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Research Developments from ACER


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The end of the semester report?

In part two of its series on ACER’s Communicating Student Learning Progress project, Hilary Hollingsworth and Jonathan Heard look at the trend in schools towards continuous online reporting in Teacher.

Part one of this series traced back dissatisfaction with school reporting – primarily with the limitations of A to E reporting and a lack of ‘plain language’ in reports – more than 30 years. An examination of current reporting practices found that schools are increasingly adopting sophisticated multi-user electronic management systems. While several product providers acknowledge that the vast majority of their client schools still produce at least two summative written reports a year, in line with government requirements, continuous online assessment offers exciting opportunities for the future of school reporting. Could it spell the end of the traditional semester report?

Continuous online assessment allows for regular updates on a student’s learning progress in a timelier manner, and avoids the last-minute rush of end-of-semester reporting. The capacity to upload annotated copies of a student’s work, along with an assessment rubric and unlimited teacher feedback, means it is a potentially vastly more informative option than the summary comments offered in a semester report. Additionally, system creators try continuously to improve their products, adding new functions all the time.

However, as the Gonski Review recently noted, reporting against a set of age-based curriculum benchmarks does not capture the full picture of student progress when, in any given class, the most advanced learners can be as much as five or six years ahead of the least advanced learners. While there is mounting pressure on schools to be able to assess – and communicate – progress made from individual starting points, systems providers confirm that reporting attainment of curriculum-based benchmarks is still a priority for schools. The concern is that continuous online reporting may be misperceived as measuring progress, when it continues to merely reflect attainment.

In a paper to be presented at ACER’s Research Conference 2018, Hilary Hollingsworth and Jonathan Heard discuss two key findings from an analysis of student report samples from Australian schools that may help educators harness the exciting opportunities presented by these new technologies to capture the full picture of learner progress.

Read the full article in Teacher.

Dr Hilary Hollingsworth and Jonathan Heard will be presenting at Research Conference 2018. Their session is titled Communicating student learning progress: What does that mean, and can it make a difference?


About the author

Dr Hilary Hollingsworth is a Principal Research Fellow in ACER's Educational Monitoring and Research program.

More [rd] articles by Hilary Hollingsworth

View selected works of Hilary Hollingsworth


About the author

Jonathan Heard is a Research Fellow in ACER’s Assessment and Reporting: Psychometric Research program.

More [rd] articles by Jonathan Heard

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