|11.1 THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY||
purpose of this study was to:
|11.2 THE ESSENTIAL SKILLS CONSIDERED||
The New Zealand Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education, 1993) specifies eight essential skills. The nature of two of them:
means that they were
not assessed within the tasks from the NEMP reports.
The New Zealand Curriculum Framework gives examples of behaviours which students will exhibit when they achieve these skills. In this study, these behaviours were taken as the defining features of the skills and are listed in the sections of this report associated with each of the skills.
Further examples and comments concerning the essential skills are found in the curriculum documents for each of the seven essential learning areas of the curriculum. These examples and comments can be found in Appendix A of this report.
Each of the NEMP reports contains task frameworks which contain statements concerning the skills associated with the assessments made in the reports. These statements can be found in Appendix B of this report.
All of these resources influenced the researchers decisions concerning the essential skills involved in the NEMP assessment tasks, but the principal reference was to the Curriculum Framework since the examples were more generic in nature.
|11.3 EXAMINING THE DEVELOPMENT OF ESSENTIAL SKILLS||
The NEMP reports provide two opportunities to examine the development of the essential skills:
The exceptions to this are the two reports concerning the achievement of Mäori students. In these reports neither of these comparisons are available and it was considered premature to examine the performance of the students involved on tasks involving the essential skills.
The tasks used in this report were all in the above categories.
|11.4 IDENTIFYING ESSENTIAL SKILLS IN THE TASKS||
The essential skills involved in each of these were considered. In the whole task and the sub-task analysis it was common for a number of essential skills to be required to complete an item and not all of these were necessarily specifically assessed.
The assessments also often involved more than one of the essential skills. Consequently, it was necessary to identify those assessments which were judged to be substantially based on a single essential skill. The achievement of students on these assessments formed the basis of the examination of the development of essential skills.
|11.5 MEASURING PERFORMANCE||
NEMP assessments are designed to provide a ‘snapshot’ of students’ performance and consequently there is very little consistency in the way in which performance is reported either within or between reports. This creates problems when it is necessary to combine measures of performance. It was decided that the best which could be done was to try to infer, from the information given, the proportion of students whose performance on an assessment item was considered good. This means that the statistics in this report need to be considered as indicative rather than precise. It would, for example, be quite inappropriate to consider measures of statistical significance in relation to the data in this report.
However, the researcher believes that the data does give a useful, if imprecise, picture of the quality of the essential skills which the students are employing when completing the NEMP assessment tasks.
|11.6 DATA ANALYSIS|
|11.6.1 Whole task and sub-task analysis||
258 tasks, involving both year 4 and year 8 students, were classified by the essential skills necessary for their completion. Problem-solving skills were the most common, occurring in almost two thirds of the tasks. Communication skills and information skills were the next most common. All of these three skills were to be found in the tasks of almost every report.
1073 sub-tasks associated with the whole tasks above were also classified in the same way. The essential skills required were, of course, a subset of those required for the whole task. Not all the skills required to complete the whole task were necessarily specifically required in the sub-tasks and many sub-tasks still involved more than one essential skill.
Overall the analysis indicated that all of the essential skills were used in a wide range of contexts within the NEMP assessments.
|11.6.2 Analysis of essential skills performance||
In order to assess the performance of students associated with a particular skill it was necessary to identify those assessment items, within the assessment of sub-tasks, which substantially assessed a single essential skill.
299 such assessment items were identified, with a good coverage of all the essential skills except, perhaps, social and co-operative skills.
|11.6.3 Changes in performance from year 4 to year 8||
The overall performance of students on items involving communication skills, problem solving skills, and physical skills was very similar:
Care is necessary in interpreting this information in relation to the gains made in the other essential skills. Numeracy skills are much less generic in nature than the other essential skills and consequently are more likely to be specifically taught in classrooms. The timing of this teaching then becomes a significant factor in the gain in performance between year 4 and year 8. For example, one of the principal numeracy skills involves the ability to calculate accurately. This ability is still in the early stages of development in year 4 (the recall of multiplication facts is a level 3 achievement objective in the mathematics curriculum) so that it is not surprising that major gains are made by year 8.
|11.6.4 Changes in performance on trend tasks||
Only six of the twelve reporting areas had completed two cycles of assessment and only three of the essential skills were judged to have been assessed in the trend tasks which were common to the assessments.
There was no evidence of substantial changes in performance on tasks involving the essential skills, although there was a possible indication of a decrease in performance in communication skills at year 8 and an increase in performance in information skills at year 4.