QA News

QA News Issue 100
- 22 Jan 2019

ISSN 1170-3318 (Online)


QA News Header 2017 white

QA News is a quarterly publication that brings together the activities from across NZQA.


Chief Executive's News

Karen Poutasi

Happy New Year and welcome to the first edition of QA News for 2019.

2018 was a productive and busy year for us here at NZQA. The NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship exams finished at the end of last year, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. This time of the year will continue to be a busy period as we navigated NCEA results release this month, and as we prepare for New Zealand Scholarship results release next month.

A New Year reminds us all of the importance of reflecting on achievements, and we have done that at NZQA. For example, did you know we added 9.4 million tertiary education organisation (TEO) credits to learner records in 2018? Numbers can be an incredibly powerful way to describe our work and that’s why I would like to take this opportunity to share with you our work by the numbers here.

Of course, you will be aware of our work in quality assuring non-university tertiary education organisations (TEOs), and the significant innovations we have been working on to ensure we can meet the demands of a global digital connected world. This work has included micro-credentials, you can read more about this here.

On behalf of everyone at NZQA, we wish you all the very best for 2019 and hope that you got to rest and relax with your whānau over the holiday period.

Ngā mihi

Dr Karen Poutasi


NZQA's holiday card for 2018

NZQA Holiday card 2018

We hope you had a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

2018’s holiday card featured artwork by Anna Pryor, a former student of Burnside High School in Christchurch.

The artwork was featured in Anna’s 2017 NCEA Level 3 Painting portfolio, which travelled in last year’s Top Art Exhibition. The touring exhibition showcases a selection of Excellence-level Visual Arts portfolios in venues around New Zealand over seven months.

Anna’s Top Art biography explains how her work focuses on how humans and human introduced pests are destroying our ‘perfect’ New Zealand landscape. Using a combination of acrylic paints, watercolour pencils and sewing in her paintings, Anna wants the audience to question what the future will be like if we don’t do anything to stop the deterioration of our natural environment.


Delivering NCEA and NZ Scholarship exams

With approximately 140,000 students entered to sit the NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship exams at the end of last year, there was a lot of work involved in the delivery of this process from start to finish.

End of year examinations are a significant event for NZQA. The planning begins well in advance, and we employ over 5,000 supplementary specialist staff to manage and supervise the examinations across over 410 locations. In addition, NZQA contracts around 2,000 specialist teachers to develop and mark the examinations.

Digital exams also play a big part; in 2018 approximately 8,000 students were entered for digital examinations. That is a 60 percent increase in participation when compared to 2017. This will continue in 2019 as we gear up to offer 14 NCEA subjects online. You can read more about this here.

NCEA results were released to students on 15 January. New Zealand Scholarship results will follow, on 7 February.


Let's get digital, digital...

Digital exams

Student ideas are proving gold in thinking about future ways we might assess achievement as digital opportunities continue to expand.

While NZQA has one eye firmly on progressively delivering digital versions of NCEA exams in the near future, the NCEA Online team has another eye on longer term possibilities, with the student experience at the heart of co-designing future options.

“We need to keep looking forward to make sure innovation continues so that we are ready with the next waves of new approaches, say, five years out,” according to Andrea Gray, Deputy Chief Executive for NZQA’s Digital Assessment Transformation.

The students are proving invaluable in helping NZQA’s people think about what assessment might look like in the future. Unsurprisingly, students universally are giving a big tick of approval to their experience so far of digital exams, because they reflect how they are learning every day.

Andrea has accompanied the team on visits around the country, such as to meet a group of Māori Year 12 and 13 students from Kāpiti College. The team asked students about their assessment experiences for insights into ways candidates might best demonstrate what they know, and how this could be applied in an exam setting of the future.

Meanwhile NZQA’s Pasifika STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Ambassadors (stage two university medical and health sciences students) have re-imagined NCEA Level 3 Biology examination questions. At a practical level that meant thinking about what might replace, for example, photos on a page or how questions could be asked or how responses could be given.  So, future students might create a story board, or an electronic game as part of an exam, instead of using more conventional assessment techniques such as writing an essay.

The team also met with Year 13 Pūhoro STEM Academy students from Palmerston North Boys’ High School, getting them to re-imagine Level 1 Science. Similar themes to those of the STEM Ambassadors emerged in the discussions.

Andrea said key to getting the best out of student input involves reflecting the team’s understanding of their experience back to them for feedback and pacing the engagement over several sessions to enable rich reflection.

“We’re asking student to reflect on their experiences of a couple of years ago to give them the distance they need to think in a fresh way.

“Other ways we’re stimulating discussion include visits to innovation labs and even using artificial intelligence technology to encourage human-centred design techniques.

“We are drawing on the expertise of service designers and researchers from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. This is deepening our understanding of new forms of assessment and Māori education experience.”

As well as what the exams themselves might offer, the team is also considering feedback from students about the where exams are held; for example, less impersonal settings than a school hall, or having scientific equipment in sight when they are doing a science exam. And they’re thinking about how they can increase comfort levels for students, maybe by having snacking opportunities or being able to listen to music while they write their exam.

NZQA launches micro-credentials

In the latter part of 2018, NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi was joined by Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa and representatives from the wider education and training system to formally launch micro-credentials in New Zealand.

Micro-credentials are new stand-alone education products intended to enable learners to access specific knowledge and skills in a cost-effective and time-efficient way. They are smaller than qualifications and focus on skill development opportunities not currently catered for in the tertiary education system, and for which there is strong evidence of need by industry, employers, iwi and community.

In his announcement, Minister Hipkins welcomed micro-credentials as a big step forward in helping learners, workers and businesses keep pace with the changing demands of a modern workplace.

‘The Government believes micro-credentials will become increasingly important as the nature of work continues to change. Individuals will need new up-to-date skills across their lifetime,’ said Minister Hipkins.

‘Sometimes these skills updates will require a full and formal qualification. In other cases, they will require a refresh of skills in the form of a micro-credential that will keep workers and their skills up to date’.

This exciting new initiative is the result of close collaboration between the education and business sectors over the past years, to meet the needs of both learners and employers in a rapidly changing world.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope highlighted micro-credentials as an opportunity to proactively address skills shortages.

‘They will enable industry and businesses to identify areas of priority and unmet skill need and then partner with tertiary education providers and Industry Training Organisations to develop micro-credentials that respond quickly to these skills and knowledge needs, said Mr Hope.

The launch event was hosted by Well Hung Joinery in Wellington, where joiners are currently trialling BCITO’s Managed Traineeships in Kitchen Installation. Through this micro-credential, trainees can upskill in a specialist area of the construction and building industry, without having to undertake a lengthy retraining process.

‘Micro-credentials are a great step forward. We believe it will make training more attractive and relevant to the industry and will attract new talent at a time when we need at least 25,000 qualified people in the next five years to meet demand,’ said BCITO Chief Executive Warwick Quinn.

Micro-credentials are the latest in a series of innovations introduced as part of NZQA’s Future State Portfolio.

‘Future State guides us in identifying the services that learners, whanau, education organisations and employers will need to be successful, in a world that is increasingly global, digital and connected,’ said Dr Poutasi.

 ‘We are excited to see how employers, industry, iwi and education organisations will work together to ensure our learners Qualify for the Future World: Kia noho takatu ki tō āmua ao’.

 micro credentialsHon Jenny Salesa and Hon Chris Hipkins talking to Well Hung Joinery staff.


NZQA continue offering 'on request' workshops for assessment support

NZQA is continuing with our successful ‘on request’ model for assessment workshops in 2019. This includes the expansion of the online Transforming Assessment Praxis (TAP) programme.

“Our new ‘on request’ model has become more well known in the sector, with NZQA providing over 90 workshops to over 2,000 participants. These workshops included two highly successful TAP programmes which were aimed at raising teacher confidence in changing assessment resources. This allows them to better meet their students’ needs, as well as exploring different ways of collecting assessment evidence” said Kristine Kilkelly, Deputy Chief Executive Assessment.

“Additionally, the opportunity for subject associations or regional cluster groups to request a facilitator to present at a national or regional meeting on topics of their choice has been well received. This has given us further insight into specific subject and assessment support needs”.

The TAP programme will be offered throughout 2019 with teachers and assessors being able to choose from four options as to what suits them best.  

Cluster meetings have been a popular choice for the workshops. These occur when a region hosts several workshops on the same or series of days. Dunedin hosted a Cluster meeting during March of 2018, with over 700 teachers in 19 subjects in the Otago region attending.  

NZQA has developed online workshops that are delivered through our learning platform to ensure we include teachers based in rural or remote locations. The online option provides teachers with the flexibility of completing the material over a period of time and the ability to join in discussions with other assessors.

For more information on the types of workshop on offer, including how to register for the TAP Programme, visit the Best Practice Workshops – Assessment & Moderation webpage and if you have any questions, you can contact


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