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Post date: Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Gathering the evidence

On TKI Assessment Online, under ‘New Zealand's Approach to National Standards’, one of the reasons outlined for the introduction of the National Standards is to "affirm your ( the teacher) role as the professional who knows the most about your students’ achievement rather than relying on national tests."

There it is in black and white –a good teacher should know the most about an individual student’s achievement. In the National Standards: School Sample Monitoring and Evaluation Project 2010-2012 (Ward & Thomas, 2013) teachers were asked to identify the measures they use to systematically track student progress in reading, writing, and maths. The use of overall teacher judgements (OTJs) was consistently high across the three curriculum areas: 85% in reading, 90% in writing and 72% in maths. Teachers cited using a range of evidence from children’s work, Ministry documents and standardised testing to support their judgements. Teacher judgements provide the evidence for student learning needs in any classroom or any school. Teacher accountability for those judgements is around whether or not the evidence they gather is directly related to the expectations for that year level and subject area. Principals, colleagues, parents, and students want to trust that teachers are professionally responsible and follow the guidelines of best practice for making good decisions. How do you know you have the right kinds of evidence? Although different teachers collect different kinds of evidence, Mary Hill and Anne Davies (2009) cite three general sources of evidence gathered in classrooms: observations, conversations, and products. This triangulation of evidence is echoed on TKI: Assessment Online with: 

  • Observing the process a student uses to complete a learning task
  • Conversing with the student to find out what they know, understand, and can do
  • Gathering results from classroom work, formal and informal assessments, including the standardised tools.

The big question is–do you know what you’re looking for? Let’s look at three areas.

Observing: Davies & Hill describe it simply as watching and listening, ‘the teachable moment’, the moment the child shows you that they have taken the learning intended on board. It becomes ‘evidence’ when you record it, and it becomes ‘valid evidence’ when the focus of the observation is directly related to the purpose of the learning (2009).

Conversing: Conversation with learners happen in a variety of ways –one-on-one, groups, or perhaps in writing a self-assessment. The best conversations that will provide you with the most information are when you ask the student to tell you about the learning they’re involved in. As they explain themselves, you can gauge their understanding and progress. Students learn more when we take the time to involve them in self-assessment (Black & William 1998); Young (2000).

Gathering: Teachers are really expanding the range of information they are gathering as evidence of a student’s learning. Again, the validity of this evidence will be measured by how appropriate it is to the type of learning the students are involved in.

  • How often do you think about the evidence you’re gathering?
  • How often do you make a list of evidence related to the learning that you intend to gather?
  • How often do you think about how you can involve the students in choosing what evidence you will gather?

Take the time, and the responsibility, to think about the validity of the evidence you are gathering. Gathering valid evidence needs deliberate planning, and deliberate planning needs time. Think about collaborating on building a list of evidence-gathering techniques. Many schools have made comprehensive lists of different types of evidence for each subject that teachers can use with different types of learning. Ultimately, knowing what you’re going for and what it looks like is the best plan. If you would like to discuss any of these points further, please don’t hesitate to call or email. Education Adviser, (04) 802 1386,


Black, P., and D.William. (1998). Assessment and Classroom Learning. Assessment in Education 5, no.1:7 -75.

Davies, A., and M.Hill. (2009). Making Classroom assessment work. NZCER Press.

Ward, J., and G Thomas. (2013). National Standards: School Sample Monitoring and Evaluation Project, 2010 -2012. Report to the Ministry of Education. Ministry of Education.

Young, E. (2000). Enhancing student writing by teaching self-assessment strategies that incorporate the criteria of good writers. Submitted in partial fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education to the Department of Educational Psychology, State University of New Jersey, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers. 

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