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Research shows students positive about NCEA

4 July 2006

Research shows students positive about NCEA

New research on what students think of NCEA, and student motivation, was welcomed today by Education Minister Steve Maharey.

The research included a major study commissioned by the Ministry of Education and conducted by Victoria University, as well as NZQA research.

"This research is an endorsement of NCEA's more flexible, tailored approach to learning," Steve Maharey said. "It demonstrates that, overall, NCEA is working well for New Zealand students.

"Under NCEA, students are doing better, staying at school longer and clearly enjoying the flexible approach to learning that NCEA offers.

"Students are extremely positive about the mix of internal and external assessment offered by NCEA, which they see as an opportunity to guide their choices about learning, and spread their workload across the year.

"The research reinforces that NCEA is a system that can tailor itself to the needs and preferences of individual students. It allows schools to shape teaching around the way different students learn, and for students to have a say in how they learn.

"The result is that more students than ever before are motivated and supported to reach their potential.

"What is also significant about this research is that, for the first time, we have detailed feedback from students themselves. This adds to the comprehensive picture we are building of NCEA's strengths and weaknesses, as well our broader work to provide a more personalised system of learning."

Steve Maharey said the research also raised some important issues that would be looked as part of the ongoing refinement of NCEA.

"These are issues and behaviours that are common to any assessment system, including that some students will find ways to avoid working to their full capacity. The difference with NCEA is that we are building the evidence base that will allow us to better understand these issues and make the necessary refinements."

A summary of key findings is attached. The report 'The Impact of the NCEA on Student Motivation June 2006' is available on the Ministry of Education website The NZQA research is at

Impact of NCEA on student motivation - Key findings

The research investigated the influences on students when picking subjects, the relationship between motivation and student achievement, the qualification’s design and students’ understanding of NCEA.

Key findings show:

- Students who chose subjects based on career or University aspirations attained higher academic achievement.

- Students who chose subjects based on external factors, for example, friends doing the subjects, or a timetable that fitted in with part time work commitments, achieved fewer credits.

- Girls were more likely than boys to make subject choices based on future career goals.

- Students were extremely positive about the mix of internal and external assessment, which they see as an opportunity to guide their learning and spread their workload across the year.

- Students were more positive about internal assessment than external exams but many felt external exams were important as evidence of quality and consistency across schools.

- Students motivated by ‘doing their best’ were more likely to pick subjects based on interest and career goals.

- Students motivated by ‘doing just enough’ chose subjects because of external factors.

- Maori and Pasifika student achieved more unit standard credits than European and Asian students.

- Some students felt that the 80 credit requirement for NCEA encouraged a minimalist approach and many indicated that there was little motivation to aim for merit or excellence because no extra credits were awarded.

- Some students felt that the current grade bands of achieved, not achieved, merit and excellence are too broad and do not provide enough information on their learning and performance.

- Certain design features are disincentives to maximizing student motivation, like avoiding subjects seen as hard, not sitting exams once minimum credits were achieved, and not doing parts of a course that a student didn’t like.

- Parents strongly supported NCEA while suggesting some areas for improvement.

- Students, teachers, and parents were overwhelmingly positive about the impact of internal assessment on student study and learning behaviours and achievement.


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