Shifting Balances 2: The impact of the NCEA Implementation on the Teaching of Geography and Home Economics Publications
This research was funded by the Ministry of Education, as was the first round of Shifting Balances on which it builds.
Author(s): Rosemary Hipkins, Lindsey Conner and Alex Neill. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.
Date Published: August 2005
This research identifies and discusses recent changes in the teaching of home economics and geography at Years 11 and 12 of the New Zealand school system. It explores ways in which these changes may be related to the introduction of the National Certificate in Educational Achievement at Year 11 (NCEA Level 1) and at Year 12 (NCEA Level 2). The research builds on an earlier project (2003) that employed the same methodology to explore changes in science and mathematics teaching at NCEA Level 1= (Hipkins & Neill, 2005). The research describes the nature and extent of the changes that were identified, and explores how these changes seem to be related to teachers' personal teaching priorities and to professional development initiatives in their schools, as well as to the NCEA. These possibilities obviously offer a wide lens for thinking about change within the classroom.
First introduced at Level 1 in the 2002 year, assessment for the NCEA qualification is standards- based. Previously most1 Level 1 students sat a norm-referenced end-of-year external examination (School Certificate) that had some internally assessed components in some subjects, including geography, but not home economics. At Level 2 students previously studied for a fully internally assessed Sixth Form Certificate. For many students this was superseded by the NCEA Level 2 qualification in 2003, but this was not compulsory until 2004, the year in which the Level 3 qualification was also assessed for the first time. Level 3 replaced the previous norm-referenced Bursary examinations that served as university entrance qualifications.
The Research Questions
With the introduction of the internally assessed achievement standards, it was hoped that teachers would plan programmes that placed more emphasis on the practical and/or process components of their subjects and that integrated "skills" with "content". This is one aspect of this study. The Ministry of Education, who commissioned the research, was also keen for the researchers to seek evidence (if any) of shifts in teacher perceptions of the purposes for their teaching, both with respect to "content" and assessment for learning.
Six questions were used to frame the research process, some of them building directly on the findings from the earlier round of Shifting Balances research.
- As a result of the introduction of the NCEA qualification, are there identifiable changes in the structure of Levels 1 and 2 programmes for geography and home economics?
- How do teachers plan and structure their programmes of learning and select their assessment tools? Are standards being combined in new ways? If so, which standards and how? What has been the impact of such changes on teachers' views of relevant curriculum knowledge?
- Are there identifiable changes in teaching approaches used within geography and home economics courses or courses including assessments from these domains that support the development of practical skills, or that allow teachers to address students' attitudes and values relevant to the subject area?
- Has recent professional development undertaken by the teachers contributed to changes in teaching and learning within these subjects? (For example Literacy Leadership, Beacon Schools, focused school-wide PD, cluster PD, ICT lead school, AtoL/ABeL, National Exemplars project, NCEA jumbo days.)
- What types of evidence are being used to make summative judgements for internally assessed standards and how is this evidence being collected?
- How do teachers view formative assessment? Has their formative assessment practice changed and, if so, how?
Background to research
A National Qualifications Framework (NQF) underpins the NCEA reforms. This framework is intended to organise all credits achieved at a particular level so that they can be credited for one of the many national certificates available. For most school students it is anticipated that the credits they gain will count towards an NCEA award, although schools may also offer other certificates such as the National Certificate in Employment Skills (NCES).
Specifying standards: Achievement and unit standards
There are two types of standards in use for assessment of learning—achievement standards and unit standards. The credits gained from both contribute equally to the total of 80 needed to gain a Level 1 NCEA, or to the 60 credits needed for Level 2, although there are some differences between the two types of standards:
- Achievement standards have been developed for all "conventional" Years 11–13 secondary school subjects as part of the NCEA initiative. These specify three levels of achievement: achieved, achieved with merit, and achieved with excellence.
- Unit standards, which were a forerunner to achievement standards and have continued to co-exist alongside them, are competency-based, specifying the standard at a pass/fail level only.
While both types of standards can contribute credits, most "academic" courses that lead to an NCEA award are predominantly if not exclusively assessed with achievement standards. A wide range of unit standards is used to assess "alternative" courses that may lead to another national certificate—for example an NCES2 award. In home economics schools may mix achievement standards from the Health and Physical Wellbeing learning area with unit standards that may include some industry-based catering standards. This mixing of achievement and unit standards appears to be less common in geography.The full suites of achievement standards available at Levels 1–3 in each subject are summarised below. (Although the focus of the research was on Levels 1 and 2, teachers sometimes discussed Level 3 standards and so these are also included for reference.) Internally assessed standards are indicated as (I) and standards assessed in an end-of-year external examination are indicated as (E). While each standard has a unique identification number, teachers commonly referred to them as, for example 1.1 or 3.2, so these are the numbers we have used in the summary. These suites of standards are registered and maintained by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).
Geography achievement standards
- ( E) Examine an extreme natural event and the human response, 3 credits.
- (E) Examine population patterns, processes, and issues, 3 credits.
- (E) Examine resource use in a farming or mining context, 3 credits.
- (E) Apply skills and ideas with direction in a geographic context, 4 credits.
- (I) Carry out and present directed geographic research, 5 credits.
- (I) Examine a contemporary geographic issue and evaluate courses of action, 3 credits.
- (I) Examine a global geographic topic, 3 credits.
- (E) Explain a natural landscape, 3 credits.
- (E) Explain an urban settlement, 3 credits.
- (E) Explain disparities in development within or between countries, 3 credits.
- (E) Apply skills and ideas in a geographic context, 4 credits.
- (I) Carry out and present guided geographic research, 5 credits.
- (I) Explain a contemporary geographic issue and evaluate courses of action, 3 credits.
- (I) Explain a geographic topic at a global scale, 3 credits.
- (E) Analyse a geographic environment, focusing on the interacting natural processes, 3 credits.
- (E) Analyse a cultural process, 3 credits.
- (I) Analyse the role of geography in planning and decision making, 3 credits.
- (E) Select and apply skills and ideas in a geographic context, 6 credits.
- (I) Carry out geographic research with consultation, 3 credits.
- (I) Analyse a contemporary geographic issue and evaluate courses of action, 3 credits.
- (I) Analyse a geographic topic at a global scale, 3 credits.
Home economics achievement standards
- (I) Explore cultural influences on food choices, customs, and beliefs, 4 credits.
- (I) Demonstrate and apply safe food-handling practices and strategies, 5 credits.
- (E) Identify how societal influences may impact on the hauora/wellbeing of families, 4 credits.
- (I) Plan and prepare food to meet the nutritional needs of an identified individual, 6 credits.
- (E) Interpret and apply food and nutrition information, 5 credits.
- (E) Examine the impact of the living environment on hauora/wellbeing, 4 credits.
- (I) Examine care provision for a nominated group, 4 credits.
- (I) Explore a nutritional concern for a targeted group, 4 credits.
- (E) Describe beliefs and practices associated with vegetarianism, 4 credits.
- (I) Examine the nutritional considerations of people with high energy needs, 4 credits.
- (E) Examine New Zealand food choices and eating patterns, 4 credits.Level 3
- (I) Explore a current nutritional health issue in New Zealand , 6 credits.
- (I) Examine the nutrient content of food to meet individual needs, 4 credits.
- (E) Analyse the influences and effects of media messages about food and nutrition, 4 credits.
- (E) Discuss the issues and effects of globalisation on food choices and health in New Zealand , 5 credits.5 (I) Analyse the impact of societal factors on the hauora/wellbeing of New Zealand families, 5 credits.
A Note About the Title: Shifting Balances
Teachers' classroom practice is complex. As we worked through the methodological issues in the first of these studies we identified a range of aspects of classroom practice where one way of working or set of emphases could be balanced against another way of working/set of emphases. We anticipated that any of these sets of balances in classroom practice might potentially shift during the implementation of an initiative such as the NCEA. The list of classroom practices that we identified as potentially needing to be balanced against each other during classroom teaching in the senior secondary school was:
- time devoted to learning balanced against time devoted to assessment;
- use of internal assessment balanced against use of external assessment when assessing for qualifications;
- time devoted to developing new "content" knowledge balanced against time devoted to the development of new skills and/or the exploration of attitudes and values;
- a direct (acontextual) focus on concepts/facts/skills balanced against teaching that embeds learning in contexts of relevance to students' lives and interests;
- tool/methodology acquisition by direct "skill and drill" balanced against acquisition via open problem solving/investigations;
- participation in teacher directed learning activities in which the teacher's ideas take precedence balanced against participation in activities that are student-led and/or in which students determine the pace and sequence of learning and/or actively contribute their ideas;
- time when students learn as individuals balanced against time when they participate in group learning activities; and
- a focus on the cognitive/conceptual aspects of learning balanced against a focus on the metacognitive—that is, students' thinking about their thinking and learning.
We foresaw that a shift of balance in one aspect might be reinforced by a related shift in another aspect—or it might equally well be effectively cancelled out by a compensating shift in another factor and this is precisely what we found in the first round of the research (Hipkins & Neill, 2005). We therefore decided to stay with this title, in anticipation that this second round of the research would yield a similar dynamic complexity.
- The exceptions occurred in schools that offered modular courses which were fully internally assessed with students' achievement moderated against a "reference test".
- National Certificate in Employment Skills.
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