The effects of curricula and assessment on pedagogical approaches and on educational outcomes

Publication Details

This review analyses the literature on the effects of curricula and assessment on pedagogical approaches and educational outcomes, i.e. student achievement. The review looks at whether there are differences between mandated or local curricula in terms of their impact on teaching practice and student learning. It also examines the effects of different assessment regimes including national or state-wide testing, on student learning. It focuses particularly on the role of formative assessment. International and New Zealand research are examined.

Author(s): Malcolm Carr, Clive McGee, Alister Jones, Elizabeth McKinley, Beverley Bell, Hugh Barr and Tina Simpson, The University of Waikato. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: June 2005

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Executive Summary

The literature search was largely confined to large empirical studies and meta-analyses carried out in the last 5 years. The process adopted used electronic and physical searches and consultation with national and international experts. Around 200 references are referred to in the body of the review. Approximately 400 other references were checked for relevance. To assist the analysis a framework was developed which showed the interactions between curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, and the intervening role of the teacher and learner between this interaction and learning outcomes.

Key Findings

  • The review identified the complex and interactive nature of the teaching and learning process, and an attempt was made to describe effective learning.
  • Little research evidence was found for the effectiveness of different curriculum structures, despite widespread reforms. Some evidence for the value of clear curriculum structures was found. Aspects of assessment processes conflict with curriculum intentions.
  • Strong evidence of the value of formative assessment to enhance learning was identified. A tension was found between formative and summative assessment processes which strongly influences learning achievement.
  • Teaching is a complex activity which is strongly affected by external decisions about curriculum and assessment. The teacher plays a crucial role in the implementation of curriculum and assessment, and in student achievement. Research has identified some teaching effectiveness factors, e.g teacher expectations of their students, teacher knowledge of their subject, and other learning approaches which contribute to the feedback associated with formative assessment strategies.
  • The report identifies significant gaps in the research on curriculum, assessment and pedagogy. Despite many innovations in these areas there is a dearth of research evidence about what happens in the classroom to the individual learner. This evidence is crucial to identifying innovations to enhance learning. Chapter 8 provides detail.

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