Researchers at the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Australia are working on a research project that seeks to improve the Writing performance assessment component of the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). The project, led by Associate Professor Stephen Humphry and Professor David Andrich, also aims more generally to improve assessments in areas that have traditionally been difficult to assess, such as The Arts, so that educators can more accurately compare students’ achievements in primary and secondary schooling.
“Because there are rarely straightforward correct or incorrect answers in areas such as English and The Arts, a key challenge is to develop a systematic assessment approach that is as accurate and reliable as possible, without compromising on the validity of the tasks the students engage with,” said Associate Professor Stephen Humphry.
Every year more than 1 million school children from all around Australia take part in the NAPLAN testing process. Drawing on several years of experience in the Central Analysis of Data project for NAPLAN, the UWA team will expand the use of the pairwise comparison method, in which assessors select the better of two extended performances on a given task. With enough comparisons, performances such as essays and artwork can ultimately be placed on scales. “Traditionally, the drawback of the pairwise method is that it is time-consuming, which is why this project will refine the process further to make assessments not only valid and reliable, but also efficient,” said Associate Professor Humphry. “Our approach also avoids widespread pitfalls of assessment rubrics which we have identified in previous research, recently published in the Educational Researcher”.
The new research project has been awarded a prestigious three-year research grant by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and is one of only eight Education research projects Australia-wide funded in this year’s ARC Linkage grants.
(Source: The University of Western Australia)