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Using a range of assessments

Effective teachers use a range of formal and informal assessments to identify prior knowledge (strengths, gaps and misconceptions), monitor learning progress, and determine what they need to do next to further learning.

In the course of regular classroom activity teachers collect information about how students learn, what they know and are able to do, and what interests them. In this way, they find out what is working and what is not, and are able to make informed teaching and learning decisions.

Variety in assessment tasks

While teacher-assigned written tasks are fine for assessing certain kinds of learning, there are better ways of assessing other kinds of learning. These include, for example:

  • verbal assessments
  • self- and peer assessments
  • electronic portfolios
  • blogs/wikis
  • capturing evidence via digital recordings or cellphone cameras.

As teacher, you do not need to do all assessment. With appropriate modelling and support, students can learn to self-assess and peer-assess. As they do so, their capability for self-directed learning is increased.

Not everything needs to be assessed in a formal assessment. If a student is clearly demonstrating skills or understandings in everyday interactions or a particular activity, document what you see and it can become evidence that contributes to overall teacher judgment.


Students complete a task (for example, organising an overnight camp for a year 9 class) as a group. They maintain individual reflective journals in which they explain the process and the outcome. This journal enables the teacher to assess student contribution and understanding.

Students create annotated portfolios (possibly e-portfolios) of their work. The annotations record their own reflections on their learning and are linked to learning intentions and achievement criteria. They describe successes and next steps and may refer to models or exemplars for comparison.

Students engage in practical tasks, reporting on why they have chosen to use specific practices or steps, with reference to theory and key concepts. For example:

  • Physical education students cite the biomechanical principles used to improve performance.
  • Home economics students make a meal for a specific need or person, for example, a teenage vegan, justifying choices of food in relation to nutritional requirements.
  • Health education students set goals and take action to enhance an aspect of personal well-being.

Students choose how they will demonstrate their learning; for example, by making end-of-unit oral presentations, creating assessment tasks with a marking schedule, teaching a group of students about the concept or principle they have mastered, designing and creating a web page, power-point, video, or poster.

Students apply an inquiry approach over time (multiple class sessions or several units), demonstrating understanding of big ideas or concepts in health education, physical education, or home economics. For example:

  • Home economics students explore aspects of sustainability – in the practical food room, at home, locally, nationally, and internationally. They undertake research to compare local initiatives (farmers’ markets) or international initiatives (the slow food movement) that are intended to enhance sustainable food and nutrition, and they suggest an initiative that could be implemented at school. For ideas, view Marion Nestle discussing the relationships between farming, foods, health, economics, and sustainability.
  • Across a number of units, physical education students explore how interpersonal skills support decision-making.
  • Health education students inquire into factors that affect the resilience of students, and make recommendations to the board of trustees.

Using different types of assessment in physical education


The teacher might observe students in a leadership role with their peers, using the performance rubric to create teacher observation sheets for collecting evidence over time.

The teacher and outdoor education assessors could observe students putting risk management strategies into practice.

Self- or peer assessment

Students might note ongoing reflections on their use of interpersonal skills on a recording sheet that describes the skills they are working towards.


Conversations between the teacher and students as individuals and in groups can help both the teacher and the students to identify what they know, what they understand, what they can do, and what requires more teaching and learning.

The teacher might talk to students during a training session about what they are doing and why they are doing it, using their understanding and knowledge of exercise physiology to identify their strengths and gaps.


Students might write an article for the local paper about the effectiveness of the health promotion initiative they have undertaken as part of a school learning programme during the year.

Using different types of assessment in health education


Students could practice using assertiveness skills in groups, with the teacher and/or peers using a set of criteria to recognise what has occurred and give feedback.

Self- or peer assessment

At year 13, students could carry out a mid-unit check on their learning progress by analysing newspaper articles about a current social issue to identify which of the determinants of health it involves. They could compare their responses to a model to identify what factors they recognise and which they have yet to understand. This could be done individually, in pairs, or in groups.


Discussion with year 13 students who are conducting personal investigations into contemporary health practices helps the teacher to assess how well they are making connections between the information they have found and the concept of hauora.


Students could prepare a presentation for junior assembly or their class on an issue that is linked to one of the key areas of learning in health (for example, sexuality, mental health, and food and nutrition).

Using different types of assessment in home economics


The teacher could observe students as they plan and carry out practical cooking activities (for example, learning to use safe food-handling practices while developing specific food preparation and cookery skills). The teacher and the students could co-construct a set of criteria for the activities. Photographs would provide evidence of learning, be a valuable source of feedback, and help to develop the next learning steps.

Self- or peer assessment

Students could self-assess their prior knowledge by creating a set of nutrition-themed interview questions to ask their peers. For example, they could develop questions about breakfast to highlight the extent to which nutritional knowledge influences eating behaviour. The interview results could be analysed, with further questions being developed for a class research project.


By discussing with year 13 students how their planned action to address a nutritional issue in their community relates to the concept of health promotion, the teacher could assess the accuracy of their understandings and identify any misconceptions.


At level 8, students may identify that many of their peers are leaving school without knowing how to cook nutritious meals. They plan, test, and deliver a set of cookery lessons for school leavers.

Last updated August 15, 2013