The AAMT (Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers) released their position paper on The Practice of Assessing Mathematics Learning late in 2008. The paper describes practice teachers should endeavour to work towards, in mathematics assessment. It is based around three themes. Students’ learning of mathematics should be assessed in ways that
• are appropriate
• are fair and inclusive
• inform learning and action
Under each of these themes, the paper outlines expectations for teachers and, more interestingly, for assessment programs of education authorities. The latter, I believe, is the first public inclusion, of which I am aware, of advice to government bodies from a subject association. This advice includes statements such as:
Large scale assessment programs are expensive. Funds applied to these should be proportional to the benefits from the program to students, teachers, parents, schools and the education authorities themselves. Excessive public expenditure on assessment programs cannot be justified in the context of limited overall funding for education.
It is well worth a careful reading…more than this, it deserves a careful reading, an open-minded reflection on current assessment practices and then a thorough audit of these practices, leading to change if appropriate. It is also of value to other disciplines and is available here.
Whilst I’m on the topic of assessment, I’m planning to make assessment for learning my theme for this coming academic year. I would like to explore ways in which assessment can be made both more formative and more informative. Two references I have found invaluable so far for ideas are:
Thinkers – A Collection of Activities to Provoke Mathematical Thinking by John Mason et al and
Securing Their Future – Subject based assessment materials for the School Certificate by Doug Clarke et al
The former is available through AAMT and the latter was produced for the NSW Government and I’ve hotlinked the title to the pdf of the materials for you.
Both contain excellent ideas for assessing students’ understanding in ways that uncover misconceptions and lead students and their teachers to a greater understanding of both the mathematics and the underlying cognition.