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Innovative Assessment | Teachers | Students | Management


Teachers in a range of subjects describe their innovative internal assessment practice. These videos feature teachers talking about how they ‘do it differently’ – assessing their students’ achievement in integrated and cross-curricular learning situations, or via project-based learning where students have agency to solve a problem through a project, or through personalised assessment in response to learning grounded in the student’s context.

Among other features, these examples of innovative assessment show the impact on student learning of:

  • partial or complete student agency over context
  • student agency over choice of how best to demonstrate knowledge
  • the collection of evidence over time rather than a set event
  • the ability to be assessed when the student feels ready, rather than waiting for a set event
  • the value of teacher/student connectedness throughout the process.

Examples from Practice

These video clips present teachers describing their innovative assessment practice, including their relationships with their students, and how their students have responded.

A Physics teacher at Hobsonville Point Secondary School describes how he personalises the assessment task for each student in his class and allows for a variety of modes of assessment.

Topics covered: no more tests for Science; personalising learning; individually negotiated; benefits of integrating Science areas.

Video duration: 3.12 minutes


A Maths teacher at Rototuna High School describes integrated modules which include Physical Education and Home Economics.

Topics covered: reduction in assessment time for students; improved engagement; genuine context for learning; using portfolio tasks instead of testing.

Video duration: 3:50 minutes


An Earth and Space Science teacher at Rototuna High School describes an integrated module she did with English.

Topics covered: Using the theme of Māori creation narratives.

Video duration: 1:39 minutes


A Papamoa College Maths teacher talks about the assessment that happened alongside that gained from projects.

Topics covered: programming robots; graphing using various contexts; teacher time and effort to set up.

Video duration: 3:51 minutes


An English teacher at Papamoa College describes his experiences with his first year of project based assessment.

Topics covered: much improved student engagement and achievement.

Video duration: 1:45 minutes


A Maths teacher at Wellington High School describes the new way his classes operate to accommodate personalised learning and assessment.

Topics covered: student investment; not about gaining credits; student control and flipped learning; assessment when ready.

Video duration: 3:40 minutes


A Wellington High School Maths teacher describes the positive outcomes from the changes he has made.

Topics covered: student enthusiasm; high achievement among Māori and Pasifika students; value of writing own assessment tasks; intergalactic battle scenario.

Video duration: 1:47 minutes

Discussion tools

Among these discussion tools you will find resource material you can use to:

  • stimulate thinking about what an innovative assessment programme could look like in your classroom
  • consider how more innovative assessment practices might improve equity of NCEA access for Māori and Pasifika students
  • learn how others have got started
  • generate ideas on how you can take first steps.

Click on the links below to take you to resources which may help on an individual, department or school-wide process for change.


Kaiapoi High School: An organic approach to collaborative learning

Read about how teachers from nine different Canterbury schools worked collaboratively to design interdisciplinary assessment tasks for Year 11 students.


Discussion question:

  • Looking at the successes and challenges outlined in this case study, discuss the steps you would take in your setting to ensure successful implementation of an integrated approach to assessment.


Promoting the success of Māori students

Read the article and reflect on the discussion questions below.


Discussion questions:

  • What feedback have Māori students provided about whether the curriculum is engaging and relevant in your classroom?
  • What action is taken as a result of this feedback?
  • How do you ensure that assessment contexts will be relevant to Māori learners?
  • Do you think that this article may also be relevant to working with Pasifika students?


NZQA Myth Busters

Evidence of achievement can be gathered in different ways, provided it meets the requirements of the standard, is authentic and can be verified. For example, evidence can be:

  • oral, digital, by a performance or practical
  • gathered over time as a portfolio
  • ongoing and integrated with learning
  • naturally occurring
  • gathered through observations and checklists
  • written.

Assessment practice and gathering evidence (PDF, 246KB) (PDF, 246KB)

Managing authenticity (PDF, 241KB) (PDF, 241KB)

Discussion questions:

Read the material from the NZQA website and reflect on the different ways you collect evidence from your students and whether it meets the criteria for authenticity and verification.

Further information about managing assessment in schools can be accessed at:



Student inquiry and curriculum integration

Read the two articles about student inquiry and curriculum integration. They aim to help educators to consider the ideas about learning that underpin different integrated and inquiry approaches and their fit with ideas in The New Zealand Curriculum.

Shared origins and points of difference (Part A) - Sally Boyd and Rose Hipkins

This first article defines student inquiry and curriculum integration and then explores the characteristics and origins of five different integrated and inquiry approaches that are used in schools.

Download the PDF (PDF, 5.2MB)

Discussion questions:

  • What view of learning underpins our approaches to student inquiry and curriculum integration?
  • Do we consider students to be learners in action or learners in preparation, or both?
  • Do our views match the student inquiry and curriculum integration approaches we are using?

Ways of learning for the 21st century? (Part B) - Sally Boyd

This second article (Part B) explores what approaches to inquiry and integrated inquiry might look like if positioned within a 21st-century learning frame.  “Our experience across a range of projects is that when students are engaged in carefully crafted learning experiences that support them to address real issues - meaningful to them, their school community or the wider community - they tend to show a deep understanding of content, and increased engagement in and enthusiasm for their work. Students are also better able to identify how they gained a wider range of competencies, skills and knowledge…”


Discussion questions:

  • What opportunities do we provide for students to engage in real-life projects about ideas or subjects that concern them and society?
  • Does the way we are using inquiry and integrated-inquiry approaches provide a balance between students seeking and processing knowledge, as well as using or creating new knowledge?
  • How do we make use of discipline-specific processes within integrated and inquiry approaches? Is this done in a way that helps students to understand the nature of learning in different subject areas?



Remixing NCEA achievement standards: A curriculum integration design deck

Hipkins, R. 2017, NZCER Press, Wellington.


A resource for teachers to take a fresh look at possibilities for building integrated units of learning and assessment.

*The resource consists of a set of sortable cards – much like playing cards but with a playful curriculum thinking purpose. Use the cards to think about ways in which rich inquiry tasks can link learning across subjects. Use this thinking to design integrated assessment tasks that could help lighten the NCEA workload for students.

Each card in the set has the title of one level 2 NCEA achievement standard on the white side. The curriculum subject to which that standard belongs is named on the reverse (coloured) side. When concepts and capabilities are woven together within an interesting and challenging inquiry topic, the overall learning experience is more meaningful for students.

Teachers use the cards to think about ways in which rich learning tasks can provide opportunities for students to build and strengthen a range of interrelated knowledge, skills and capabilities. The cards seem to generate the weaving insight in a flash – as long as it takes to play with them!



Read the research behind doing it differently.



What is rigorous project-based learning?

Baines, A., DeBarger, A. H., De Vivo, K., Warner, N., Brinkman, J. & Santos, S. 2015 (LER Position Paper 1), George Lucas Educational Foundation. San Rafael, CA, USA.


This paper describes design principles for rigorous Project Based Learning and evidence-based approaches to build capacity for project-based implementation.



Students Think Lectures Are Best, But Research Suggests They’re Wrong

Deslauriers, L., McCarty, L.S., Miller, K.., Callaghan, K., and Kestin, G. 2019, ‘Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom’, PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA) September 24, 2019 116 (39) pp.19251-19257.


Students are often “poor judges” of their own learning, according to researchers in a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Strategies that require low cognitive effort, such as passively listening to a lecture, are often perceived by students to be more effective than active strategies such as hands-on experimentation and group problem-solving. The group dynamic can make students feel frustrated and “painfully aware of their lack of understanding,” but the study concluded that the more effort and struggle involved ‒ hallmarks of a student-centered, active approach ‒ the more students learned.

More Edutopia research:



How assessment can empower students to develop greater agency in their own learning

Siddall, T. 2016, 'The Power of Student Agency in Assessment and Learning', Next Generation Learning. 


Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) describes itself as “a community of forward-leaning educators who are working in their communities and together as a network on the most urgent challenges in public education today. A non-profit [USA] initiative, NGLC was founded in 2010 with the understanding that, while we all have a role to play, it is the educators who should lead the transformation to next gen learning, because they are closest to the students and the learning.”



Big Picture programme

The Big Picture programme is an innovative style of teaching and learning is helping to turn around the lives of students, particularly those considered at risk of dropping out of education.

The programme was introduced at Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (formerly The Correspondence School) almost 10 years ago, after chief executive Mike Hollings visited the USA and saw the difference it could make to young people.

“Big Picture makes a difference because its focus is on students and what they can do around the key competencies of the curriculum, so that a learning advisor can identify those areas where they can achieve standards.” – Mike Hollings, Te Kura’s CE

“It’s about a teacher retaining the integrity of the standards while at the same time being open and flexible enough to scaffold a programme around the student’s interests.” – Jen McCutcheon, Te Kura’s development manager until recently

“Another key part is student wellbeing, because the really fundamental thing with Big Picture is relationships…” [Who is quoted - Jen McCutcheon]

Read the full article at:

Education Gazette editors, 2018 ‘Big Picture turning lives around’, Education Gazette Tukotuko Korero, vol 98, no. 19.



Learning to love assessment

Tomlinson, C.A. Dec 2007/Jan 2008, in Educational Leadership, vol 65, no.4, pp 8-13.


From judging performance to guiding students to shaping instruction to informing learning, coming to grips with informative assessment has been an insightful journey for Carol Ann Tomlinson, one of the gurus of differentiated learning.


Cross-curricular teaching and learning in the secondary school – The Arts

Fautley, M., & Savage, J. 2011, first edition, Routledge, New York.

Download the PDF (PDF, 1.3MB)

A book by Martin Fautley and Jonathan Savage which argues for the development of a new, skilful pedagogy which embeds an authentic, cross-curricular approach to teaching and learning in the work of the individual teacher.


Integrated Assessments – Engaging Ways to Enhance Learner Outcomes, supported through the Good Practice Publication Grant scheme

McPhun,H., McZoom Ltd Consultancy and LearnerPlus P.T.E, 2010, published as part of the Integrated Assessments – Engaging Ways to Enhance Learner Outcomes, supported through the Good Practice Publication Grant scheme e-book.

Download the PDF (PDF, 138KB)

A model for providing integrated assessment which creates an engaging and creative learning platform.


Defined Learning Blogs



The links above take the reader to the blogs from the Defined Learning website. Further links can be found on this site to useful blogs around Project Based Learning e.g. project learning and STEM subjects.



Teaching for Meaningful Learning: A Review of Research on Inquiry-Based and Cooperative Learning

Barron, B. & Darling-Hammond, L. 2008, book excerpt, George Lucas Educational Foundation, San Rafael, California.

Download the PDF (PDF, 7.6MB)

 “Decades of research illustrate the benefits of inquiry-based and cooperative learning to help students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in a rapidly changing world.”


Learning History in Middle School by Designing Multimedia in a Project-Based Learning Experience 

Hernández-Ramos, P. & De La Paz, S.2009, in Journal of Research on Technology in Education, vol. 42, pp 151-173.

Download the PDF (PDF, 214KB)

This article describes a study in which eighth grade students in one school learned to create multimedia mini-documentaries in a six-week history unit on early 19th-century U.S. history. The authors examined content knowledge tests, group projects, and attitude and opinion surveys to determine relative benefits for students who participated in a technology-assisted project-based learning experience, and contrasted their experiences to those of students who received a more traditional form of instruction.

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