New Zealand has a reputation for innovation and our secondary schools are no exception to this. For some time now, and well before the advent of COVID-19, educators have been considering alternative internal assessment approaches and how these could be applied to NCEA.

Grant Klinkum, NZQA Senior Leadership Team

The recent widespread disruption has required schools to do things differently and NZQA is working closely with the Ministry of Education and the sector to support students whose learning has been affected by the pandemic’s restrictions. More than ever, these innovative assessment approaches are relevant to the current teaching environment.

NZQA has collected video examples of innovative internal assessment taking place in a variety of schools throughout the country. These have now been posted on our website.

These videos showcase teachers talking about their innovative approaches and students reflecting on what the style of assessment has meant for them. The videos also include school managers explaining how they made changes in their schools to accommodate these different ways of assessing.

The videos are supported with discussion tools for individual, departmental or whole-school reflection, to stimulate further thinking on practice and to help the change processes.

Students are very much at the centre – deciding which standards they will do and how. They can also choose to use spoken and visual as well as written modes of presenting their efforts and can work at their own pace to suit their abilities.

The schools told us the approaches mean learning drives assessment rather than vice versa, resulting in deeper learning and a clearer view of a student’s abilities. Because they work at their own pace, students understand concepts more fully before they are assessed. Students said learning something meaningful to them results in being better engaged and achieving more and puts the focus on self-management.

A range of approaches are presented. They include examples of integrating valid assessment across subjects and/or levels and using a project-based approach. Some feature STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) subjects and Māori and Pacific students experiencing success.

These examples of doing things differently demonstrate stronger engagement and improved equity outcomes, while maintaining the credibility of the assessment process. They’re helping students acquire 21st century skills and they align with the move to digital assessment.

NZQA aims to help Māori and Pacific students qualify for a future world that is increasingly online. Our work has a strong focus on equity and COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of being able to use digital tools.

NCEA Online – doing examinations on a computer – reflects this digital future. The results of a student experience survey completed after last year’s examinations indicated a strong preference for completing examinations online rather than on paper, with 93% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing digital was preferable.

We want to get to universal uptake of NCEA Online, but we know greater access to devices and connectivity is needed and that the digital divide is more than just access to a device.

We’re expecting the investment and uptake in online learning will result in more students and schools wanting to try digital examinations.

This year we’re expanding NCEA Online to all three levels of Te Reo Māori and Te Reo Rangatira. Students will continue to be able to request te reo Māori translations for all subjects available digitally.

We’re also working with Waikato University to enable digital versions of te reo Māori spellcheck and text to speech. This will help users of te reo Māori to access the same tools available to candidates of examinations written in English.

Beyond this, we are also looking at ways to improve access to assessment for Māori students wanting to learn and do examinations digitally. One way is by expanding opportunities for kura to become digital exam centres, so students can sit examinations in familiar environments.

Last year, students at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi in Christchurch sat some digital examinations in the kura’s first year of being an Exam Centre and it intends offering more online examinations this year.  We’re also working with another kura (Te Kura Whakapūmau i te Reo Tūturu ki Waitaha) to hold its examinations at Te Whānau Tahi.

As part of our focus on equitable outcomes, NZQA will keep working with our partners across government (including schools and kura) to support digital teaching, learning and assessment.

We strongly feel that innovation, whether through a school’s approach to internal assessment or the progress being made with digital examinations, is the key to delivering fair and equitable outcomes, while maintaining the validity of the assessment process.

As the impacts of COVID-19 have evolved, schools have reflected on how these different assessment approaches can be a more efficient and effective way to assess. The case studies referenced above demonstrate how NZQA’s moderation system can accommodate flexible approaches; assessment can be innovative while meeting requirements to be authentic, valid and reliable.

We are grateful to the schools who took the time to share their experiences about how they tailored assessment practice to their students’ needs.

We hope the different approaches across these case studies may stimulate thinking around assessment practice to suit the needs of different students and schools.


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