Explaining ‘New Contexts’ at a C level

A few things about the Australian Curriculum have generated healthy discussion but certainly non more so (at PBAS at least) than the wording around students achieving a C grade. If you are not sure of the terminology you are supposed to use to determine grades then here it is:


High level capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Deep understanding of concepts and key ideas and connections between them outstanding development of skills. Comprehensive knowledge of content.


Strong capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Some depth of understanding of concepts and key ideas high level development of skills. Thorough knowledge of content.


Capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Sound understanding of concepts and key ideas sound development of skills. Adequate knowledge of content.


Capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in familiar contexts. Some understanding of concepts and key ideas some development of skills. Basic knowledge of content.


Beginning capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in a familiar context. Beginning understanding of concepts and key ideas. Initial development of skills limited knowledge of content.

The term ‘new context’ has been used at a C level. This wording has not been a part of our grading structure before and has prompted some people to make blanket emotional statements like, ‘no child in South Australia will achieve above a D grade because they cannot apply their learning in a new context’. As a teacher I don’t understand why this would be the case. As part of good teaching we often get students to apply knowledge at a different time to when it was originally learnt and in a different context. It happens all the time in Physical Education. For example students develop the fundamental motor skill throwing and then apply that skill to bowling in cricket or pitching in softball. Both are very different contexts and therefore require the student to demonstrate the capacity to apply knowledge, skills and understandings in new contexts. Transference of skills happens all the time in our classrooms. We just have to recognise when this happens as part of our assessment of students.

The flyer passed on to us by Denise (email 7.6.12 ‘Explaining ‘new contexts’ at ‘C’ level in the DECD Reporting Resource’) gives some examples of what ‘new context’ means. Here are two of those examples:

In Year 5 science, for instance, students are asked to classify substances according to their observable properties and behaviours. If the original learning occurred in relation to natural substances, the ability to apply classification processes to manufactured substances would constitute applying this learning ‘in new contexts’.

‘In Year 1 mathematics, students are asked to continue simple patterns involving numbers and objects. If the original learning occurred in the mathematics classroom with manipulatives, the ability to apply patterning processes in music will constitute applying learning in a new context.’

I would be interested to hear from staff whether or not these examples help with the question can I give a ‘D’ or a ‘C’ for the students understanding of a particular concept.


2 thoughts on “Explaining ‘New Contexts’ at a C level

  1. The above is a clear outline and helps to clarify our thinking. The term “new contexts” has been a bit confusing but the above outline about what A, B, C, D and E means backs up what I have considered for a long time. This is a relief.

  2. From our workshop in the afternoon on Friday we discussed in our groups the idea about A to E grading. Naturally most primary staff from other sites are a bit nervous about this as they usually just use the word equivalents and use their professional judgement. The Australian Curriculyum however requires us to grade A to E against the Achievement Standard that is quite specific. Let me summarize what Kerry Hugo said to our group on Friday – To get an “A” students should have done really well at the vast (not necessarily all) majority of tasks. They should have persisted with activities, shown deep knowledge and understanding and coped to a high level with WHAT YOU HAVE PRESENTED THEM. Making sure you present them with challenging learning that stretches their thinking and hiopefully uses higher order thinking other than just recall is the key for us as teachers to keep in mind. We have to ensure that we give students the opportunity to show their ability fully and assess that using a variety of DIFFERENT METHODS which may include observations, problem solving tasks, assignments, written summaries, everyday work samples, oral explanations . . . .the list goes on. We already try to do this and so this is good to hear that we are on the right track.
    Interestingly it was stated that if a student doesn’t do every small part of the Achievement Standard to a great level then that doesn’t mean they can’t get an “A”. Overall evidence of their ability is what is required and we, as teachers, should be able to justify our grading. THis is something that I am committed to developing further over the next 6 months.
    Another obvious thing from Friday was how well versed our teachers are in TfEL and the AC. This is mainly to the work that Nick has put in to this development for our staff. Well done. (one cruiser pending!!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe By Email

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Please prove that you are not a robot.

Skip to toolbar