Case study of
ARB use at Horowhenua College
in the Assessment Mix: Using the ARBs in a Secondary English Programme
The focus of this case
study is on the use of the Assessment Resource Banks
(ARBs) by staff in the English faculty at Horowhenua
Horowhenua College, a decile
4 school which opened in 1940, is located on the Kapiti
Coast in the rural town of Levin. It currently has a
roll of over 850 students and a staff of 55. Its motto
is "Essayez" which means, "give of your
best". Recently the college was one of three secondary
school finalists in the Goodman Fielder School of the
Year contest. The principal is in her first year at
the school and has a clear vision of the future for
the college. Her major focus is that the school is a
place of learning and teaching, and that students are
at the college to gain the very best results and qualifications
they are capable of achieving.
in assessment at Horowhenua College
The English staff we interviewed
viewed assessment not as an end in itself, but as an
important part of the larger picture of student achievement.
There is clear support at the school for internal assessment
over external assessment, but the principal acknowledged
that at times a range of data is needed for benchmarking,
assessment of a whole cohort, and to provide feedback
on progress. The school has a full review of assessment
practices on its "to do" schedule, with the
aim of bringing a standard approach across all faculties
to improve the consistency of assessment and the quality
of teaching programmes.
.it's a challenging
time for assessment with a lot of adjustments and
expectations of teachers and students to be worked
through,. with the various tools available; ARBs,
NEMP, the National Exemplars Project and asTTle, there
is a lot to reflect on.
The school management is
committed to NCEA and report that students are performing
well, and that staff and students are enjoying the flexibility
that NCEA brings. The principal considered that once
staff got to grips with NCEA and made the necessary
adjustments, such as creating new policies and procedures,
the assessment component worked really well.
Current English assessment
2003 saw the arrival of
a new English Head of Faculty (HOF), who included issues
of assessment, and the potential of the ARBs to improve
assessment practices at the school, on the agenda of
team meetings. The English faculty handbook at the college
states that staff need to relate their teaching to national
standards by using the different national assessment
tools. To this end teachers use the ARBs and other assessment
tools in a range of ways. Some ARB resources are integrated
into teaching programmes for formative assessment and
others are used in the English school-wide assessment
programme. The English teachers were confident they
had a good balance of formative and summative assessment.
Use of the ARBs in other
curriculum areas for school-wide assessment
The layout, graphics, and
images of the ARB science bank have provided the motivation
for a planned review of the common tests used for the
year 9 and 10 science programmes. The ARBs are not currently
being used by teachers in the mathematics faculty for
School-wide English assessment
and the ARBs
The English faculty has
a schedule of five summative assessments planned in
the year 9 and 10 programme for 2003. These are:
- Poetic writing (ARBs);
- Two close reading assessments,
with a focus on reading comprehension (asTTle and
- Transactional writing
- Prepared speeches (ARBs).
assessments common to all classes include ARB resources,
which are identified by the HOF and then embargoed,
to prevent them being used as a classroom resource.
Twice a year, all year 9 students complete a level 3/4
asTTle test. Some items in the asTTle tests are repeated
to allow for an analysis of growth over time. The HOF
finds all these assessments valuable for ability grouping,
as well as class and cohort comparisons.
Use of the ARBs in individual
As well as including ARB
resources in the school-wide English assessment programme,
teachers in the English faculty use individual ARB resources
as formative and summative assessment tasks, and as
teaching resources, during the year.
The ARBs are especially
useful in my year 10 learning support class of kids
who need extra help with reading and writing. Fifty
percent of the teaching material is from Level 3 ARB
Several teachers mentioned
using cloze and listening resources with students for
formative assessment (See the Cloze Information Box).
The HOF uses ARB resources
in his own teaching programme, and recommends the ones
that he thinks work really well to the rest of the faculty.
When we visited the school he was incorporating the
ARB listening resources into his classroom programme.
He commented that he would like to see an expansion
of the number of listening resources, as he liked the
"little and often" approach to assessment.
His year 11 class were doing work on static images and
the HOF used a number of ARB resources (e.g., VL4009,
to help strengthen students' understanding of the visual
language concepts necessary for NCEA assessments. An
example of a resource (VL4131)
is shown below.
Click on image for full
use a range of ARB resources for quick pre- and post-testing
as part of units of work. The prepared speech resources
were used for the public speaking competition this year.
The teachers we interviewed have a range of personal
ARB favourites which they integrate into their teaching
programmes. One teacher uses WL3209
for the writing of Haiku and Cinquains, WL2568
for assessment of nouns and verbs, WL3602
for writing instructions, and WL2412
for assessment of poetic devices. One staff member uses
(a comprehension resource shown below) and described
it as "a little cracker."
Click on image for full
Teachers encourage self assessment practices by giving
students ARB marking guides so they can grade their
own work and interpret the difficulty data and diagnostics
to identify their next learning steps. Teachers considered
that the ARB marking guides gave clear guidelines for
students and for themselves.
Recording of student
achievement in the English faculty
Teachers in the English
faculty use a coding system for their marking to show
individual student's achievement with regards to levels
in the curriculum. This system incorporates the results
of ARB assessments. The following is an extract from
a mark book.
ENGLISH PROGRAMME TRACKING SHEET
working towards level 4 achievement objectives.
YEAR 10 working towards level 5 achievement
objectives English in the NZ Curriculum.
that the use of this tracking sheet enabled them to
develop achievement profiles for individual students,
and to monitor student progress relative to the faculty's
expectations and goals. The marking sheet is colour
coded to facilitate quick visual checks of student performance
and easy identification of areas needing improvement.
Accessing the ARBs
The English teachers vary
in how frequently they access ARB resources: some access
the ARBs twice a week, others two times a month, and
others "only on wet weekends." Staff tend
to "surf" the website, browsing for resources
that match their up-coming classroom work. What was
common to all the teachers interviewed was the constant
search for new and challenging assessments, especially
with clear links to NCEA units. Another common practice
was the joining together of two resources, which assess
different features of a topic, to give greater depth
of assessment. A printed folder of resources is kept
in the resource room for all teachers to use. Marking
guides are treated in a similar way, and some are made
into OHTs to assist student self or peer assessment.
Teachers keep up-to-date
with new ARB material by receiving the ARB newsletter,
updates from the HOF, or by "surfing" the
website regularly. Search strategies use varied. Some
teachers use very structured approaches, that is, searching
by strands, functions, levels, and keywords.
Others preferred to "surf"
or use the resource
summary pages, allowing
their growing understanding of the bank's structure
to guide them. As one staff member reported:
With hundreds of items
to look at its fun to discover something really useful
Time at school however,
was an issue: all staff reported that they tend to use
the ARBs at home.
Benefits of ARB use
The benefits of using the
ARBs mentioned by teachers ranged from assisting in
the levelling of students' work, to giving a quick snapshot
of students' achievement relative to the curriculum.
All teachers considered that the ARBs allowed them to
The biggest single
issue in my teaching is time . with the ARBs I can
look up the banks quickly and often find a useful
match to what is been taught.it is a magic tool.
Others mentioned that they
liked the range of different types of responses required
of students, and how useful the diagnostic information
was in the punctuation and grammar resources. Teachers
commented that the banks filled a perceived gap in providing
assessment material in the field of non-fiction. The
ARBs were also described as being almost "wally
proof" as a first time visitor can quickly understand
the search process and find appropriate resources.
The ARBs have helped teachers
in the English faculty at Horowhenua College to achieve
three things; firstly, to create a conversation about
improvement, secondly, to provide a reliable and valid
assessment tool, and lastly, to assist in clarifying
learning expectations. Teachers considered that the
tracking system which assisted them in the identification
of trends, and the flexibility they had to use ARB resources
in a range of ways, had provided them with a strong
foundation to monitor and enhance student achievement
as well as to improve their teaching practice.
Elley, W., & Croft,
C. (1989). Assessing the difficulty of reading materials:
The noun frequency
method. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational
Ministry of Education.
(1994). English in the New Zealand curriculum.
Wellington: Learning Media.