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Blind Assessor: Constraining or enriching learning

The Blind Assessor: Are we constraining or enriching student learning?

A reduction in creative activities, a restriction of thinking skills and a reduction in number of students who can be thought of as talented are just some of the side effects of high-stakes testing such as the national assessment program NAPLAN, according to the international expert Professor David Berliner from Arizona State University.

Professor Berliner is the keynote speaker in a symposium in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney on November 22, entitled, “The Blind Assessor: Are we constraining or enriching student learning?”

Professor Berliner is from the Education and the Public Interest Centre at Arizona State University and will give a controversial presentation titled "Standards, assessments and the narrowing of the outcomes of schooling and students' minds”. The all-day symposium includes a panel discussion and concurrent group sessions led by international experts.

With the launch of the My School website in Australia, student assessment has never been a more highly contested area of school education. Some say that high-stakes testing such as NAPLAN is an instrument for short-term political gain, others say it is a necessary process in public accountability and transparency and a fair comparisons as a basis for school improvement.

This all-day symposium will offer great knowledge and insight into this complex area of schooling and is a commemorative event celebrating the Centenary of Education and 70 years of Social Work at the University of Sydney.

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Event details
What: The Blind Assessor Symposium.
When: Monday, November 22, 2010, 9-5pm.
Where: Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney.

Dr David C. Berliner
Arizona State University
Standards, assessments and the narrowing of the outcomes of schooling and students’ minds

Curriculum narrowing, in which students are taught more on what is believed to be in a test, is an inevitable yet pernicious outcome of high-stakes testing. It constrains creative and enjoyable class activities, confines thinking skills, and inhibits progress in later years as a result of restricted learning. This presentation will demonstrate that both students and their national economies suffer if nations rely too heavily on high-stakes testing to improve their schools.

Dr Gabrielle Matters
Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
An assessment of influences, positive and negative on educational assessment today

Influenced by an approach used in Time magazine, Dr Matters will list the most and least influential ideas in educational assessment. She will also assert that there is little or no evidence that current assessments are assisting students to learn the “big ideas” or things that are intrinsically difficult. This state of affairs can be attributed, at least partially, to the luxury of living in a democracy, the feminisation of education, and the short length of the political cycle.

Dr Gerald Tindal
University of Oregon
Symposium: Individual differences or individual difference?

While the terms ‘individual differences’ and ‘individual difference’ allow teachers and administrators to make important decisions, they also create tension between large-scale testing programs and classroom-based assessment systems. The divide between the two terms is widened when students with disabilities enter the discussion, particularly when the focus is on school accountability and causal explanations.

Mr Peter Adams
Australian Curriculum, Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA)
Measure twice, cut once

The introduction of national testing in literacy and numeracy has proved to be one of the more significant events in educational assessment in Australia. This presentation will explore three questions: ‘What do we know? What don’t we know? What do we need to know?’ and discourage an all or nothing approach to survey assessments.

Professor Gordon Stanley
University of Sydney
Standards seem like a good idea, but how do we validate them?

As countries look beyond their own borders for comparable student outcomes and results, internationally comparable standards are becoming increasingly important. However, grading against specific objectives often leads to finer levels of specification and ‘check-list’ approaches, posing a risk that elements may become isolated from one another.

Professor Barbara Comber
Queensland University of Technology
Mandated literacy assessment and the reorganisation of teachers’ work: an institutional ethnography

This presentation explores how the mandated literacy assessment of the recently introduced NAPLAN tests is reorganising teachers’ work.


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