Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 14, Issue 2, Article 7 (Dec., 2013)

Assessing New Zealand high school science: Considerations for teachers’ assessment literacy

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Assessment is a complex activity and its effectiveness is dependent on the assessors’ knowledge, skills, and understanding of assessment principles and practices, and their ability to apply these in the range of settings that present themselves in school classrooms (Bell & Cowie, 2001; Black & Wiliam, 2006; Harlen & Gardner, 2010; James & Pedder, 2006; Smith, 2010). The term assessment literacy is used to describe what teachers need to know about assessment matters (Abell & Siegel, 2011; Lomax, 1996; Lukin, Bandalos, Eckhout, & Mickelson, 2004; Mertler & Campbell, 2005; Popham, 2008; Siegel & Wissehr, 2011; Stiggins, 1995). Assessment literacy has been defined as an understanding of the principles of sound assessment (Stiggins, 1995, 2002). Stiggins (1995) observed that “Assessment literates know the difference between sound and unsound assessment. They are not intimidated by the sometimes mysterious and always daunting technical world of assessment" (p. 240). He went on to remark that assessment literate educators

“…come to any assessment knowing what they are assessing, why they are doing so, how best to assess the achievement of interest, how to generate examples of performance, what can go wrong, and how to prevent these problems before they occur. Most important, those who are truly sensitive to the potential negative influences of inaccurate assessment never permit students to be put in a situation where their achievement might be mismeasured” (p. 240).

As discussed by Abell and Seigel (2011), there is sufficient evidence within science education literature to show that the way a teacher assesses directly affects the way their students learn. This, then, should motivate science teachers to become more assessment literate, for the benefit of their classes.


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