Wednesday 23 October 2019

Purpose of new junior cycle assessment 'largely unclear'

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

An extra layer of assessment for junior cycle students, introduced purely to win the backing of teacher union leaders for controversial exam reforms, is causing difficulties.

Both teachers and students are questioning what is known as the Assessment Task, and believe its purpose is "unclear".

Their concerns are flagged in a new report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which has also expressed disquiet about the exercise.

The NCCA's Report of the review of the early enactment of Junior Cycle English, gathered feedback from teachers, students and State examiners on their views of the first subject to go through the reform process.

The Assessment Task, which is carried out in third year, caused concern among those asked for feedback. The NCCA warns it runs the risk of exposing students to "over-assessment".

For English, the Assessment Task is a reflection by students of how their writing skills developed over two years. While completed under the supervision of teachers, it is marked by State examiners. It is awarded up to 10pc of marks for the written end of the exams.

Over the course of a lengthy dispute over the reforms - at the root of which was teacher opposition to assessing their own students - the Assessment Task was agreed as a compromise, and a way to maximise the involvement of State examiners in assessment. But according to the report, "the purpose of the task is largely unclear to teachers and students".

"Whilst reflecting on writing as a process is viewed as a valuable learning experience, it was suggested that formally assessing this reflection is unnecessary and ultimately may undermine rather than support the rich learning aspired to."

It adds that "its potential contribution to over-assessment of student learning needs to be carefully considered, particularly as students will experience assessment across, as well as within, subjects as new specifications are introduced".

Irish Independent

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