Monday 17 August 2015

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Monday, August 17th
8:00 AM


8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

9:00 AM

Welcome and conference opening

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM

9:15 AM

Learning assessments: Designing the future

Geoff N. Masters, ACER

9:15 AM - 10:15 AM

Processes for assessing student learning are undergoing fundamental transformation.This presentation will consider three developments which can be expected to shape how student learning is assessed in the future. First is fundamental change in how assessment is conceptualised and approached, with a focus on monitoring learning. Second is growing interest in the assessment of a broader range of skills and attributes than those addressed in most current assessment efforts. Third is advances in technology which are opening the door to new ways of gathering information about student learning, including through records of real-time interactions in online learning environments. In ACER’s Centre for Assessment Reform and Innovation, these three developments are referred to as ‘new thinking’, ‘new metrics’ and ‘new technologies’. This presentation will explore ways in which these three developments, together with scientific advances in our understanding of learning itself, can be expected to transform school assessment processes over the next decade.

10:15 AM

Video conversation: Designing the future

Dylan Wiliam, University of London

10:15 AM - 10:45 AM

10:45 AM

Morning tea

10:45 AM - 11:15 AM

11:15 AM

Reflecting on teacher research on assessment: Challenges and innovations for the future

Marie Brennan, Victoria University

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

The theme of the 2015 Excellence in Professional Practice Conference (EPPC), held by ACER in May, was Improving assessments of student learning. A review of content and presentations for EPPC showed up some important trends and issues for further analysis and discussion. In a significant number of schools, the focus on assessment was well integrated into an overall school improvement plan or approach. In other schools, the school process overwhelmed the focus on assessment, and at times even overshadowed the focus of the study to be shared. One group of presentations focused on using existing instruments in ways that advanced the teachers’ understanding of the issue and students’ knowledge and learning needs. Another group of studies demonstrated creative, practice-driven teacher research, largely by individual teachers, that had resulted in key advances in assessment practice. Renowned education thinker Lawrence Stenhouse in 1975 defined research as ‘systematic inquiry made public’. This presentation will argue that the advances documented at EPPC meet this definition, by demonstrating knowledge production that is not merely for self-consumption. The presentation will suggest key issues for supporting teacher research, and explore key issues still in need of research and innovation in the field. There is a critical place for teacher research among the range of assessment, pedagogy and curriculum integrations which can be developed through a range of research methodologies. Practices for classrooms may well be dreamt up outside those classrooms — yet unless and until those practices are co-produced by teachers and students, they remain in a black hole, unpractised. There is thus a central and creative role for teachers in developing assessment practice, whether or not the innovations are supported by research. Indeed, the best research useful for teachers and their students around assessment may well identify the in-practice problems which are yet to be creatively addressed.

Should generic curriculum capabilities be assessed?

Rosemary Hipkins, New Zealand Council for Educational Research

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

Both Australia and New Zealand have recently taken up the idea of ‘key competencies’ (‘capabilities’ in the Australian national curriculum) initially proposed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In both countries we have made them our own by adapting them to suit our own educational contexts. People often say that these capabilities won’t be taken seriously unless they are assessed. So whether, and how, to assess them continue to be vexed questions. In this paper I argue that capabilities are more appropriately seen as changing the curriculum rather than adding to it. If we are serious about preparing students for the future, outcomes for learning need to be re-imagined at the complex intersection of capabilities and traditional content prior to determining any assessment approaches.

Collaborative problem-solving: Assessment and reporting

Patrick Griffin, University of Melbourne

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

This practical session will present a live administration of interactive collaborative problem-solving assessment and reporting. The presenter will demonstrate example tasks and reports. Audience representatives will have the opportunity to role-play as students being assessed across a range of social and cognitive skills associated with collaborative problem-solving. The discussion will then explore how these social and cognitive skills can be incorporated into the teaching program, enabling higher-order skills to be assessed in key learning areas across the curriculum.

PISA: Behind the headlines and past the rankings

Sue Thomson, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
Chris Wardlaw, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

Whenever the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) are announced, media headlines are full of reports about rankings, about how many countries Australia is outperformed by and outperforms. In early rounds of PISA, Australia ranked among the top 10 countries across all three education domains assessed. However, over time Australia’s position has declined, rather than improved, and Australia no longer sits in the top 10 of any of the assessed domains. This presentation will go behind the headlines and past the rankings, to look at where Australia has declined, and look at how we can improve outcomes for students and achieve a world-class education system. In particular this presentation will focus on mathematics.

12:30 PM


12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

1:30 PM

Assessment to action: New thinking from India

Rukmini Banerji, Pratham and ASER Centre, India

1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

In countries such as India, impressive progress has been made in schooling. More than 95 per cent of children are now enrolled in school. But when we look at children’s learning, the situation is far from satisfactory. Available evidence suggests that in Grade 5, only about half of all enrolled children can read or do arithmetic expected at Grade 2 level. Faced with this crisis, how can assessment lead to effective instruction? ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) uses simple tools to assess the current level of children’s ability to read and to do arithmetic. Using this assessment, children are grouped for instruction by level rather than by grade. Appropriate methods and materials are used for each group to help children begin from where they are today and move to where they need to be. The ‘teaching-at-the-right-level’ approach has been found to be effective in many settings in India for building basic skills quickly. This ‘new thinking’ from India can provide large-scale solutions for the learning crisis faced in many parts of the developing world.

2:45 PM

Assessment standards, ‘intentional alignment’, and dialogic inquiry

Claire Wyatt-Smith, Australian Catholic University

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Internationally, the policy move towards standards-aligned instruction is gaining momentum. In Australia, standards have assumed unprecedented prominence in education policy relating both to classroom practice and to teacher preparation and career progression. The move is also evident in the United States, where the lure of standards to inform improvement is clear: significant investment has been committed to longitudinal research to examine at state and district levels the desirable conditions for implementing standards, their impact on developing college- and career-ready teachers, and in turn, the impact on teacher instruction and student outcomes. Moves such as this are occurring in the absence of a general theoretical position that connects assessment and standards to meaning making. This paper argues for the pedagogical utility of standards understood as enabling critical inquiry into teaching and learning. The notion of ‘intentional alignment’ of standards, curriculum and assessment is explored through two key questions: What do teachers bring to assessment? And: What is involved in a dialogic approach to assessment standards which values learners’ perspectives and their agency in improvement?

Assessment in interactive learning environments

Michael Timms, ACER
Jason Lodge, University of Melbourne

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

There is an increasing interest in using digital technologies to create interactive learning environments (ILEs) that both teach and assess student skills that are hard or impossible to assess using ‘static’ items such as traditional, multiple-choice questions. These interactive learning environments try to do two things simultaneously: firstly, to monitor the learning of the student in real time, providing feedback to help the student progress through the learning task; and secondly, to use the information gathered during the learning to make judgements about where the student is in learning of the topic. Essentially, ILEs draw upon the same source of data — the interactions of the student with the learning materials and embedded assessment tasks — to perform these measurements. To make these kinds of decisions, ILEs collect and analyse many variables; the complexity of these data demands the use of sophisticated assessment methods that differ from those used in traditional paper-and-pencil tests. The complexity of the ILEs also introduces challenges such as students becoming confused or failing to comprehend the feedback from the system. Through reference to examples of ILEs, this session shows how assessment of learning takes place, how such assessment can provide valid and reliable measures, what we are learning about students’ use of the systems and how we are working to refine the systems of the future.

Conversation with Dr Rukmini Banerji

Rukmini Banerji, Pratham and ASER Centre, India

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Measuring what matters: Challenges and opportunities in assessing science proficiency

James W. Pellegrino, University of Illinois at Chicago

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

A key challenge in shaping science learning for the future will be to develop new measures of learning that take into account what it means to be proficient in science (Pellegrino, 2013). The emergent view on proficiency, grounded in learning sciences research, emphasises using and applying knowledge in the context of disciplinary practice. Referred to as knowledge-in-use, this perspective on science proficiency is a centrepiece of the United States’ National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K–12 Science Education (NRC, 2012), embodied in the new US national standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and emphasised in the recently released NRC report on developing assessments to measure science proficiency (Pellegrino, Wilson, Koenig & Beatty, 2014). Central to this view is that disciplinary content — both disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts — and practice should be integrated. This would mean that as students apply knowledge to make sense of phenomena and solve problems, they deepen their conceptual understanding of content as well as their understanding of how to do science. This paper provides a brief overview of a systematic and scalable approach for designing assessment items to measure student proficiency with new science learning goals that blend disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts with practices. The assessment tasks are intended for formative use within classroom instruction. Drawing on prior research from assessment and curriculum design (for example, see DeBarger, Krajcik & Harris, 2014; DeBarger, Penuel & Harris, 2015), this paper presents such a design approach and considers implications of the overall work in this field.

6:30 PM

Conference Dinner

6:30 PM