From the High School Deputies

You may have heard that the HSC has been undergoing some renovations in recent years. One change that gathered quite a bit of attention was the introduction of minimum standards of literacy and numeracy (from 2020). Other changes include that new syllabuses have been introduced and the number of assessment tasks in Years 11 and 12 have been reduced.

A change you might not have heard about is that the HSC Examinations themselves are being redesigned to focus on how well students can apply knowledge and skills, rather than how well they can recall facts. From 2019, it is expected that future HSC exams will require greater analytical skill and reduce the opportunity for pre-prepared responses. You can read more about this here.

Broadly speaking, I support the intentions behind these changes. Facts do provide an essential foundation for deep understanding, but we live in a world where they can be sourced by asking Siri or Alexa. Raw facts, therefore, are no longer the best indicators of a good education, even if we believe they ever were.

These external changes mean that now is the right time for William Carey to take stock and assess our own approach to assessment. In the coming year, a K-12 working party will identify the best evidence-based strategies to collect information about student achievement and discuss how to provide feedback to students and families to improve learning. Three perspectives will be used to achieve this: assessment of learning, assessment for learning and assessment as learning.

Assessment of learning measures achievement against outcomes and standards. This is sometimes referred to as “summative assessment” and it traditionally involves completing formal assessment tasks at the end of a unit or semester. Assessment of learning is an area where our school is very experienced, and where our teachers already employ a wide range of effective strategies.

Assessment for learning involves teachers adjusting their lessons in response to what students know, what they understand and what they can do. This is sometimes referred to as “formative assessment”, and it usually occurs informally as teachers clarify student learning and understanding. Assessment for learning is also used widely throughout our school, and most teachers consciously employ formative strategies in their day to day activities.

Assessment as learning occurs when students are encouraged to learn and grow as they work on extended projects or other rich tasks. They are taught to monitor for themselves what they know and can do, and to take increasing responsibility for their own learning. Initial indications are that this is an approach where our school might potentially make great gains.

Note, however, that no one approach is sufficient on its own to be effective. As students mature through High School, all three perspectives are needed if our students are to achieve their best and prepare for life after school.

Please feel free to email me if you’d like to contribute your thoughts about assessment here at William Carey.

In His service,

Michael Nightingale
Director of Teaching and Learning
On behalf of the High School Deputies