potentials and boundaries of formative assessment insights from new zealand
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Potentials and boundaries of formative assessment: Insights from New Zealand. Yongqi Gu Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand [email protected] The big question. What is assessment for? . Assessment purpose: norm- vs. criterion-referenced.

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potentials and boundaries of formative assessment insights from new zealand

Potentials and boundaries of formative assessment:Insights from New Zealand

Yongqi GuVictoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

[email protected]

the big question
The big question
  • What isassessment for?
assessment purpose norm vs criterion referenced
Assessment purpose: norm- vs. criterion-referenced
  • To rank or select among the students: Norm-referenced
  • To see who can achieve set goals or standards: Criterion-referenced
purposes of classroom assessment
Purposes of classroom assessment
  • To obtain info on how effective teaching has been
  • To provide feedback to learners:
    • Progress?
    • Weaknesses?
  • To give learners an incentive to study
  • To clarify to both teacher and learners what learners need to achieve in terms of:
    • what to learn
    • amount of learning
    • level of performance
language assessment in china
Language assessment in China
  • Language assessment research
    • Review of 9 key journals
    • All assessment articles (total=91) published between 2001 and 2005
  • Language assessment practice
journals reviewed
Journals reviewed
  • Foreign Language Teaching and Research
  • Modern Foreign Languages
  • Journal of Foreign Languages
  • Foreign Language World
  • Foreign Languages and Their Teaching
  • Journal of PLA University of Foreign Languages
  • Foreign Language Research
  • Foreign Language Education
  • Foreign Languages Research
journals reviewed chinese
Journals reviewed (Chinese)
  • 外语教学与研究
  • 现代外语
  • 外国语
  • 外语界
  • 外语与外语教学
  • 解放军外国语学院学报
  • 外语学刊
  • 外语教学
  • 外语研究
language assessment articles published in china categories



Proficiency test


Testing oral English


Testing listening


Testing writing


Testing reading


Integrative testing


Computer assisted testing


Reform in language testing


Band 4 and Band 6

Language assessment articles published in China: Categories
language assessment articles published in china categories10

Test analysis


Test taking strategies


Test format


SLA and testing




Curriculum and testing


Social aspects of language testing


Pragmatic aspects of testing


Testing trends




Formative assessment


Using tests for diagnostic purposes

Language assessment articles published in China: Categories
  • Chinese researchers have concentrated on summative assessment (assessing OF learning), not on formative assessment (assessing FOR learning).
  • No article touched on criterion-referenced assessment from 2001 to 2005.
  • Chinese teachers have not extensively explored formative assessment as a teaching or learning tool for the classroom
formative assessment
Formative assessment
  • Formative assessment refers to assessment that is specially intended to generate feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning (Sadler, 1998)
assessment that can be formative is assessment that
Assessment that can be formative is assessment that
  • Is embedded in a pedagogy of which it is an essential part (eg constructivist).
  • Shares learning goals with students.
  • Involves students in self-assessment.
  • Provides feedback which leads to studentsrecognising the gap and closing it.
  • Is underpinned by confidence that every student can improve.
  • Involves reviewing and reflecting on assessment data.

(Harlen, 1998)

three conditions for formative feedback
Three conditions for formative feedback
  • Knowledge of standards (knowing what good performance is)
  • Comparing these standards (desired level of performance) to the student’s own current level of performance
  • Taking action to close the gap between current and desired performance

Sadler (1989)

how does feebback work feedback in a self regulated learning framework
How does feebback work?Feedback in a self-regulated learning framework

Butler and Winne (1995)

Teacher sets task


Processes internal to student









Tactics &





Paths of internal feedback

Self-regulatory processes

(Cognition, motivation & behavior)




External feedback


does formative feedback work empirical evidence
Does formative feedback work?Empirical evidence

Black and Wiliam (1998)summarized over 250 studies, and concluded that:

  • Improving formative assessment raises standards, dramatically. And FA helps low achievers more than other students.
  • Something should be done about it inside the classroom
  • Teachers can improve formative assessment
factors that influence the effectiveness of fa
Factors that influence the effectiveness of FA
  • Providing effective feedback to students.
  • Student’s active involvement in their own learning.
  • Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment.
  • Recognising the profound influence of assessment on students’ motivation and self-esteem.
  • Ensuring pupils reflect on their learning and understand how to improve.
inhibiting factors
Inhibiting factors
  • A tendency for teachers to assess quantity and presentation of work rather than quality of learning.
  • Greater attention given to marking and grading, much of it tending to lower self esteem of students, rather than providing advice for improvement.
  • A strong emphasis on comparing students with each other, which demoralizes the less successful learners.
the new zealand experience
The New Zealand Experience
  • Standards-based assessment (SBA) at the national level
  • Qualifications awarded by completing sets of unit standards (desired learning outcomes), not in terms of years of learning, and not by comparison with other students.
  • Teachers design assessment tasks which relate to the specific learning needs of their learners and the context in which they are studying
the new zealand qualifications framework
The New Zealand Qualifications Framework
  • Aim: a single, coherent framework for New Zealand
  • Unit standard: a set of specific learning outcomes and the criteria for their assessment
  • Assessment/performance level: achieved/not achieved
  • Particular set of unit standards are required for certificates and diplomas at each level.
ncea assessment
NCEA Assessment
  • National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA):the National Qualifications Framework in schools
  • NCEA=Levels 1-3 in NQF: senior secondary school
  •  8 achievement standards for each school subject
  • Each stardard has a credit value and sits at a specified level on the NQF.
  • Credits are accumulated towards a qulification
stadands based assessment in ncea
Stadands-based Assessment in NCEA
  • Four levels of performance:
    • Excellence
    • Merit
    • Credit
    • Not achieved
  • Half of the standards for each subject are assessed by classroom teachers, the other half externally assessed nationally
an example esol unit standard 17363
An example: ESOL unit standard 17363
  • Read independently information texts, using ESOL
  • Level: 3
  • Credit: 5
summary of sba in nz
Summary of SBA in NZ

SBA in NZ is criterion-referenced assessment. It achieves a much better formative purpose than a summative one. This is because

  • SBA makes desired standards of learning explicit to both teachers and learners
  • It enables and encourages rich and frequent feedback from both the teacher and the students themselves
  • It does not emphasise the grade, and gives students multiple chances to achieve a standard.
what s good about standards based assessment 1
What’s good about Standards-based assessment? 1
  • Clear and specific goals and standards for both learners and teachers
  • Students assessed in terms of what they can do, and not how they compare with peers
  • Slow learners are given multiple chances to achieve.
what s good about standards based assessment 2
What’s good about Standards-based assessment? 2
  • Rich formative tasks during or at the end of particular units of work
  • peer, and self assessment based on observation, questioning, and feedback
  • give detailed information about students' learning needs
  • suggest appropriate teaching strategies to meet student needs
problems with standards based assessment 1
Problems with standards-based assessment 1
  • Assessment by unit standards greatly increased teacher workloads as they designed tasks and implemented them, kept records of student achievement, and participated in the necessary moderation activities.
  • Unit standards are assessed on an achieved/not achieved basis. There is no provision for rewarding superior performance and academically able students may not be challenged to achieve to the best of their ability.
problems with standards based assessment 2
Problems with standards-based assessment 2
  • Despite moderaton procedures, ensuringconsistent and fair assessment on a national basis is a tall order.
  • SBA is good for low-stakes, formative purposes, but is used for high stakes purposes such as certification.
insights for language assessment in china
Insights for language assessment in China
  • At the system level, the main purpose of foreign language assessment in China is probably always going to remain norm-referenced, summative, and selective.
  • At the pedagogical level, setting clear and realistic goals and standards for Chinese teachers and learners of English is a natural step we have to start. However, a NZ-style standards-based assessment is both impractical and unnecessary.
insights for language assessment in china37
Insights for language assessment in China
  • At the classroom level, I see an urgent need for teachers to explore formative assessment tools such as self- and peer- assessment, portfolios that provide rich feedback information.
  • At the learner level, formative assessment will not only improve learning results, but also encourage self-reflection, self monitoring, and self-regulation.
insights for language assessment in china38
Insights for language assessment in China
  • At the research agenda level, it is not a question of whether, but a question of how formative assessment should be made use of systematically by Chinese teachers and learners to improve learning.
purpose of assessment
Purpose of assessment?
  • If a major purpose of assessment is to inform teaching and learning, why aren’t we exploring formative assessment for its potentials in the foreign language classroom?