Relationship of mandated assessment to curriculum and pedagogical approaches. Or does the assessment tail wag the pedagogical dog?

Year: 2012

Author: Healy, Gerry, Redman, Christine, Trapani, Fiona

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


It is widely recognized that many schools and teachers "teach to the exam". Up until recently, this was largely an issue for the senior, post-compulsory years; Years 11 and 12, with the School Certificate in NSW (in Year 10 - since abolished). The recent introduction of NAPLAN has lead to the media suggesting that some schools spend a considerable amount of class time preparing explicitly for NAPLAN.

The relationship between assessment and curriculum has implications for the implementation of the national curriculum. As assessment of the curriculum is the responsibility of states, as the current proposal stands, this paper argues how the National Curriculum is implemented into schools will be determined significantly by reporting processes at state level.

Clearly, these externally mandated assessments have a large influence on the content and pedagogical approach of classes. Much of the evidence, particularly about NAPLAN, is anecdotal, and hopefully more statistically meaningful data will be gradually developed, and perhaps guide practice.

In this paper, the authors, who have been involved in various ways in teaching and assessment, look at three motifs: first NAPLAN; second senior secondary - largely VCE and third the question from the other side: Are those setting exams ever guided by what pedagogy and curriculum their work dictates to schools?

Does the desired pedagogical approaches and content ever guide the assessment process? Does the pedagogical dog ever wag the assessment tail rather than the other way around?