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Diving deeper with assessment

04 November 2015

ACER is helping educators to understand and implement assessment practices for positive classroom change and improved learning.

Assessment thinking and practice is changing because traditional approaches to assessing student learning are out of step with the information needs of learners and those who work to support them, according to ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Hilary Hollingsworth.

To support educators to understand and implement assessment reform, ACER has developed the ACER Graduate Certificate of Education (Assessment of Student Learning), a course that draws on the assessment reform work of ACER Chief Executive Professor Geoff Masters AO.

‘The course focuses on theoretical and practical elements of assessment reform and is suitable for classroom teachers, school leaders and those with leadership roles in assessment. It involves expert presentations, readings, discussion forums and webinars, and interaction in an online collaborative community of students from several countries,’ Dr Hollingsworth says.

A key idea underpinning the course is the conceptualisation of assessment as the process of establishing and understanding where learners are in their learning at the time of assessment. Dr Hollingsworth says this conceptualisation has major implications for assessment design and practice in classrooms, schools and school systems, and students in the course have the opportunity to investigate these implications in their own education settings.

Denise Hayward, Junior School Director of Teaching and Learning at Tara Anglican School for Girls in Sydney, is currently studying the ACER Graduate Certificate of Education.

‘My school is in the process of developing ways to track student growth, and I wanted to know more about what types of assessment we should be using and why,’ Ms Hayward says.

‘This course is certainly useful in helping me to go further with assessment and data, and understand how it can best be used to facilitate student growth.’

For Elise Pape, a classroom teacher at Christ Our Holy Redeemer Primary School in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, the ACER Graduate Certificate of Education has provided purposeful and practical assessment strategies she can share with colleagues in her school.

‘Through the course I've definitely become a more reflective educator,’ notes Ms Pape. ‘It has made me consider the activities and assessments that I provide to my class and how it will improve their learning outcomes.’

Ms Pape says she will now implement the curriculum on the basis of student achievement, using assessment strategies and considerations presented within the course, rather than planning curriculum based on assumptions about where students are at in their learning.

‘I would recommend this program to all educators, regardless of their level of experience or the role they hold within their education setting. The course content can be applied in all educational contexts and is very adaptable to your own personal context,’ she says.

‘I’ve felt like part of a community of learners as opposed to a number sitting in a lecture theatre. The people I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with at ACER are highly professional and willingly share their knowledge in a way that assists my own learning.’

Since Sherrie Hale studied with ACER in 2013, teachers, students and parents at Kalkie State School in Bundaberg, Queensland, have taken ownership of assessment practices aimed at improving learning.

‘Assessment in my classroom looks and feels so different now. Students look forward to assessments, they are constantly reflecting and asking for feedback, and they’re developing their own creative charts for the classroom so that different class goals can be visually tracked,’ Ms Hale says.

‘Not only are the students learning to pull formative assessments apart and reflect on what they have done well and what they still need to work on, but they are also grouping themselves during focus sessions and identifying whether they still need support, can work individually, or need to be extended.’

Ms Hale says parents have commented on how they have seen a positive change in their child’s attitude towards school and school work in general, and the diagnostic assessments reflect these improvements. 

‘Whether you’re a teacher or in administration – the Graduate Certificate of Education is relevant for everyone in education.’ ■

Further information:
ACER Institute https://courses.acer.edu.au/

RD

About the author

Dr Hilary Hollingsworth is a Senior Research Fellow in ACER's Assessment and Reporting: Mathematics and Science research program.

More [rd] articles by Hilary Hollingsworth

View selected works of Hilary Hollingsworth

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