Should we be weighting assessment tasks?

If we are assessing against the Australian Curriculum using the Achievement Standard then the answer to this is no.

There will be some out there who say, “Well I have never weighted tasks”, and at the risk of generalising most of these teachers will be primary. Then there are those of us (including me) who say, “I have always weighted my tasks.” The majority of those will be secondary teachers. Our reasoning? Because some tasks are larger and more complex and take more time, effort and knowledge to complete successfully. Our tasks will always continue to have varying degrees of complexity but the Australian Curriculum does not accommodate weighting aspects of the Achievement Standards.

Consider the following taken from information provided by Graham Cox (Partnerships Secondary Australian Curriculum Officer):

  • Achievement Standards are broad descriptors of where student achievement needs to be for specific stages of schooling.
  • In standards-referenced assessment (The AC) it is the pattern of performance, taken over a series of assessment tasks (portfolio) that is used to determine achievement of the Standard.
    • Student achievement is an on balance judgement through the coverage of all content descriptions and evidence of their learning against the Achievement Standard.
  • The Australian Curriculum has no prescribed weightings.

Taking this from a personal perspective I had not considered not weighting my tasks until now. I have done it every year for 18 years. Until now I haven’t thought twice about applying a higher number of marks to certain aspects of my HPE courses than others.

What is the problem with using weightings to assess the Australian Curriculum?

Example – Subject A,  Semester 1, 2015

  • Assignment 1 Weighting 25% (5 aspects of Australian Curriculum Achievement Standard covered)
  • Assignment 2 15% (2 aspects)
  • Assignment 3 15% (2 aspects)
  • Assignment 4 10% (2 aspects)

For those of us who traditionally weight our tasks we would use some form of the above example. This style of assessment weights certain aspects of the Standards higher than others, which is not how we should be using the Standards.

Lets assume for the sake of this example that each aspect of the Standard is weighted equally within the assignment.

  • Assignment 1 allocates 4% to each aspect of the Standard.
  • Assignment 2 & 3 allocate 7.5% to each.
  • Assignment 4 allocates 5% to each.

It is inappropriate to weight some aspects of the Standard at 7.5% while allocating others only 4% when both are considered of equal value.

The Australian Curriculum provides an Achievement Standard as a broad descriptor whereas in the SACE a Performance Standard is referenced through weighted components and an accompanying assessment design rubric. As teachers of the AC we are required to assess students achievement based on a portfolio of evidence gathered over time. That evidence is gathered from assessment tasks that give students opportunities to demonstrate learning against aspects of the Achievement Standard. If we can provide those aligned assessment tasks and students submit the work our role is to determine to what degree have they provided that evidence. So we determine the level of achievement (A-E) and we can develop specific criteria that help us to separate student’s level of knowledge and understanding. In a perfect world an appropriate moderation process with peers would help us confirm at what level students have achieved and improve our confidence in making those judgements.

For your consideration:

  1. Does your marks books reflect your assignments and the relevant Achievement Standard or does it just list your assignments without reference to the Standard?
  2. Does your marks book reflect an even weighting applied to each aspect of the Standard?

The purpose of this post is to get teachers to reflect on their assessment practices in relation to the Australian Curriculum. The idea of not weighting tasks is one I only arrived at the other day after a conversation with Tyler and Joelene. Some of you may have already considered this concept while others may not have. During early term 2 there will be some discussion to allow teachers to put forward their thoughts and opinions. In the mean time if you wanted to contribute to the comments section of this post with your thoughts that would be most appreciated.



2 thoughts on “Should we be weighting assessment tasks?

  1. Some interesting points for discussion :)
    Stage 1 and 2 (SACE) teachers should be familiar with not using weightings for individual assessment tasks (only Assessment Components). I know this was a big change for me when it was implemented (quite a few years ago now). I went from each individual task having a weighting (I would mark the task, then apply the weighting e.g. 7.5% – kept all the data on a big spread sheet), to having to take a ‘holistic’ look at the all the work provided for an Assessment Component and apply a single grade.
    I think of the assessment in the Australian Curriculum in a similar way. It is not the individual task that matters, but the overall performance against the achievement standard.
    I do find the Achievement Standards very broad, and you need to keep referring back to them to ensure they are reflected into your assessment. Some advice I was given was to incorporate the language of the Achievement Standard into you tasks.
    I also think students and parents need to know that individual tasks are not weighted. I regularly have year 11/12 students ask me “What percentage is this worth?” I explain that in SACE tasks (& Australian Curriculum) have no individual weightings, but this task is one of 4 tasks that make up a 50% Assessment Component (not applicable to the Australian Curriculum). They need to be aware that each teacher uses their professional judgement to assign a grade based on how well they meet the Performance Standards (or Achievement Standard). You have probably had a similar question asked at interviews – particularly if a student hasn’t done overly well on a task and the parents are hoping it will have little impact on their overall grade.
    As you mentioned Nick, ideally this ‘holistic’ assessment (of both SACE and Australian Curriculum) benefits from moderation of tasks to confirm standards. I see this as a great opportunity to work with teachers from other sites to moderate, discuss and share good teaching practice. I have been involved in similar days in the past and have found them very beneficial.
    I look forward to the discussion on this in term 2.

  2. A good discussion at staff meeting tonight.
    Setting tasks that address parts of the Achievement Standards and then collecting and keeping evidence to assist with making good overall judgements as to an appropriate grade seems a good starting point.
    I actually think not weighting tasks will make reporting easier as I often had to wait until I had marked a specific piece of work towards the end of a term before I could write the final report and assign a grade.

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