondary schools are judged on their NCEA results, not on whether or not they produce well balanced, productive and contributing members of society who are life long learners. I do not see the MoE coming out to contradict the practice of league tables or educating parents/whanau about the profile of a successful school leaver. Perhaps this is something schools need to do themselves.

  • robin ohia

    I tend to think this exists across the whole of the schooling sector, simply because many of our current educators currently occupy this space and therefore influenced by the ways of the "old paradigm". This ofcourse is not true for many, however, one thing i have been pondering (of late) is, how do we influence a paradigm change or shift system wide, when it is influenced by the current economic global paradigm?

    Here is a vid in relation to both our current local system and perhaps a glimpse towards the future....


  • Mike Wilson

    Thanks Fastpaddy, well said and excellent video Robin. Some argue that the competitive model of assessment (school vs school) is increasing achievement levels and I would somewhat agree, at least at private and higher decile schools. These people seem to be in places of power.

    Finland is a great education system and probably a good one to model. I especially like the idea of academic track or a vocational track in the latter secondary school. 

    As the video states Paradigm shifts in good old NZ are government driven. It’s pretty obvious in the last 2 years just how much power Principals have, very little. The problem is that these people who are running our schools need to be heard and be all feeding into the system. It worries me that many education policy makers have never been principals let alone teachers.

    Change management at the national level? Can't be that hardWink (these posts need an edit button)