Achievement objectives
Types of assessment
Tools for assessment
Assessment for national qualifications

Achievement objectives

The achievement objectives found in the New Zealand Curriculum (here) set out selected learning processes, knowledge, and skills relative to eight levels of learning. These desirable levels of knowledge, understanding, and skills represent progress towards broader outcomes that ultimately amount to deeper learning. When designing and reviewing their curriculum, schools choose achievement objectives from each area to fit the learning needs of their students.
Some achievement objectives relate to skills or understandings that can be mastered within a particular learning level. Others are more complex and are developed with increasing sophistication across a number of learning levels. The broader and more complex an objective, the more significant it is likely to be for a student’s learning.
It is important for both planning and teaching purposes that schools provide clear statements of learning expectations that apply to particular levels or across a number of levels. These expectations should be stated in ways that help teachers, students, and parents to recognise, measure, discuss, and chart progress.
A school’s curriculum is likely to be well designed when:
• Principals and teachers can show what it is that they want their students to learn and how their curriculum is designed to achieve this.
• Students are helped to build on existing learning and take it to higher levels. Students with special needs are given quality learning experiences that enable them to achieve, and students with special abilities and talents are given opportunities to work beyond formally
described objectives.
• The long view is taken: each student’s ultimate learning success is more important than the covering of particular achievement objectives.
Curriculum design and practice should begin with the premise that all students can learn and succeed (see the high expectations principle) and should recognise that, as all students are individuals, their learning may call for different approaches, different resourcing, and different goals (see the inclusion principle).


The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both student and teacher respond to the information that it provides. With this in mind, schools need to consider how they will gather, analyse, and use assessment information so that it is effective in meeting this purpose.
Assessment for the purpose of improving student learning is best understood as an ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning. It involves the focused and timely gathering, analysis, interpretation, and use of information that can provide evidence of student progress. Much of this evidence is “of the moment”. Analysis and interpretation often take place in the mind of the
teacher, who then uses the insights gained to shape their actions as they continue to work with their students.

Some characteristics of effective assessment

Effective assessment:
benefits students – It clarifies for them what they know and can do and what they still need to learn. When students see that they are making progress, their motivation is sustained and their confidence increases.
involves students – They discuss, clarify, and reflect on their goals, strategies, and progress with their teachers, their parents, and one another. This develops students’ capacity for self- and peer assessment, which lead in turn to increased self-direction.
• supports teaching and learning goals – Students understand the desired outcomes and the criteria for success. Important outcomes are emphasised, and the teacher gives feedback that helps the students to reach them.
is planned and communicated – Outcomes, teaching strategies, and assessment criteria are carefully matched. Students know in advance how and why they are to be assessed. The teacher’s programme planning is flexible so that they can make changes in response to new information, opportunities, or insights.
is suited to the purpose – Evidence is obtained through a range of informal and formal assessment approaches. These approaches are chosen to suit the nature of the learning being assessed, the varied characteristics and experiences of the students, and the purpose
for which the information is to be used.
is valid and fair – Teachers obtain and interpret information from a range of sources and then base decisions on this evidence, using their professional judgment. Conclusions are most likely to be valid when the evidence for them comes from more than one assessment.
Assessment is integral to the teaching inquiry process (see page 35 the NZ CURRICULUM) because it is the basis for both the
focusing inquiry and the learning inquiry.

School-wide assessment

Schools need to know what impact their programmes are having on student learning. An important way of getting this information is by collecting and analysing school-wide assessment data. Schools can then use this information as the basis for changes to policies or programmes or changes to teaching practices as well as for reporting to the board of trustees, parents, and the Ministry of Education. Assessment information may also be used to compare the relative achievement of different groups of students or to compare the
achievement of the school’s students against national standards.

Uses of assessment information

The adjacent diagram shows the different groups of people involved in supporting students’ learning and the purposes for which they need assessment information.



Assessment for national qualifications
The New Zealand Curriculum provides the basis for the ongoing development of achievement standards and unit standards registered on the National Qualifications Framework, which are designed to lead to the award of qualifications in years 11–13. These include the National Certificate of Educational Achievement and other national certificates that schools may choose to offer.
The New Zealand Curriculum, together with the Qualifications Framework, gives schools the flexibility to design and deliver programmes that will engage all students and offer them appropriate learning pathways. The flexibility of the qualifications system also allows schools to keep assessment to levels that are manageable and reasonable for both students and teachers. Not all aspects of the curriculum need to be
formally assessed, and excessive high-stakes assessment in years 11–13 is to be avoided.