Home' Teacher : May 2010 Contents 24 TEACHER MAY 2010
'Over testing' and 'teaching to the test':
they're the ever-present bogeys of moni-
toring student achievement. Why? When
you add up the column inches devoted to
My School and the National Assessment
Program -- Literacy and Numeracy
(NAPLAN), not to mention the Program
for International Student Assessment
(PISA) and the Trends in International
Mathematics and Science Study, you eas-
ily get to the idea that teachers, schools and
systems are spending too much time and
attention on assessment and not enough on
simply teaching and learning.
It's a temptingly simple dichotomy:
you're either 'testing' or you're 'teaching.'
The reality for the professional educator is,
of course, quite different.
In addressing the 2008 Big Day Out for
Victoria's government school principals,
Professor Geoff Masters of the Australian
Council for Educational Research (ACER)
described the process that teachers under-
take in addressing the learning needs of
He presented this process as a 'decision-
making loop,' as shown in Figure 1, by
which a teacher's understanding of the cur-
rent situation, knowledge of how to address
the situation and the required resources
are translated into action, which leads to
improved learning outcomes. The 'loop'
part comes with the feedback and evaluation
that provides the teacher with an updated
understanding of the situation, builds the
teacher's knowledge about effective prac-
tices and identifies the resources that may
be required for effective action in the future.
The best teachers target their teaching
based on what they know about effective
teaching, what resources they have and,
critically, what they know about exactly
where their students are in their individual
Masters took up this theme again
in his 2009 review of education for the
Queensland government. In discussing the
pedagogical importance of the 'targeting of
teaching on students' current levels of readi-
ness and need,' Masters quotes Michael
Fullan, Peter Hill and Carmel Crévola from
their book, Breakthrough.
'In an ideal world, the teacher would
have precise and current knowledge of each
student's starting points and also of what
assistance each student requires to move to
the next level.'
Where Fullan, Hill and Crévola talk
about 'precise and current knowledge,'
Masters talks about 'timely, relevant and
Where does NAPLAN fit in?
NAPLAN and other system-wide assess-
ments, like PISA, are used for a variety of
purposes and to generate different kinds
of reports for different audiences. The My
School website is a high-profile example,
but of course there are also individual stu-
is timely assessment
TESTING AND TEACHING ARE NOT
OPPOSED: TESTING IS AN INTEGRAL
PART OF GOOD TEACHING,
EXPLAINS RALPH SAUBERN.
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