English Study Design


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1999 Project Team Report

The English Study Design in Detail

 A Guide to Planning and Assessment

Cedric Hall: Report on the 1998 year 12 trial

 Terry Locke: "Assessment Standards: What's in a Name?"

 The 1999 Reference Test Trial

 Achievement 2001: Update and Forum

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Achievement Standards: What's in a name?

The paper below was occasioned by the release of the Government's White Paper Achievement 2001. My concern in writing the paper was the crucial issue of the final shape of the "achievement standards". At the time of writing, NZATE released its draft position paper in questionnaire form. The questionnaire was sent to members for a response and was also published on the NZATE website. As I interpreted it, the position represented by that draft position paper was one which mapped a pathway for achievement standards development which retained the competency base of unit standards but attempted to build in merit and excellence. (An interesting discussion of this pathway can be found in Roger Peddie's essay, "Competency, Standards, Merit and Excellence" which can be found in the book, Setting the Standards, edited by Peddie and Bryan Tuck and published by Dunmore Press.)

My immediate concern with the NZATE questionnaire was that it did not offer teachers the opportunity of stating a choice between an achievement system which builds merit and excellence on to the unit standards model and one which revisits achievement- based assessment.

In its original form, the paper below was circulated to English HODs in New Zealand. I am deeply regretful that my rather careless attribution of the questionnaire to Phil Coogan failed to recognise the process of consultation whereby the members of the NZATE Council "owned" the draft statement as representing their position. I was simply unaware that a process of consultation had occurred.

I guess I was also influenced by what Phil himself wrote in the August 1998 issue of NZATE News in what was his first statement to the membership on taking office. He wrote: "Assessment against unit standards is overly bureaucratic and involves far too much paper work. Unit standards need to evolve to become much more manageable and acceptable to all users (and this would include a name change). Evolution is already occurring in the area of merit recognition...." This notion of unit standards evolving into achievement standards is precisely what I am contesting in the following paper.

While a note of cautious optimism tempered with relief greeted the announcement of Achievement 2001, the credibility of the new qualifications will be crucially affected by the solutions arrived at with respect to such unanswered questions as the nature of the proposed "achievement standards", future moderation procedures and common assessment tasks. In particular, the form of the new achievement standards is a vital question and the eventual credibility of the NCEA depends on the solution arrived at.

In material released in November 1998 to a selected group of secondary principals (but not included in their official releases), the Ministry suggested that these achievement standards be at four levels and reported as A, B and C (credit) and D (no credit). There is just a suggestion here of a desire to retain the pass-fail nature of unit standards, despite the introduction of merit and excellence. Given the large sums of money invested in the development of unit standards and their trialling and the number of educationalists who have invested time and reputation into this form of assessment, there must also be a temptation to "tinker" with already written unit standards as way of developing the "new" achievement standards.

What I want to argue is that an attempt to combine what is essentially a form of competence-based assessment with a system of grade-related, achievement-based assessment is like mixing oil with water. Such an attempt is likely to be counter-productive, has the potential of compounding the flaws already associated with the attempt to write unit standards for subjects such as English and could incur yet another backlash from disaffected teachers.

In this paper, I want to take an example of achievement-based assessment from a non-New Zealand context (from the International Baccalaureate's Theatre Arts course, actually) and to show what happens when it becomes transformed, step by step, into a unit standard -- what's gained, what's lost. I then want to compare the resultant unit standard with a current English unit standard. I then want to show what might happen should this unit standard be tinkered with in an attempt to build in "credit" and "excellence" steps. I then want to take issue with NZATE's supposedly balanced and impartial draft position statement on Achievement 2001 which was developed in the form of a questionnaire distributed to association members.Finally, I want to provide an example of the achievement standards developed through the English Study Design project and say why I think they should be seriously looked at as a contender for the design of the proposed NCEA achievement standards.

 Mark Band

 Descriptor

 21-25 The Play Analysis presentation indicates a highly imaginative adventurous, illuminating and original interpretation of the play and an effective coherence of directorial perspective. The candidate demonstrates a thorough grasp of the text's potential as a dramatic experience and is able to articulate a practicable understanding of the processes involved in bringing that text to life. The presentation shows a thorough understanding and a thoughtful, sensitive interpretation of plot and character and is systematic, consistent, poised and mature. There is evidence of a clear and thorough understanding of the nature, function and inter-relation of the elements of production and of how they are combined to produce desired effects.
 16-20 The Play Analysis presentation contains examples of an imaginative interpretation of the play and some coherence of directorial perspective. The candidate demonstrates a clear understanding of the text and is able to explore some inventive ideas for staging, and articulates a practicable approach for a realisation of the text. The presentation shows a clear understanding and sensitive interpretation of plot, character and the connection between them, and there is evidence of systematic analysis. there is evidence of a clear understanding of the elements of production and of the subtleties of their effects. There is a recognition of how the elements constitute an integral whole.
 11-15 The Play Analysis presentation gives some indication of an imaginative interpretation, and an occasional willingness to take risks, but there is a lack of coherence of directorial perspective. The candidate has a genuine response to the text and its potential for dramatic interpretation in production, and has some understanding of the possibilities of alternative ideas. The presentation lacks systematic analysis and interpretation, but there are signs of insight in relation to plot and character and the connection between them. there is evidence of an understanding of all the principal elements of production but it is superficial and unbalanced.
 6-10 The Play Analysis presentation contains few signs of an imaginative interpretation of the play and little evidence of having adopted a directorial perspective. the candidate shows an understanding of the text and has some imaginative response to some of the more obviously dramatic sequences. The presentation shows some basic understanding of plot and character and there is superficial comprehension of the connection between them. There is evidence of some grasp of the nature and function of the most basic elements of production but this is partial and inconsistent.
 0-5 The Play Analysis presentation indicates very few or no signs of having interpreted the play imaginatively nor of having treated the play as a plan for production. The candidate demonstrates little understanding of genre, style or themes of the text and has little or no idea of how the play could be realised on stage. The presentation shows very little or no understanding of plot and character and is devoid of interpretation. There is very little evidence of a sense of the nature and function of the elements of production and such references as are made to these are confused and inaccurate.

Fig 1: IB Achievement-Based Marking Schedule
External Assessment Criteria: Play Analysis and Interpretation

 

Transforming a grade-related marking schedule into a unit standard

As an external examiner for IB, I have been using the marking schedule (Fig 1) for a number of years. It is not too dissimilar to the banded marking schedules that have been used for many years in the marking of Bursary English essays. I use it to mark taped presentations describing how an IB Theatre Arts candidate would direct one of three externally prescribed plays. The candidates I
mark come from a range of countries (not New Zealand) and I am check-marked by a HOD Drama in an Australian secondary college. Curiously enough, we are invariably close on the grades we award.

Still, even a cursory glance at the descriptor related to Mark Band 21-25 will remind us of the limitations of this kind of achievement-based assessment. It is full of language (mainly adjectives) which call on examiners to make judgments on the quality of the candidate's work: "highly imaginative, adventurous, illuminating and original", "effective", "thorough", "practicable", "thoughtful, sensitive" and so on. Who is to say that my understanding of what it means to be original is the same as the next marker's?

A tempting solution to the pitfall of supposed "subjectivity" is to switch attention away from intangible qualities such as "imaginativeness", "adventurousness", "originality", "effectiveness", "thoroughness" and "sensitivity" and towards outcomes -- product-related features of performance that can be unambiguously identified as being either present or absent. The 21-25 band descriptor can be transformed into a set of outcomes by carefully eliminating all of the judgement terms I alluded to in the last paragraph. The result of such a process is Fig 2, certainly a shorter text but still rather dense and a little forbidding. Already it can be seen that a major shift has occurred. While all those awkward judgement words have gone, so also has the qualitative dimension, that is, the invitation to a marker to state how good a candidate is at the set task. Still, we will press on.

The Play Analysis interprets the play and assumes a directorial perspective. The analysis recognises the text's potential as a dramatic experience and discusses the processes involved in bringing that text to life. Interprets plot and character. Discusses the nature, function and inter-relation of the elements of production and of how they are combined to produce desired effects.

Fig 2: Judgements into outcomes

One way of making the set of outcomes in Fig 2 less forbidding is to break them down into discrete elements. Fig 3 does this by breaking an overall task into a set of smaller components. On the one hand, one can see that this step clarifies a set of requirements. On the other hand, it can be viewed as potentially fragmenting a task that should best be thought of holistically.

I suppose we could stop here. However, we are still one stop away from our unit-standard destination. To make absolutely sure that the standard is the same for everyone, we need to quantify our demands using such markers as "two", "one" and "five" (Fig 4). In this way, no one student will be doing too much to achieve the standard while another is doing too little. One



1.1


1.2



1.3

1.4

The Play Analysis interprets the play and assumes a directorial perspective.

The analysis recognises the text's potential as a dramatic experience and discusses the processes involved in bringing that text to life.

Interprets plot and character.

Discusses the nature, function and interrelation of the elements of production and of how they are combined to produce desired effects.

Fig 3: Outcomes into performance criteria

might argue that such a step brings greater precision to the performance criteria. One might also argue that this step effectively minimises the effort a student needs to make in order to be deemed competent (i.e. gain the credit). It should also be noted that the addition of quantitative markers still does not introduce a qualitative dimension. Rather it asks for more of the same

1.1


1.2


1.3



1.4

The Play Analysis interprets the play and assumes a directorial perspective.

The analysis discusses two ways in which the text might be brought to life.

Identifies one main plot idea and one idea related to character motivation and relates these to one or more relevant sections of the play.

Five examples of production elements are identified using appropriate terminology and their effect analysed. Discusses the effect of combining two of these elements.

Fig 4: Quantifying the performance criteria

We are now in a position to compare our manufactured unit standard with a real live one, US 12419 (Read poetic written text closely), which just happens to have identical performance criteria to US 12420 (Read transactional written text closely). (See Fig 5) Like our manufactured unit standard, this one is expressed in outcomes, the qualitative dimension has been eliminated, the task of reading has been broken up into discrete components and a minimal level of reading performance (If this is reading) has been defined using quantitative markers.

 

Adding "credit" and "excellence" to a unit standards

I want to state from the outset that I regard unit standards as a form of competence-based assessment (can/can't or pass/fail) while the proposed achievement standards have the potential to move us towards (back to?) achievement-based assessment and that competence-based assessment and ABA simply don't mix. Because the Government spent over $1,000,000 in 1997 trialling unit standards in English, it's not an unreasonable fear that they might succumb to the temptation to tinker with existing unit standards in the development of achievement standards?

   US 12419 (Read Poetic written text closely)
   performance criteria
 1.1 At least one main idea in the text is explained with reference to at least one relevant section of the text.
 1.2

The significance of a main idea in the text is explained with reference to at least one relevant section of the text.

Range: significance relates to social, historical, cultural, physical, political, or personal contexts.

 1.3

Five examples of language features are identified using appropriate terminology, and an effect of each example is analysed.

Range: Language features could include figures of speech, sound devices, choice of words, irony, symbolism, grammatical usage, punctuation.

 1.4

A technique used to shape the text is identified and analysed with reference to at least one relevant section of the text.

Range: techniques could include structure, narrative technique

Fig 5: US 12419

One way might be by defining merit and excellence steps by changing the quantitative markers in the performance criteria of a unit standard like US 12419. The Ministry has stated that "There could be about five to eight achievement standards at each of the four levels for each subject", so that we might anticipate that some people might see virtue in collapsing US 12419 and US 12420, with their identical performance criteria, into a single achievement standard concerned with close reading. With the tinkering done this way, a merit step might ask students to explain the significance of two main ideas in a text. And discuss six language features. Or comment on two structural features. The resultant standard could be tagged with a merit-signifying marker, e.g. "M". The trouble with this solution is that we are no further ahead. The fact of the matter is that, even in the original US 12419, the choice of, for example, five language features as requiring analysis is really quite arbitrary. Why five? An able student may comment eloquently, sensitively and critically on only three language features and fail to gain the standard. No discrimination between language features is invited either. That is, the student is not required to make a judgement on which features figure most importantly in a given text. After all, that would require a judgement call in turn demanding a judgement call on the part of the marker.


Another way of tinkering with the existing unit standards is to follow the suggestions contained in Sections 5 and 6 of the NZATE draft position paper on Achievement 2001. These sections read:

5. Achievement standards for English should be contiguous from levels 1-4 of the Qualifications Framework, i.e. each level should build upon the skills/knowledge of the previous level and hence need to be developed at the same time.

6. For English achievement standards, there should be one level of merit/distinction, with the expected performance to achieve merit/distinction being described by some of the outcomes of the achievement standard of the next level up.

I am taking these statements, as far as I can fully understand them, to be similar to the suggestions on the way unit standards might evolve that Phil Coogan made in his first statement to the NZATE membership on assuming the role of NZATE presidency. There are no other options for the development of achievement standards in the questionnaire that respondents might agree or disagree with. And a respondent indicating "Strong disagreement" with the above statements, as I did, may have found these circled boxes curiously out of kilter with the other ten boxes which they may well have found themselves indicating "Strong agreement" on. (That is, the questionnaire appeared to give the impression that the "Strongly Agree" choices were rather self-evident.)

Let's assume that it is decided that, indeed, there will be an achievement standard for English developed for an aspect of the subject we will call "Close Reading". Let's look at what I think the draft statement is suggesting here. Firstly, if I've got a handle on "contiguous", the statement is suggesting that an achievement standard at level 2 of the NCEA should build upon the achievement standard as defined for level 1 and somehow look ahead to the achievement standard as defined for level 3. Mmm....OK. Sounds logical. Secondly, for any single achievement standard, the statement is calling for "one level of merit/distinction." I have to say that I don't quite understand the "/". Is it suggesting one or two levels above a basic level of competence at which an achievement standard is earned (unit standard fashion)? That is, is the statement proposing one extra level called "merit/distinction", or two extra levels called "merit" and "distinction"? By now, also, the word "level" is getting confusing. The Ministry documentation reserves the word "level" to denote the four levels of the proposed NCEA, with Level 1 around Year 11, Level 2 around Year 12 and Level 3 around Year 13 with Level 4 thrown in for "Scholarship" purposes. Ministry documentation I have mentions "Using a reporting system such as A, B, C (Credit) and D (no credit). The word "grade" is, I think, less likely to cause confusion if it replaces one of these uses of the word "level".

Let's suppose that, tinkering with unit standards again, we describe a C grade at level 2 for the Close Reading achievement standard in a way that rather reminds us of US 12419. As I read the NZATE statement, we could be looking at a scenario where a B (merit) grade at level 2 simply
becomes a version of US 12427 (Fig 6), the current Level 3 unit standard with the title "Read closely and evaluate the effectiveness of poetic written texts". An A (excellence) grade at level 2 would look like a current Level 4 unit standard.

  US 12427 (Read closely and evaluate the effectiveness of poetic written texts)
   performance criteria
 1.1 Ideas or meanings in the text are analysed with reference to relevant sections of the text.
 1.2

The significance of a main idea in the text is explained with reference to at least one relevant section of the text.

Range: significance relates to social, historical, cultural, physical, political, or personal contexts.

 1.3

Five examples of language features are identified using appropriate terminology, and an effect of each example is analysed.

Range: Language features could include figures of speech, sound devices, choice of words, irony, symbolism, grammatical usage, punctuation.

 1.4

At least two techniques used to shape the text are identified. Each technique is evaluated in terms of its effect with reference to relevant sections of the text.

Range: techniques could include structure, narrative technique

Fig 6: US 12427

I'd be opposed to such a scenario on a number of grounds. For a start, I see the language and structure of the current unit standards performance criteria and range statements so compromising of sound English classroom practice that I would prefer to see them simply disposed of. My major ground, however, resides in precisely the notion of "contiguity" that the NZATE draft statement alludes to. Let's look at some examples of contiguity. One example is the contiguity represented by the relationship between the level 2 unit standard US 12419 and the level 3 unit standard US 12427. Each unit standard has four performance criteria. A criteria by criteria comparison reveals that:

  • 1.1 at level 3 expects students to analyse an unspecified number of "ideas or meanings" with reference to an unspecified number of relevant textual sections whereas 1.1 at level 2 specifies "at least one main idea" and "at least one relevant section of the text".

  • 1.2. at level 3 is identical to 1.2 at level 2 (Even at level 3 students are not expected to critically evaluate the ideas they identify.).

  • 1.3 at level 3 is identical to 1.3. at level 2 (Even at level 3 students are not expected to critically evaluate the use of language features.).

  • 1.4. at level 3 asks students to evaluate "at least two" structural features while 1.4 at level 3 asks students simply to identify and analyse a structural feature.

This haphazard and questionable contiguity has its direct origin in another example of contiguity, that which is represented by the relationship between level 7 and level 8 in the "Close Reading" sub-strand of the national English curriculum. In this document, a student is deemed to be at level 7 if they "analyse critically language, meanings, and ideas in...texts....", while a student is deemed to be at level 8 if they "analyse, in...texts....evaluating their literary qualities and effects...." Again, this example of contiguity is haphazard and illogical. But the key word "evaluating" is a clue to the limp attempt at differentiation that we find between the unit standards just discussed.

There are other words for this kind of "contiguity" such as "progression" or "development". Whether in fact one can establish any kind of actual progression in students' literacy development, especially a skills-based one, has been a matter of continual argument among English teachers and subject theorists for years. And most educationalists would simply say that you can't. This is certainly the argument Warwick Elley and others have brought to bear in critiquing the levels structure of the English curriculum document. Indeed, it is why Elley (in an article in English in Aotearoa in December 1996) made the statement that the English unit standards are not standards at all and reminded his audience, yet again, that English does not have a clear progression from lower to higher standards, and that in English, most of the key objectives are very similar from year to year, and that they nearly all revolve around learning to communicate competently in spoken and written forms, and that these aims are general rather than specific, and that any progressions are found not in different skills learned each year (via notions of "contiguity"), but rather in an increasing level of sophistication in the texts that students are expected to comprehend and generate.

 

Another approach to achievement standards

The English Study Design team was concerned to ensure that a firm distinction be made between diagnostic, formative and summative assessment and to minimise the latter. For this reason, the number of common assessment tasks (5 at year 12; 4 at year 13) were kept small, even though some of them were made up of more than one piece of work. While acknowledging the misgivings about standards-based assessment of educationalists such as Tuck (1995) and Elley (1995), the project team committed itself to standards-based assessment in the form of grade-related (achievement-based) band descriptors in recognition of the value to student learning, especially in the process of formative assessment, of clearly stated achievement objectives and their place in guiding students in setting for themselves language-related goals.


The grade-related band descriptors (See Chart 1 for an example) were seen as a way of articulating the national English curriculum by collating its upper-level achievement objectives, rationalising its language and relating it to a small but comprehensive set of work requirements. The assessment tasks associated with each work requirement were clearly related to these grade-related band descriptors. Taking cognisance of the research that lay behind Elley's critique of standards-based assessment, the project team made no attempt to create separate sets of marking guides for years 12 and 13. Rather, they attempted to incorporate their differentiation between year 12 and 13 (level 2 and 3, if you like) in the descriptions (the equivalent to unit standards range statements) of the various ESD work requirements.

In a further attempt to reach the goal of acceptable consistency, this study design:

  • built sets of constraints into the descriptions of the work requirements and CATs;
  • designed generic marking guides (See Chart 1) for national use;
  • made use of a "best fit" or "typicality" system to ensure that students are assessed for their grade trend across three or four assessment events for both Writing and Response to Text;
  • developed exemplary rubrics that is, interpretations of the generic marking guides which specify particular level indicators in relationship to particular language events, such as responding to a poem or writing an editorial (See Chart 2 for an example);
  • incorporated the use of external moderation via sampling and check-marking;
  • incorporated the use of exemplars as guides to the establishment of standards;
  • emphasised the importance of professional networking among teachers as a way of standardising task-setting and grading.

Chart 1 is an example of a generic marking guide for Writing. It uses a ten-point grading scale to allow fine discriminations in terms of its 5-level grade descriptors. A student's writing would be graded both for their ability:

  • to use writing as a vehicle for imaginative response and the development of coherent thought while developing a critical awareness of the immediate and wider writing context and
  • to develop confidence and competence in employing consciously the language features conventionally associated with a particular genre.

Again, a comparison with the unit standards model might regard "Content and Context" and "Conventions of Language" as two distinct sets of performance criteria (compared to unit standard US 12419 which has four sets of performance criteria for "Close Reading").

 

 Content and Context

 Conventions of Language

 E
E+
[1-2]
Incorporates straightforward messages in the production of a text. Has a limited sense of the text's intended audience and purpose. Some evidence of a developing point of view. Can employ some language features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in a straightforward way. Has a limited sense of how these features function in terms of the chosen genre.
 D
D+
[3-4]
Incorporates a number of linked ideas in the production of a text, especially at the paragraph level. Has a sense of the text's intended audience and purpose or purposes. Indicates a point of view. Can employ a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are appropriate to their function in the chosen genre
 C
C+
[5-6]
Incorporates and develops with some coherence a number of main and subordinated ideas in the production of a text. Shapes the purpose of the text to a sense of the intended audience. As part of a developed personal viewpoint, has some awareness of cultural factors affecting the impact on readers of the text produced. Can deliberately and in a controlled way employ a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are clearly appropriate to their function in the chosen genre.
 B
B+
[7-8]
Incorporates and develops coherently and in a controlled and deliberate way a number of main and subordinated ideas in the production of a text. Consciously shapes the purpose of the text to a sense of its intended audience. As part of a clear personal viewpoint, has an awareness of cultural factors affecting the impact on readers of the text produced. Confidently and competently employs a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are both effective and clearly appropriate to their function in the chosen genre. 
 A
A+
[9-10]
Incorporates and develops with flair, imagination and coherence, a number of main and subordinated ideas in the production of a text. Has a clear set of purposes and a perceptive knowledge of the intended audience which is used to position them in a deliberate way. Has a clearly articulated viewpoint and a critical awareness of cultural factors affecting the impact on readers of the text produced. Shows confidence, competence and flair in employing a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are striking, innovative and clearly appropriate to their function in the chosen genre.


Chart 1: Marking guide: writing

An example of a rubric is Chart 2 which provides a marking schedule for a particular written genre, that is, the expository essay. It interprets the general descriptors of the marking guide for"Writing" by identifying, as Level Indicators, the sorts of features a student would need to use
"deliberately and in a controlled way", for example, in order to gain a C or C+ in the "Conventions of Language" aspect of Writing.

 

 Content and Context: Generic Schedule

 Level Indicators

 E
E+
[1-2]
Incorporates straightforward messages in the production of a text. Has a limited sense of the text's intended audience and purpose. Some evidence of a developing point of view.
  • Has some unorganised ideas related to the topic.
  • Evidence is sketchy or derivative.
  • A weak sense of audience and purpose.
 D
D+
[3-4]
Incorporates a number of linked ideas in the production of a text, especially at the paragraph level. Has a sense of the text's intended audience and purpose or purposes. Indicates a point of view.
  • Has a number of statements supporting a case.
  • Rather weak connectedness between statements.
  • Some relevant supporting evidence provided.
  • A limited sense of audience and context
 C
C+
[5-6]
Incorporates and develops with some coherence a number of main and subordinated ideas in the production of a text. Shapes the purpose of the text to a sense of the intended audience. As part of a developed personal viewpoint, has some awareness of cultural factors affecting the impact on readers of the text produced.
  • Contains a number of statements showing some evidence of having been organised to form a case.
  • An ability to handle concepts.
  • Shows care in providing relevant evidence.
  • Recognises other viewpoints on the topic.
  • A clear sense of audience and context.
 B
B+
[7-8]
Incorporates and develops coherently and in a controlled and deliberate way a number of main and subordinated ideas in the production of a text. Consciously shapes the purpose of the text to a sense of its intended audience. As part of a clear personal viewpoint, has an awareness of cultural factors affecting the impact on readers of the text produced.
  • Statements are carefully shaped to form a case.
  • Concepts are handled with confidence.
  • Questions of definition are addressed.
  • Evidence is relevant, reasoned and researched.
  • Other viewpoints are addressed.
  • The argument is tailored to an audience and contex 
 A
A+
[9-10]
Incorporates and develops with flair, imagination and coherence, a number of main and subordinated ideas in the production of a text. Has a clear set of purposes and a perceptive knowledge of the intended audience which is used to position them in a deliberate way. Has a clearly articulated viewpoint and a critical awareness of cultural factors affecting the impact on readers of the text produced.
  • Statements are organised to build up a convincing and arresting case.
  • Concepts are used in a confident yet critical way.
  • Evidence is pointed, well selected, logically reasoned and carefully researched.
  • In addressing both audience and context, the writer clearly sees their own position as one among many.

 

 Conventions of Language: Generic Schedule

 Level Indicators

 E
E+
[1-2]
Can employ some language features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in a straightforward way. Has a limited sense of how these features function in terms of the chosen genre.
  • The introduction is either skimpy or non-existent.
  • Poor paragraphing means that points tend to get lost.
  • Vocabulary is limited and use of concepts unsure.
  • A limited number of appropriate sentence shapes.
  • Tends to peter out without a conclusion.
  • Frequent mechanical errors.
 D
D+
[3-4]
Can employ a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are appropriate to their function in the chosen genre
  • Uses an introduction to focus reader attention.
  • Has clearly marked paragraphs which generally deal with and develop a single topic.
  • Has a sound vocabulary and uses relevant concepts.
  • Uses subordination appropriately.
  • Attempts a conclusion.
  • A number of mechanical errors.
 C
C+
[5-6]
Can deliberately and in a controlled way employ a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are clearly appropriate to their function in the chosen genre.
  • Introduction sets scene, gains attention and introduces and defines the topic. Has a clear, relevant conclusion.
  • Has clearly marked coherent paragraphing.
  • Draws on a good range of concrete and abstract diction.
  • Has a range of appropriate sentence structures.
  • A sound control of the mechanics of writing.
 B
B+
[7-8]
Confidently and competently employs a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are both effective and clearly appropriate to their function in the chosen genre. 
  • Introduction is an interesting and relevant springboard.
  • Has a strong, challenging conclusion.
  • Has clear, coherent and varied paragraphing.
  • Draws on a wide range of concrete and abstract diction.
  • Has a fluent grasp of the potential of English syntax.
  • Has a fluent control of the mechanics of writing.
 A
A+
[9-10]
Shows confidence, competence and flair in employing a range of features (layout, structure, punctuation, diction and syntax) in ways that are striking, innovative and clearly appropriate to their function in the chosen genre.
  • Introduction is arresting, seductive and pertinent.
  • Has a challenging conclusion which successfully rounds off the design of the essay.
  • Uses an innovative range of structural features.
  • Has an impressive command of vocabulary.
  • Has a masterful command of English syntax.
  • Has consistent and fluent control of the mechanics of writing.

Chart 2: Rubric: The Expository Essay

In practice, of course, a single piece of student writing seldom matches neatly a single set of grade-related, level indicators. In practice, as the project team emphasised, the grade for a piece of work tends to be typified by the level at which most level indicators are judged to cluster. All teachers recognise that assessment is an imprecise art. But I would add that the exercise of trained professional judgement is not. Which is why I remain committed to this form of assessment which unreservedly retains the language of qualitative judgement I carefully eliminated in my quest for a unit standard described at the start of this paper.-

Finally, I want to make a point about the Ministry's suggestion of a reporting system of A, B, C (credit) and D (no credit). My argument with it is that while it appears to reward able students, it effectively retains the pass/fail aspect of unit standards. Though I see such a reporting system as probably a concomitant of the nature of the NQF itself, I'd want to oppose it. I don't believe in Ds (no credit). It's even worse than getting 47% in School Certificate English, since with 47% a student at least gets a rough indication of the extent to which they've missed out on that magical pass. That's why I prefer the range of grades from A to E we have developed in the ESD assessment system, with a cut-off point at C for "credit" should the system our collective intelligence creates be so inflexible as to demand such a mechanism.

Terry Locke
February, 1999

 

 

 

 

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