Assessment and the future of education - lessons learned from ACACA

On Thursday I was lucky enough to be invited to give the opening address at the Australasian Curriculum, Assessment and Qualification Authorities (ACACA) Conference who as their website states is the national body for the chief executives of the statutory bodies in the Australian states and territories and in New Zealand, responsible for certificates of senior secondary education. ACACA provides a (Australasian) national means for monitoring and enhancing developments in senior secondary curriculum and certification. 

My message was a variation on what I often get invited to speak about - my journey from English teacher to e-learning learning and the lessons I have learned about leading change from my time at Epsom Girls Grammar School and the work I am involved in with the team at Hobsonville Point Secondary School rounded off with a few challenges and reminders as to why we all must be invested in changing education and ideas about how we might start making that change. It was yet again a humbling reminder of how lucky I am at this stage of my career, on one hand doing what I got in to this game for - teaching and helping to lead change at a classroom and school level, whilst also being in a position to work with a number of national agencies to explore how we might lead this change at a national level. Thank you again to Maurie Abraham (my visionary Principal) for letting me indulge in my edu-passions on so many levels.

I had gone to the conference not really knowing what to expect. To be honest I was actually momentarily daunted when I was saw the seriously besuited crowd for the first time. After a brief moment of "sh*t balls this event is SERIOUS" I got into my happy presenting zone and realised the audience was interested and incredibly open to the messages I was sharing. I had already made the decision to stick around for the day, even if I wasn't the intended audience for the conference I am big believer that I have a lot to learn and that any conference is an opportunity to soak up new ideas and perspectives. The session after mine was an opportunity for different Australian state agencies to share projects or recent initiatives they had been working on. It was interesting to see how different Australia is to NZ, particularly this notion of state led education systems rather than country wide - although all eight states are delivering the Australian Curriculum and NAPLAN which is similar to National Standards, senior qualifications are assessed and managed state by state in isolation of each other. 

There were two states and initiatives that I found really interesting, both of which I believe could be adapted for the NZ context to move us forward. The first was the NSW agency BOSTES (the board of studies, teaching and education standards) who have developed two online environments for their teachers. The first was Programme Builder which allows teachers to create programmes and units directly from the NSW syllabus. The fact that you could work beyond the templates and share your programmes looked rather useful. I could see a similar tool being developed around NZC learning area AOs that could be a great help in ensuring units were being build around our curriculum documents.

The other online platform they shared was Scootle, this looked like the next level tool that allowed you to create online learning pathways for students that integrated a wide range of digital tools. I did come away wondering if this is how Pond might work in the future?? The image below provides a nice overview of how educators could use Scootle to enhance teaching and learning.
The next thing I saw was very interesting, for me I liked the way that it answered to an extent that question as to how we might go about assessing and there by raising the status of some of our key competencies. SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education) offers cross-disciplinary qualifications, the crowning glory of which is the SACE Research Project. The Research Project is a semester long assessment in Year 12 that as the website states "students have the opportunity to study an area of interest in depth. They use their creativity and initiative, while developing the research and presentation skills they will need in further study or work." In many ways the SACE Research Project reminded me of the state wide version of the fabulous Albany Senior High School Impact Projects. What I loved about the SACE Research Project is that it took senior assessment out of the context of siloed subjects and focused on the assessing the students ability to actually 'learn to learn'. Considering how the NZC highlights the importance of schools developing 'life-long learners' surely a compulsory national qualification like this would be an excellent start to ensuring all schools were teaching these skills and giving dedicated time for these skills to be developed. Check out the Videos of Student Stories here. I loved the fact that they even hosted a state-wide exhibition of learning to celebrate what the students achieve each year. The sooner we refocus on these broader cross-curricular skills the better!

So all in all it was a great day, both as an opportunity to share and to learn. The week after next I head to Google Teacher Academy in Sydney where I hope to also catch up with ACARA and the NSW agency to learn more about their software developments. We are certainly living in exciting times, just wish we could make a few changes here and now.

Thank you to Sue Chalmers (and Steve Bargh) from NZQA who invited me to attend the event.


  1. Fantastic post Claire; I can see why you were buzzing when you got back! I'd love to see that online digital course/pathway construction here and now too! An observation on your blogposts - I don't think you should always refer to how you're 'lucky enough' to be invited to be a part of all these initiavtives/events/presentations or how 'lucky' you are to be doing what you're doing on a daily basis. You are not "lucky" you are focussed and incredibly hard-working, knowledgable, intelligent, innovative and future-thinking "enough" to be doing what you are doing...or, more simply put, "awesome enough".

  2. Thanks Ros! I guess I just worry that people might think I take my position and opportunities for granted - but you are right I do know these opportunities happen for a reason and after reading 'Lean In' I should really get better at just owning that! Good reminder lady ;-)

  3. This is super awesome and really really useful nation wide - i think pondies need this info too - pushing it to pond now - thanks a million - love your blogs


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