Gathering evidence of learner achievement

Standards-based assessment is about recognising learner achievement. For internally assessed standards the teacher or assessor decides how evidence will be collected and judged against the standard.

Assessors should use innovative, valid and fair ways of recognising achievement, without overburdening themselves or the learner with too much assessment.

What is evidence?

“Evidence” is the learner’s work, which demonstrates achievement of the assessment criteria. It needs to be recorded in ways that can be verified by another subject specialist or a moderator.

Different forms of evidence

Some of the different forms of evidence include:

  • Written assignments
  • Portfolios
  • Transcripts of oral explanations
  • Videos of performances
  • Detailed checklists of observed performance
  • Audiovisual recordings

If a video is impractical, or the evidence has come from a dialogue with learners, assessors must provide a checklist or annotated file note with a standard-specific description of the evidence viewed that supports the judgements made.

This annotated file note should be added to the mark sheet/results notice which is returned to the learner. The assessor must retain a copy for moderation purposes.

In group performances, the learners must be identified and assessed individually.

Linking assessment to learning

Building close links between the learning process and assessment allows teachers or assessors to engage in assessment for better learning. This is sometimes called ‘formative assessment’.

It has been traditional to draw final conclusions about achievement from what has been called ‘summative’ assessment. However, this approach may overlook some existing evidence of achievement or not show learners how to close the gap in their learning, because it provides no explanation of where they went wrong or how to improve.

The education organisation’s assessment policy should assist assessors with strategies for gathering evidence and to report results for a learner’s best performance, where standard-specific, authentic, verifiable documented evidence exists.

Setting goals: ‘Learning destinations’ 

Assessment expert Dr Anne Davies says her research in schools has shown the importance of teachers employing “a process to create and articulate their assessment criteria and to clarify curriculum expectations through the development of (their own) exemplars” in collaboration with their students.

It is important that students understand what Davies calls their ‘learning destination’, because it is they who have to show evidence of reaching it!

“The teacher has to be able to look at the evidence of learning a student provides and say ‘this is adequate proof, you have accounted for your learning, and I know this because you have shown me the evidence and I have observed you engaged in this type of work and I have talked with you and you have been able to articulate your understanding over the course of this unit’”. (NCEA Update 21, July 2004, NZQA.)

Thinking more broadly, assessors are free to use any valid evidence of achievement they have recorded. Assessment for qualifications does not have to be via a separate event. A ‘one off’ assessment is likely to be less reliable than a range of assessments.

Assessment over time for performance-based subjects

Many teachers or assessors of performance-based subjects are familiar with building a picture of learner achievement over a period of time. They do this by accumulating (or asking learners to accumulate) evidence of achievement in a portfolio of work.

The evidence may come from a range of activities, such as:

  • Observation checklists
  • Practice activities
  • Home and class work
  • Workplace activities

These activities can be completed by learners during the course of the training or teaching and learning process.

Where evidence is collected over time, assessors will provide feedback at regular intervals during the preparation of a final version of assessment. This builds their knowledge of learner competence.

Learner performances in formal assessments can fall short of their previous work. If necessary, assessors should supplement evidence of achievement from formal assessment activities with standard-specific evidence drawn from authenticated classwork, assignments or practical activity.

Learner’s entries in their workbooks or elsewhere, verified by the assessor, can also provide valid evidence.

Assessment opportunities

Learning is not increased by repeated summative assessment, but by extensive feed forward and feedback. Learners should not be assessed for a standard until the assessor is confident that achievement of the standard is in their reach, or until the final deadline for assessment, if there is one.

The need for further assessment can be minimised when assessors:

  • assess learners when they are ready
  • give learners adequate practice opportunities
  • ensure learners understand the standard and the assessment instructions, brief or assignment (performance criteria, the range statement and, where applicable, link with the curriculum)
  • discuss exemplars of successful work in different contexts with learners.

A further assessment opportunity occurs when a new assessment is provided after the first opportunity and after further learning has taken place.

Schools may offer a maximum of one further opportunity for assessment of a standard within a year.


Assessment opportunities in schools

NZQA Assessment Rules for Schools, TEOs assessing against Achievement Standards, and Candidates 2023

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