Assessment of student achievement, the process of collecting, examining and using information about what students know and can do, is the basis of effective teaching and learning.

The relationship between assessment, teaching and learning is dynamic and interactive. The act of gathering, analysing and using assessment information is integral to the teaching and learning process – without worthwhile assessment information teachers can only be certain that they have taught. They cannot be certain that their students have learned what they set out to teach, or that the teaching is relevant to the students’ learning needs and interests.

When teachers have rich information about what their students know, can do and need to do next, they are able to involve students as active participants in their learning and assessment of their own learning. They are also in a position to consult parents and the school’s communities about students’ progress.

Assessment processes

Assessment information is collected to determine students’ achievement and their learning needs. It provides a basis for the analysis of progress and achievement of students over time and assists the diagnosis of individual learning needs.

Various terms are used to describe assessment processes and their particular purposes. The purposes of assessment activities can be described as assessment of,assessment for, and assessment as learning.

Assessment of learning refers to assessment processes that summarise and report students’ achievements at a given point in time. Usually known as summative assessment, assessment of learning summarises a student’s learning. This information should give teachers, school managers, parents and students a dependable and sound summary of students’ progress and accomplishments.

Assessment for learning, sometimes referred to as formative assessment, has been defined as “all those activities undertaken by teachers, and by the students in assessing themselves, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged.” [1] This assessment involves a close relationship between the teacher, the student and the teaching and learning programme.

Assessment as learning describes the process of students monitoring their own learning and progress. It occurs when students understand how they are learning and what they need to do to improve. They can interpret their assessment information from different sources and use it to make decisions about their own learning.

Each of these purposes of assessment is necessary at different times in students’ learning, or for management of teaching and learning processes. Some assessment activities may be used for more than one purpose at a time.

The collection of assessment information

Assessment includes information gathered from a wide range of sources and at different points in time. These sources can include:

  • knowledge gained from parents about their child;
  • teachers’ knowledge drawn from their day-to-day interactions with students;
  • results from teacher-designed classroom and school-wide tests;
  • assessment at school entry or transition points;
  • results from national standardised assessment tools such as PATs (Progressive Achievement Tests), asTTle (assessment tools for teaching and learning) or the national exemplars;
  • examination results; and
  • national qualification results such as those from NCEA (National Certificates of Educational Achievement).

The use of assessment information

Assessment information in schools is only beneficial to teaching and learning if it is analysed and used. Student achievement is likely to be enhanced if assessment information is used by teachers and school leaders to:

  • build students’ confidence and motivate them to make further progress;
  • develop learning programmes that match students’ prior achievement and learning;
  • identify the next learning steps for students;
  • diagnose causes of learning difficulties to plan targeted teaching programmes;
  • inform individual students and their parents about the progress or standard achieved;
  • inform curriculum review and decisions about policy and resources and teachers’ professional development;
  • provide information at transition points in students’ education (for example, between primary and intermediate schools or as students move between schools of the same type);
  • report to the local community; and
  • report to and consult with the Māori community.

This report presents the findings of an in-depth evaluation conducted by ERO on how effectively schools collect and use assessment information.