study of ARB use at Takapuna Normal Intermediate School
in the Assessment Mix: Using ARBs for both Classroom and
Takapuna Normal Intermediate School
in 1970 in the North Shore of Auckland, Takapuna Normal
Intermediate School (TNIS) is a decile 10 school with
approximately 620 students, 21 classroom teachers, and
6 specialist art and technology teachers. The school
has a strong commitment to the development of a community
of student and staff learners. This commitment is supported
by the parent community and teachers (the majority of
whom are currently undertaking post-graduate study).
The school also has close links with Auckland College
Two key elements
of TNIS's teaching and learning programme, which impact
on classroom practice and assessment are:
on cross-curricula integrated learning. Each class
is in one of three groups. One group of classes
are engaged in an integrated programme, another
group combines year 7 and 8 classes, and the third
group is engaged in "traditional" classes.
programme examining how to better meet the emotional,
social, and learning needs of the emerging adolescent
running in conjunction with Auckland College of
Education. For continuity, students are kept in
teams with the same group of teachers for the two
years they are at TNIS, and as teachers plan units,
they closely examine the types of activities undertaken
by students to ensure that they will engage emerging
developments in assessment at TNIS
and school management at TNIS discussed how they felt
they were "over-assessing" students and they
are currently engaged in a process that will refine
the assessment programme and ultimately decrease the
emphasis on formal testing. In 2002, as part of this
process, staff began a school-wide Assess to Learn (AtoL)
contract with Evaluation Associates which includes:
of the school's assessment focus,
development of formative assessment practices,
of more child-centred classroom practices, and
towards electronic reporting to enable more systematic
use of classroom data to meet school-wide reporting
As a result
of this contract some teachers have changed their practice
while others have affirmed their beliefs about teaching.
assessment contract made a huge difference to me personally
it's altered the way I plan as a teacher. I used
to go to the resource room and select resources.now
I look at the resources and ask, "Do they teach
the children what I want them to learn?"
has given that [formative assessment] a real emphasis.
Before it was ad hoc now it is really formalised
[teachers are aware of when they are using formative
assessment practices] .It fitted in really well with
my philosophy and affirmed the notions [I had about]
children negotiating criteria, reflecting, and recognising
the next steps for their learning.
the future include the development of new electronic
reporting forms. School management also plans to use
the ARBs and other resources to provide curriculum levels
for students' portfolio work to enable a clearer understanding
of students' achievements and clearer reporting to parents.
reasons staff are planning to use the exemplars from
Exemplars Project to write their own exemplars
in key learning areas.
school-wide assessment practices
As well as
an increasing commitment to formative assessment in
their day to day practice, TNIS has a strong
assessment programme. The science and mathematics teams
make extensive use of ARB resources in this programme.
Other tools used for assessments in other curriculum
areas include STAR and PAT tests, the Essential Skills
Assessments, and NEMP and National Exemplars tasks.
As part of
the school-wide assessment programme, year 7 entry and
year 8 exit assessments are completed by students in
a number of key areas including mathematics, science,
and English. In the second week of term one, the new
cohort of year 7 students complete science and mathematics
entry tests. Later in term one students complete STAR
and PAT tests to give information about their development
of reading and listening skills. Students also complete
exit assessments at the end of year 8.
the ARBs for school-wide science teaching and assessment
At TNIS, ARB
science resources are used in two main ways in the
science programme: to develop entry and exit tests,
and as performance-based tasks. The HOD Science noted
that before the use of the entry and exit assessments
there was no collation of school-wide data on achievement
in science and little information about how or what
science was being taught at the school.
entry and exit tests
are used by the HOD Science to develop the year 7 entry
and year 8 exit tests (which have been completed by
all students for the last two years). The criteria used
to select resources are that they:
the key science areas selected by the school and
with the National Exemplars project "Science
contexts used in the school programme, for example,
students at TNIS have been engaged in a cross-curricula
unit on bicycles, therefore, the science context
chosen covered wheels, cogs, and motion;
Zealand contexts, for example, native bush;
information (see the Diagnostic Information box);
level 3 resources for the year 7 test and level
4 resources for the year 8 test;
questions that have a range of difficulty levels,
with the bulk having a difficulty level of "moderate";
a range of resource types, that is, SR, BCR, and
a few LCR resources (see the Resource Type information
will be the first time students have completed the same
science test at the start and end of the year. Teachers
plan to report the end of year results by each year
cohort, strand, gender, and ethnicity. Summaries will
also be produced for teachers and school management
by class, gender, and curriculum strand (within each
curriculum team reviews their school-wide science plan
each year and has instigated a number of other
initiatives within the science programme which use ARB
testing" has been identified as a key area in the
science plan. To support teachers in teaching and assessing
this area, the science curriculum team have produced
a "fair testing" kit which includes ARB tasks
as well as tasks designed by teachers. Each kit contains
these tasks and the necessary equipment. Students complete
at least five pen and paper or performance tasks. Some
of the tasks provide scaffolding for students, for example
the resource numbered MW5673,
which requires students to test different makes of paper
towels to see which is the best at mopping up spills.
Other tasks require students to design their own "fair
test", for example MW5670,
part of which is shown below.
Some of the tasks in the
"fair testing" kit are used as teaching and
learning activities and others as assessment tasks.
The results of the assessment tasks are recorded and
students' work is included in their portfolio.
As part of the integrated
studies programme students are given the opportunity
to suggest areas of interest which are then included
in the teaching programme. In 2003 students identified
"the future" and "genetics" as areas
they wanted to learn more about. The science curriculum
team then used the ARBs to find resources that matched
students' interests and their teaching priorities. To
provide teachers with resources about "the future"
a set of three ARB tasks about rockets: testing the
fuel, designing rockets, and rocket flight (MW6338,
have been made into a booklet and given to all teachers.
Use of the ARBs for
school-wide mathematics assessment
For the last three years
ARB and NEMP tasks have been used by the HOD Mathematics
to develop year 7 and 8 entry and exit tests which are
completed by all students. These tests have been refined
each year. In 2003, students in the two year levels
will complete the same test at the start and end of
the year. The tests include resources that are assessing
the same skills but at different levels, for example,
the year 7 test uses level 3 resources and the year
8 test, level 4 resources to assess students' ability
to calculate the mean, median, and mode of a distribution.
The first two sections
of the tests (basic facts and the four operations) are
NEMP tasks. The third section includes two number, one
statistics, one algebra, and one measurement word problem
from the ARBs. The ARB word problems that are selected
incorporate diagnostic information, are mostly short
answer, and have a range of different layouts and contexts.
The average score for each
year cohort is recorded and summary graphs are produced
for the three main sections of the test to enable trends
to be more visible. Summaries are also produced for
teachers and school management by class, gender (within
each class), and ethnicity.
The HOD Mathematics noted
that each year the tests have provided information to
improve programmes, for example, previous test results
highlighted that both year 7 and 8 students were having
difficulties with division. As a result the HOD suggested
some changes to the teaching programme and sourced resources
to support the teaching of division.
Use of the information
gained from the school-wide programme
The main purpose of the
year 7 entry tests is to quickly gather information
about the new cohort of year 7 students so teachers
can group students according to their learning needs,
as well as identify those who need extension or extra
support. TNIS is currently using, or has plans to use,
information from the school-wide entry and exit assessments
in mathematics and science for a variety of other purposes
to contribute to the improvement of the teaching programme,
resourcing, and reporting as outlined below.
The results from the
assessment programme are used in a cyclical way to improve
teaching and learning programmes as shown below.
Other uses of ARB resources
in the school
ARB resources from all
three curriculum areas are used by teachers in a range
of other ways, such as:
- Formative and diagnostic
assessment tasks throughout the year;
- Group tasks and general
teaching tasks, for example, as starter activities
or as worksheets or homework;
- Models for practical
tasks and new contexts in science and mathematics,
for example, teachers sourced the equipment and materials
used in the task PW4035
so students can do the resource as a performance task;
- Professional development
for teachers who have limited science knowledge;
- Extension tasks, for
example, level 5 resources are used by year 8 students;
- Tasks which are included
in students' portfolios and are used to discuss students'
progress with parents; and
- General teaching resources
to support students working at level 2. This is important
for TNIS staff as the school is not resourced for
level 2. For example, level 2 and level 3 word problems
are used to support students identified as having
difficulties in mathematics, and resources such as
(which assesses observational skills) are used with
the ESOL reception class as integrated science and
written language tasks.
Accessing and using
At TNIS all teachers have
access to an Internet connected computer in their classrooms,
and a set of laptops which can be booked and taken home.
In the future teachers will also have access to the
new library and research centre computers. Many teachers
prefer to access the banks at home or in the school
holidays when they do their planning.
Use of the ARBs by staff
at TNIS varies; some teachers use the banks every couple
of weeks, others have browsed through them once or twice.
One teacher had used the banks since their inception
in 1997. Most of the high users are HODs, or recent
College of Education graduates who were introduced to
the banks as part of their College programme. Although
teachers use ARB resources in all three curriculum areas,
they make the most use of the science and mathematics
The frequent users noted
that they look at the banks every time they plan units
of work. Some teachers have a group of on-line resources
that they browse to get resources or ideas when they
are planning (the ARBs,
Zealand Maths: problem-solving, and TKI.)
These teachers usually
have a particular area in mind when they access the
ARBs and therefore use a search that combines strand,
level, and keyword to find resources directly related
to this area. Teachers outlined how the search menus
made it very easy for them to find the resources they
[Using the ARB search
screen] I can search specifically for a level, and I
like the way the fields are set up for searching so
I can narrow it down like the strand or whatever
I am interested in.
They are so accessible.
and really easy to narrow down. by level, strand, AO
[achievement objective], and keyword.
Benefits of ARB use
The main benefit teachers
derived from using the ARBs was access to resources
that are used to develop and refine their school-wide
and classroom assessment programmes. Teachers discussed
how the ARB site gives them access to new resources
which would have been time-consuming to develop, and
provides new and novel ideas for activities and contexts
to use in the classroom.
It has simplified
it [school-wide assessment] and standardised it,
and given me a huge amount of confidence that it
is reliable, valid, and at the right level. I couldn't
have done it [develop the school-wide assessments]
otherwise.it would have taken ages!
They are so handy,
they are ready made and so easily accessible...they
are already in levels for our curriculum.the fact
that they have next steps diagnostics. .You
know it is a valid site and you are using valid
information which is going to assist in learning.
They come up with
heaps better ideas than I could!.I like the way
they are presented [with the graphics].
At TNIS teachers use ARB
resources for multiple purposes in the teaching and
assessment of mathematics, science, and English. Use
of the ARBs is a key part of the school's assessment
strategy in mathematics and science, and is also part
of individual teaching programmes. ARB resources provide
an important role in assisting teachers to gather information
on new cohorts of students. Teachers are very positive
about the confidence ARBs use gives them in regard to
their school-wide programme, and the way the diagnostic
information included on many resources assists them
in targeting their next teaching steps and priorities
A concern with "over-assessing"
is part of the debate at TNIS as teachers carefully
consider the role assessment plays in their programmes.
At TNIS the search for a balance between assessment
for further learning, and for reporting, is ongoing.
Staff at TNIS have a deep
interest in the complexities of assessment and a strong
desire to use a range of assessment strategies and tools
available to improve teaching and learning at their
school. To this end TNIS staff are engaged in a continuous
review cycle to improve their programmes and are clear
about the contribution ARB tasks make to this process.