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Assessment in geography

Assessment in geography, whether formal or informal, is more than NCEA. It is the primary means by which students can tell if and how they are progressing, and by which teachers can tell if their teaching is ‘working’. Without assessment, students, teachers, and parents are in the dark.

Formative assessment | Effective assessment | External qualifications

The curriculum expresses assessment like this:

'The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both students and teachers respond to the information that it provides.'

(NZC, p. 39)

Assessment in geography is integral to the teaching and learning process. It is not an adjunct to it. Dialogue between the teacher and students helps to clarify what learning has occurred, and how further learning can be supported. Self-assessment and peer assessment enables students to take increasing responsibility for their own learning.

Provide multiple opportunities for formative assessment

Assessment is the gathering of evidence which measures a student’s knowledge and understanding. This gathering of evidence can be done in a variety of ways. This could include assessing the learning as it is happening. In geography fieldwork, practical activities such as modelling or using GIS, class work and formal assessments are all equally valid methods of gathering evidence.

Effective teachers adapt assessments to suit students’ needs. They accumulate evidence using a range of methods and activities. They do not rely on ‘end-of-topic test’ for internal assessments

The collection of evidence is ongoing. It can be used both to identify students’ needs and to monitor the effectiveness of teaching strategies. Evidence which is used for assessment comes from a variety of different sources, including class work, and not always from formal assessment activities.

In a number of cases this evidence is ‘of the moment’, that is, students may produce work or express an understanding verbally which can give an indication of their progress towards understanding a particular geographic concept or developing a key competency.

  • Understand your students’ learning needs.
  • Ensure assessment is appropriate.
  • Emphasise progress and achievement to motivate students to learn.

Characteristics of effective assessment

Effective assessment:

  • benefits students
  • involves students
  • supports teaching and learning goals
  • is planned and communicated
  • is suited to the purpose
  • is valid and fair.

Students need to have an understanding of what high quality work looks like.

Effective teachers provide:

  • exemplars of past student work
  • clear and understandable criteria that define quality and show students how to compare and evaluate their own work against these criteria
  • opportunities for students to compare and evaluate their work with others with each teaching and learning sequence.

Geography and external qualifications

At the time of publication the NCEA achievement standards were in development to align them with The New Zealand Curriculum. Please ensure that you are using the correct version of the standards by going to the NZQA website.

Aligned level 1 achievement standards were registered for use in 2011 and level 2 for use in 2012; level 3 will be registered for use in 2013.

Geography standards matrix

The draft matrix outlines the geography achievement standards. Select those that most closely align to your teaching and learning programme at the appropriate level.

Assessment of geography skills and concepts

The assessment of geographic skills and concepts is the focus of specific NCEA achievement standards. For guidance to the geography skills that are assessed in NCEA, read ' Geography skills and concepts'.

Literacy requirements

In 2011, six level 1 geography standards meet the criteria for level 1 literacy, and two meet the requirements for level 1 numeracy –  Literacy and Numeracy Requirements for NCEA Level 1.

Using local contexts for internal assessments

Several schools report students achieving higher levels of success in NCEA achievement standards when the focus has been on issues in local contexts. This means that teachers take into account a range of factors, such as the culture, gender, literacy needs, and specific learning differences and styles, when they choose texts or assessment contexts for their students. This may mean that teachers need to change assessment contexts or texts each year.

Last updated March 23, 2018