Changing assessment practices in upper secondary mathematics in Western Australia

Year: 1994

Author: Tims, Joanne, Parker, Lesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports the findings of a questionnaire administered to upper secondary school mathematics teachers in Western Australia in 1994, two years after a major curriculum change which placed increased emphasis on group work and open-ended problem-solving. The questionnaire asked teachers to describe their assessment practices, and to identify the importance of particular sources for their ideas for assessment tasks, and the importance of various influences on their assessment procedures. In addition, it asked them to indicate how well they thought particular types of assessment tasks measured course objectives and mathematical ability, and to describe how they would change their assessment practices if they had complete autonomy to do whatever they wished.

The target population for the questionnaire was teachers of the four Year 12 mathematics courses in Western Australia. One teacher of each Year 12 mathematics subject within each secondary school in Western Australia was asked to complete the questionnaire. Questionnaires were sent to 170 schools and other institutions offering Year 12 mathematics subjects. Responses from 45 Applicable Mathematics teachers, 37 Calculus teachers, 27 Discrete Mathematics teachers and 19 Modelling with Mathematics teachers were received.

The responses revealed that for the most part, teachers were using very traditional assessment practices, strongly test-based and directed towards training for the State-wide external examination. Very few were assessing group work in any way. Quite a number of teachers expressed a willingness to change their assessment practices if the external examination was no longer required. The findings raise questions regarding the fidelity of implementation of major curriculum changes in the absence of congruently planned and supported assessment changes.