Thursday, April 29, 2010

What Are Teachers For?

Tēnā koutou katoa - Greetings to you all
What Are Teachers For
I have heard it said that teachers are assessors and that assessment is part of the teaching and learning process. I often wonder if the meaning of the word ‘assessment’ is sometimes stretched and perhaps misused in contexts to do with learning.

Standard assessment

At the moment, NCEA standards are of two types. There are Unit Standards, awarded to learners who meet all component criteria for a particular standard. There are also Achievement Standards, awarded as Achieved (just a pass), Merit and Excellence.


A learner, who does not meet the criteria for a unit standard or for an award in an achievement standard, can choose to be re-assessed after a period of re-teaching and further study.

My thinking has never been aligned with the philosophy of teaching to a standard. I don’t believe that’s what ‘education’ is about. However, as a teacher, I have no choice but to accept the assessment system that is now intimately bound with secondary education in New Zealand.

At least re-assessment permits the learner to revisit the learning and allows the teacher to do some more teaching.


NZQA is reviewing, again, the process of assessing learners for NCEA standards in New Zealand. The specific issue that I bring to this post is the matter of what’s called a re-submission. I’ll explain.

When a learner completes and submits a standard assessment test, and it is not clear to the assessor whether the learner has actually met the standard, the test script can be returned to the learner for amendments to be made. These are performed by the learner under test conditions before re-submitting the test script for the assessment to proceed. This process is called re-submission.

Furthermore, during re-submission the learner is not permitted to study on the topic, nor receive any teaching, coaching or advice associated with the standard, before revisiting assessment tasks they performed in the test script. They are only permitted to consider their answers and perhaps amend them.

There have been many debates by teachers about what constitutes a case for re-submission. Performing a re-submission is quite different from entering into a phase of re-teaching followed by re-assessment. Teachers like things to be cut and dry. So many discussions at the moment centre on the criteria for re-submission.

A disservice to learning

As a teacher who is more interested in what learners learn and how they learn, than what they achieve in a standard test, I am often in a bind over the issue of re-submission.

I feel that I’m doing learning a disservice if I do not permit (and cannot permit) learners to revisit the learning. This is precisely what happens, and must happen according to the rules for standard assessment, when re-submissions are permitted for learners who are very close to meeting criteria for a particular standard.

In such instances, I start wondering what my role is as a teacher and educator. I also wonder if I am doing learners a disservice by permitting them to re-submit their test evidence without any further teaching and learning taking place.

I feel that if learners are in need of more teaching and learning, then they should be given the opportunity to receive just that. This opportunity is denied learners who gain a standard on re-submission.

What are teachers for?

Ka kite anō - Catchya later

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day In The Extreme

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Link to Extremes in a Sentence
What a wonderful cornucopia of extremes in a day! I am delighted to report a baker’s dozen of contributors and their extreme creations:

Cheryl enjoyed . . .

I spent the day shivering in a snowy storm, skiing trails that went from powdery snow in fog, to cream cheese snowy views across the valley where there was sun.

Gail Poulin busied . . .

I spent a busy day with my husband as we worked like soldier ants lowering stumps, covering the area in wood chips, transplanting bushes, and finally relaxing peacefully on the deck with a beverage and watching nesting birds at the feeders.

Virginia completed . . .

I started the day with an empty calendar for the month of May and now every day is filled with at least one thing and many times two.

Mr Wood experienced . . .

The day began cold and grey, then became hot and sticky, and just after it got wet and sticky, it became sunny and warm.

Kabod facilitated . . .

I delicately discussed "Stirrings" in The Giver over and over today with silly, pubescent Seventh-and-three-quarters Graders.

Ken waxed . . .

In 24 hours, our bathroom was transformed from a functional facility and possible retreat to an empty wooden box with holes in all sides that the wind whistled through.

Anonymous sighed . . .

Yesterday morning I got to play with my granddaughter in the morning and had to kiss her good by in the evening. I wouldn't get a chance to see her in person again till June.

Gail Desler expressed . . .

I spent the day with 6 dedicated, innovative, caring 5th grade teachers, 5 of whom received "pink slips" this month (where in the heck did the expression "pink slip" come from - and what's the terminology in your district?). Difficult times in California.

Bonnie extemporised . . .

Could there be anything more extreme? We left on a plane from Tel Aviv, Israel on Monday night at midnight and arrived at Newark airport, New Jersey at 5AM and there's a 7 hour time difference. So getting back to normal, well what's normal anyway?

Elona announced . . .

My students were working away quietly at the begining of the class and then the fire alarm went off.

Tracy activated . . .

A flurry of activity to get parent permission for 25 students in 15 minutes for a last-minute opportunity to attend a day-long literary festival, after which I stayed at the school in the quiet of my classroom for the day :)

Kevin initiated . . .

Between coaching youth baseball, writing a grant proposal, composing daily poetry, working on some educational pieces for a website and watching my three boys run-run-run, the week of school vacation has been anything other than restful.

Cynthia ebulliated . . .

The air was already oppressively humid at 7:15 a.m., and then the rain began; however, the seniors were able to have their crawfish boil at 1:00. Yum!

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Extremes In A Sentence

Day In A SentenceTēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Yes. I know. It's been over a month now. I have been immersed in resource development and other things - overseeing bathroom and kitchen refurbishments at home, while catching up with my family who have been on leave recently.

This week I am, once again, privileged to be hosting Kevin's Day In A Sentence. Kevin Hodgson (aka Dogtrax) has kindly let me host this week's DIAS.

Just to put you in the picture, Kevin is an energetic, community minded teacher who is forever creating new ideas to involve people in people activities. One of his most successful ventures in this direction is his weekly Day In A Sentence. People are invited to summarise in one sentence a day out of their week.

There's been a lot in the news lately about Earth's, now famous, gastronomic eruption in Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull. This amazing phenomenon stirred again most recently, a clash of the Earth's hottest and coldest elements, to bring about a truly global effect.

This week's theme for Day In A Sentence is to summarise in one sentence the extremes of your day. So sock it to us, hot and cold, wet and dry, happy and sad, whatever . . .

. . . just give it all to us in a sentence by clicking here, or by leaving your sentence in a comment at the foot of this post.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later