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LITERACY LEARNING PORTFOLIOS Learning about effective assessment in Initial Teacher Education programmes. Adair Polson-Genge University of Otago College of Education Southland Campus. Presentation Overview.

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LITERACY LEARNING PORTFOLIOSLearning about effective assessment in Initial Teacher Education programmes

Adair Polson-Genge

University of Otago College of Education

Southland Campus

presentation overview
Presentation Overview

This presentation provides a model of effective assessment practice using analysis from a Literacy Learning Portfolio assignment completed by third year primary student teachers at the Southland Campus. It focuses on how the student teachers learn to gather and develop authentic literacy knowledge about learners, how to monitor changes in achievement over time, and to use the information to transform their teaching. The model is underpinned by current research into effective literacy assessment practice. It would be useful for classroom teachers because it emphasises a planned and systematic gathering of analysed data (a key MOE initiative) that, when used alongside daily monitoring, would provide rich evidence for recording and reporting student achievement.

presentation road map
Presentation ‘road map’
  • purpose of Literacy Learning Portfolios
  • learning about assessment theory
  • assignment outline
  • assessment tools
  • examples of portfolios
  • sharing information with learners
  • reports to parents
  • analysis of the portfolios presented for assessment
  • implications for our student teachers
  • student teacher survey comments
assessment for learning
Assessment for Learning

Assessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there. Assessment is part of effective planning; focuses on how students learn; is central to classroom practice; is a key professional skill; is sensitive and constructive fosters motivation; promotes understanding of goals and criteria; helps learners know how to improve; develops capacity for self assessment; recognises all educational achievement.

Assessment Reform Group, 2002

what is the purpose of a literacy learning portfolio
What is the purpose of a Literacy Learning Portfolio?

Teachers need an extensive and continually developing knowledge of the learners they teach. Such knowledge encompasses knowing about each learner’s pathway of progress; knowing about the characteristics of literacy learners in general at different points in their development.

Ministry of Education, 2003, p.50

portfolio approach to assessment
Portfolio approach to assessment

Portfolio assessment approaches can…provide…information that is rich enough to be used for a range of purposes. Supported by benchmark portfolios that document school-wide expectations for progress in learning in particular areas, teachers can come to hold shared ideas about learning progressions and expectations at different levels of the curriculum. These internalised progressions and expectations allow teachers to work towards raising standards on a daily basis, noticing significant learning, acting upon it appropriately and recording it if necessary.

Hill, 2005

characteristics of effective assessment
Characteristics of effective assessment

Effective assessment:

  • benefits students
  • involves students
  • supports teaching and learning goals
  • is planned and communicated
  • is suited to the purpose
  • is valid and fair

The New Zealand Curriculum 2007, pp.39-40

the literacy learning portfolio assignment outline
The Literacy Learning Portfolio Assignment Outline

Teachers need to see their assessments as an integral part of the instruction process and as crucial for helping students learn.

Guskey, 2003

Our students are required to:

  • collect useful data/information about two children
  • collected data is used to identify where these children are at with their learning at three targeted points of the year
  • samples of work collected are from authentic, everyday class tasks and situations
  • these are analysed or annotated
  • next teaching steps are identified to inform daily teaching decisions
learning about assessment tools
Learning about assessment tools

Teachers require in-depth pedagogical content knowledge if they are to choose the most appropriate form of assessment and, following assessment, the teaching and learning approach that best fits the needs of their students… assessment, teaching, and learning are inextricably linked: teachers can be meaningfully said to have assessment capability only if they also have curriculum and teaching capability.

Absolum, Flockton, Hattie, Hipkins & Reid, 2009, p.9

assessment tools
Assessment Tools
  • Attitudinal Survey
  • English writing exemplars
  • English oral language exemplars
  • Burt Word Reading Test
  • Running Records from classroom texts
  • PM Benchmark
  • PROBE: for fluent readers
  • Learning Conversation
  • School Entry Assessment
  • Observation Survey: Year 2
  • STAR –Supplementary Test of Achievement in ReadingYears 3, 4-6 & Years 7-9
  • ARBs: Years 5 to 10
literacy areas that are assessed include
Literacy areas that are assessed include:
  • Reading– Reading strategies the child is using, understanding of text (ability to recall information, make inferences, think critically, process information), reading accuracy (to determine text level), personal reading preferences, attitude to reading.
  • Writing – ability to convey ideas in written form (deep features), use of conventions, including punctuation, spelling (surface features), competent use of a variety of genre, attitude to writing
  • Oral/speaking and listening– communicative confidence in various settings, ability to state, question, describe, etc, effective listening skills, etc., attitudes to speaking.
learning to benchmarking samples of work
Learning to benchmarking samples of work

The ability to be able to look across a range of indicators and decide on a ‘best fit’ level that will then give direction to the next teaching steps creates a challenge for our students initially, but they get better at it the more they collaborate with others and practice. They need to be able to apply their theoretical knowledge of literacy learning and progressions to guide a sound judgement and a genuine next step that will challenge the learner to the next level of learning.

summarising the learning
Summarising the learning

Absolum et al. (2009) advocate “the development of rich descriptions of progress over time (progressions) and clearly defined indicators of achievement relative to different stages of learning (levels). These will provide the required clarity about what is expected at each level and give teachers a sound basis for learning conversations with students and their parent,” (p.7).

learning conversations
Learning Conversations

Absolum et al. (2009) suggest that:

Students are in a better position to make decisions about assessment if they are clear about what they are trying to learn and what indicators or criteria they should use to judge progress, and if they are able to be honest with their teacher about their learning struggles, (p9).

Engaging them [the learners] as active participants in assessment conversations where they are given opportunities to present – and have heard – their own perspectives on their efforts and achievements is one way of furthering …success, (ibid, p6).

reporting to parents caregivers
Reporting to parents/caregivers

A useful report card would include information that is trustworthy; comprehensible; relevant; evidence based; uses a weight of evidence; is a ‘best fit’/weigh of evidence report.

The New Zealand Assessment Academy, March 2009, pp.6-7.

analysis assessment theory and tools
AnalysisAssessment theory and tools

At the completion of the assignment, the student teacher’s evaluations of their assessment plans definitely show a more critical knowledge. They are able to make informed judgements about which of the tools best suited their learners and why. It is this new understanding that they need to continue developing to into their own classrooms.

oral language
Oral language

Where specific opportunities to teach deeper oral

language features are planned and assessed, the data is

very rich e.g. asking a range of questions, participating in

a group discussion, preparing a talk, learning how to



Their recommendations for next step teaching of reading

are sound and very much focussed on their existing

knowledge of the learner.

The important link for them to make is the transferring of

the information back into their daily teaching and their

increasing ability to do this is evident in the June practicum.


Where student teachers focus on analysis of the skills and

knowledge of writing shown by the developing writer, what

level that was at and how their feedback would help with this

development, the samples are well done.

learning conversations21
Learning conversations

Where our student teachers reminded the children about

the learning goal for the sample and a summary of the main

teaching points, the children tended to be more articulate

about what they had achieved and were better able to set new


Where the student teacher affirmed the child’s comments

and added their own observations of what learning they had

observed and analysed, there was a richer conversation.

summaries and reports
Summaries and Reports

Most student teachers were able to look at the significant

progressions of learning that had been achieved from the

three samples and make an evidence based summary.

Overall, the reports to parents were well thought out and provided an accurate synthesis of what was analysed and summarised from the samples of work.

  • Will the students extend the knowledge they have developed and reflected on for two learners into thirty learners? Are they clear about what that will look like and how it will be managed?
  • Do they possess the resilience to maintain the principles of effective literacy practice and not to be drawn into dot, slash, cross, or tick practices that do not feedback information to the learner?
  • Will they maintain a range of assessment procedures that will focus on process and not just outcome?
  • Do they now possess the skills to be able to contribute to the assessment discussions in their schools?
student responses
Student responses
  • I think this assignment has been the most valuable and relevant assignment I have completed this year. It has been like a giant jigsaw. At the beginning, I was trying to gather the right pieces to make sense of assessment. Over the year, the jigsaw has formed and I now have a very clear understanding of the assessment tools and process. It will hold a prominent position in my classroom. I see it as an invaluable resource tool that I will refer to often. The learning I have experienced is amazing, (Student 1, 2009).
  • I feel much more confident but still feel that I need more practice. The benefits were…gaining a deep knowledge of where your students are at, how they have progressed and the effectiveness of my teaching, (Student 2, 2009).
student responses25
Student responses
  • I feel much more confident now. I feel confident to set up and manage an assessment programme in my own classroom. I can see a Literacy Learning Portfolio being beneficial alongside daily monitoring. It was a “great way to learn how to analyse samples”, (Student 3, 2009).
  • I feel my knowledge has grown dramatically since last year. On a smaller scale I can see a Literacy Learning Portfolio being used very well alongside daily monitoring. I feel confident to set up and manage an assessment programme in my own classroom, (Student 4, 2009).
  • I feel ready to begin but sure I will learn more along the way. I now understand developing a literacy plan and implementing it, (Student 5, 2009).
student responses26
Student responses

I believe that I have a solid foundation in the knowledge of some literacy assessment tools and processes which has come about through the ongoing monitoring of learners throughout the year. The assignment required us to have good knowledge of between about 5-7 assessment tools. This number allowed us to learn more in depth about the tools. It was a quality, not quantity approach, which I liked. I believe this deeper knowledge is going to help me next year because I have the experience to confidently use some tools, as I learn more about others next year. Using assessment tools in a range of areas within the Literacy programme allowed me to make links between the areas, such as writing and reading for a deeper understanding of the learner.

I feel very well equipped in managing the particular assessment tools that I selected for my portfolio. The assignment required us to independently explore the tools, work out how to use them on genuine samples and then extract and use the information for a purpose. This whole process has been extremely valuable in my development as a teacher being actively involved in the cycle of assessment.


I can see a Literacy Portfolio working alongside my daily monitoring of students, especially the learning conversation and the attitudinal data. These reveal important information about the learners that sometimes other assessment tools, like exemplars or daily monitoring may not. The information gained from the learning conversation and attitudinal is important to get inside the student’s heads which assists you as a teacher when forming learning intentions and activities. The information gained from the daily monitoring and Literacy Portfolio is a clear learning pathway of student’s learning and valuable evidence.

The benefits are the freedom to select and use assessment tools applicable your own programme. This immediately gave ownership of the tools to me having selected them myself which motivated me to learn more deeply about particular assessment tools. This allowed the tools to become very much a part of my day to day teaching practice, for example when reading a learner’s writing I am thinking about the exemplars and how the student may be using ‘voice’ or ‘structure’ in their writing which allows for specific feedback and next learning steps. So I didn’t only use the tools in an ‘annotation way’, I used them in a day to day way in the interactions that I have with children. I am beginning to be able to easily see what learners can do and where they need to go next and that has occurred because of this assignment and the focus on assessment. (Student 6)

  • Absolum, M., Flockton, L., Hattie, J., Hipkins, R., & Reid, I. (2009). Directions for assessment in New Zealand. Accessed, n.d. from Te Kete Ipurangi
  • Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Retrieved 4 April, 2003, from,
  • Crooks, T., Darr, C., Gilmore, A., Hall, C., Hattie, J., Smith, J., & Smith, L. (2009). Towards defining, assessing, and reporting against national standards for literacy and numeracy in New Zealand. New Zealand Assessment Academy.
  • Guskey, T. R. (2003). How classrooms assessments improve learning. Educational Leadership, 60 (5), 6-11.
  • Hill, M. (2005). Dot, slash cross: How assessment can drive teachers to ticking instead of teaching. set: research information for teachers: assessment. Wellington, NZ: NZCER Press.
  • Joyce, C. (2006). Which assessment tool? set1: research information for teachers. Wellington, NZ: NZCER Press.
  • Ministry of Education. (2003). Effective literacy practice years 1-4. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media Ltd.
  • Ministry of Education. (2007). Draft Literacy Learning Progressions. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media Ltd.
  • Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media Ltd.