My participation in the Information Literacy Spaces Project turned 2018 into a year of exciting challenge and change about the way I approached teaching my Year 13 English Students. I collaborated and co-taught NCEA Level 3 standards with our school librarian Julia Smith, a practice we want to normalise in 2019.
A notable success of this collaborative approach was the results attained by Y13 students sitting AS91479. “Develop an informed understanding of literature and / or language using critical texts.” The standard informs us that; “Critical texts may include linguistic or literary theory, criticism, and/or analysis. They may be written, oral, and/or visual texts. Texts are student selected.” (For more on this standard, see here).
Reading this standard, it is immediately apparent that students need to use and therefore be taught, the information literacy skills that will enable to them to locate and collate academic articles, navigate academic writing, skim and scan documents, process and synthesise information, record information efficiently, and correctly record and archive sources. These skills come on top of the subject content knowledge students need to attempt the work required by the standard. Seen in this light, teacher-librarian collaboration is essential.
What emerged from our teacher-librarian collaboration, was a very successfully completed Achievement Standard with great assessment results. HOWEVER, what became apparent in the assessment of this standard, was the absence of any criteria with which to acknowledge and reward students who had applied high level of IL skills.
The instructions in this standard state;
Using critical texts is a process that involves:
* developing a hypothesis or theory to frame an investigation
* selecting critical texts
* selecting information and evaluating its reliability and usefulness in relation to the investigation
* synthesising information from primary source(s) and critical texts (e.g. using readings from different critics to interpret Othello’s motivation; using feminist theory to interpret advertising language). (NZQA, 2017).1
Yet the achievement criteria simply do not reflect these imperatives. There is no space in which we can reward students for using these IL skills. The criteria focus on the finished product, the submitted assessment task. There is no balance that recognises the demonstration of skills used in the learning process that culminate in the final report. In its graded scale, especially Achieved, Merit and Excellence, ways in which the student has selected information, evaluated its usefulness and then synthesised and communicated that information, are not mentioned let alone recognised for reward, in the assessment criteria. Consequently, students who demonstrate a rigorous and thorough ILS process are recognised for their effort and skills no differently than a student who looks at a couple of websites and bookmarks their sources in their ‘Favorites’ list.
As a teacher and librarian, we understand the need for students to develop and enhance their IL skills to prepare for University, professional and vocational learning. We feel undermined by this gap in this and other standards, assessment criteria. Although our students now appreciate the skills they had learned through our collaborative approach, in the current credit-driven NCEA environment our students received their grades back and chorused “But if it isn’t even assessed Miss, what was the point?” I explained to them the value of such skills and why they would need them to further their studies and employment prospects, and most accepted this. They accepted this rationale because, despite the criteria problem, the students knew that without the knowledge of information literacy skills gained from Julia, they may not have been as successful with processing information and presenting the final content assessment task. And, somewhat ironically, it was very clear that the quality of critical analysis threaded through the final submitted tasks – the products required by the standard – far surpassed the previous years’ levels for this same standard. What a shame then, that NCEA does not have the means to assess the process that underpins the successful completion of this standard, especially when my students did it so well.
English and Media Teacher, Keri Keri High School
Image source: https://www.njlifehacks.com/16-rules-every-stoic-must-follow/
February 25, 2019 at 9:48 am
thanks for this commentary Vick. The frustration you express is shared by other subjects too – e.g. my own area of biology. I am hopeful that the upcoming review of the AS will take curriculum issues like this seriously so it is very important that they get raised and debated. Just one small thing – I found it very hard to concentrate on the text while that high-five flickered endlessly in my range of vision….
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February 26, 2019 at 10:54 am
I completely agree with your sentiments. The longer I strive to embed IL skills into the curriculum, the more convinced I am that it is the invisibility of these set of complex skills that lead to them not being assessed in most of our AS. Content knowledge, while important, needs to also include the skills required to become independent, critical thinkers. Many universities are now including courses on critical thinking and academic writing, as they too acknowledge the need for these foundational learning attributes. I hope that Rose is correct and that we can have robust debates about including IL Skills into NCEA assessment.