It's assessment time - so how can we make it stress-free and successful for all?

It’s June and for all schools, that means it’s assessment time.  

For many students, assessment triggers stress and anxiety. The assessment task may seem obvious to us as educators, but many students may not understand the question in the first place, or how to organise their ideas and research step by step.  

For teachers, assessment marking can be frustrating as we trawl through completed assignments searching desperately for evidence the relevant information has been addressed. 

To manage this proactively, itc has developed a simple yet powerful four-step framework that outlines the four key stages when writing assessment tasks. 

The goal is to identify the task verb – everything flows from this all-important first step.   

Here is a free A4 hand out to print and keep handy for you and your students to refer to when approaching any assessment task or decision-making scenario, big or small. It is best used in conjunction with itc’s Thinking Skills Framework framework - click to download.

Scaffolding the Verb – Four Easy Steps

This simple framework gives every learner a clear pathway to follow to ensure he or she saves time and stress when researching and writing assessment. 

Step 1. Identify the Task Verb
When designing an assessment item, the choice of the task verb, such as Explain, Design or Compare, is crucial as it defines the assessment task. This helps determine how a student will organise their thoughts and research, and influences the language they will use.

As an example, we will focus on the task verb Compare. 

Step 2. Define the Task Verb
Compare means that you look at the way two things are both similar and different. Do not confuse with the verb Contrast, this is the differences only. For context, reference the task verb to the Thinking Skills Framework so students can see the category of thinking. The task verb Compare is at the Analyse level. 

Step 3. Use An Appropriate Thinking Tool
For the verb Compare, use a Double Bubble Map.

Step 4. Use the Appropriate Language
For the verb Compare, use the following sentence starters. 
•  There are many ways in which...and…are similar  
•  There are many ways in which...and…are different and these include...
•  A very obvious difference between...and…is...
•  Whilst there are a few similarities between...and…there are more differences.
•  Whilst...and...appear quite similar, they are, in fact quite different.
•  Another feature that the two...have in common is...

By following these four steps, your students will feel confident to approach any assessment task in any subject. 

For more support for your students, see itc’s new innovative students’ companion, a handy book for Year 5 to Year 12 students to refer to whenever they need help starting and successfully completing assessment tasks. 

More than 10,000 students across Australia are already benefitting from using the innovative students’ companion, which makes higher-order thinking a natural way of learning. 

itc publications also runs in-class student workshops to demonstrate the ease and power of this book and the four-step framework to engage and empower students as independent learners and thinkers.   

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