Assessment of Numeracy
A review by Tom Ciancone, Flora Hood and Joy
"What do you think it means to be competent in numeracy?"
A new and exciting book on numeracy
assessment is based on how Australian teachers answered this question. Rethinking
Assessment introduces a model of holistic numeracy competence and examines
what this model means for assessment. Developed by a group of eight experienced
practitioners/teachers, the resource also drew on input from more than forty
other numeracy and literacy practitioners over many months. The participating
teacher/practitioners come from a diverse range of programs across Australia.
The project leaders and authors of this
book are well-known and accomplished adult numeracy educators. As innovators in
the field, Beth Marr, Sue Helme and Dave Tout have authored many other
important resources. This book attempts to build on their expertise as well as
the experience of other practitioners.
Not surprisingly, the teachers involved
with this project concluded that numeracy had little to do with merely
acquiring mathematical skills. They are convinced that competence is more than
merely completing assessment tasks. In answering their initial question, they
came up with a holistic notion of competence. At its core is a change of
identity or self-concept. The authors quote James Gee to summarize their
teachers could turn their 'passion for skills' into a 'assion for identity',
then learning would be transformed. (p. 11)
To portray the interlocking and essential
nature of both cognitive and affective components, the authors use a jigsaw
insert jigsaw here
In Rethinking Assessment, the
authors put forth their model of holistic competence, then elaborate on it with
explanation and supporting quotations, and finally provide a variety of sample
assessment tasks and materials. In keeping with the theme Listening to the
voices of teachers, almost every page of the book includes quotes that support
Strategies for Assessment
The first section of the book contains an
extensive overview of assessment strategies used by practitioners. These
- Keeping track of student progress
- Bringing reality to assessment
- Using interviews in initial
- Using open-ended assessment
- Negotiating assessment
- Focusing on student success
- Focusing on awareness of learning
- Focusing on student autonomy
In their discussions, the experienced
practitioner group tried to determine the difference between an assessment task
and a learning task. Their conclusion was that "any task that requires
students to apply skills in a realistic situation, or demonstrate their
conceptual understanding, has the potential to be an assessment task."
Although the book clearly focuses on
strategies of assessment for learners' , the authors acknowledge that funders
require accountability tools that are both meaningful and quantitative.
Sample Assessment Tasks and Materials
The second section of Rethinking
Assessment presents detailed descriptions of eighteen assessment tasks,
along with various templates and stimulus materials - including possible numeracy
levels, recording sheets, suggested procedures and extensions to other literacy
and numeracy tasks. Since these are based on real experiences, there are, in
some cases, sample student responses and analysis.
One task, called Number Card Sorting,
assesses conceptual understanding in a very informal way using open-ended
recording. Another task, Making Biscuits, is based on a recipe as the real-life
stimulus; in this case, the two sample recording sheets are structured
checklists based on observing the Task Process Cycle.
Finally, the book includes two sets of
photocopiable templates. One set contains formative assessment activities that
can be used as discussion starters or prompts for writing. These prompts focus
on student confidence, autonomy and awareness of learning, such as "When I
don't know how to get started, I could...," "How do you feel about numeracy at
the moment?" and "What did you learn today?" The second set of templates help
teachers navigate their way through open-ended tasks. The suggested procedure
includes tuning in to the task, introducing the task, reflecting on the task,
focusing students' ideas and strategies, and encouraging evaluation and reflection.
Rethinking Assessment is "a resource book for practitioners, policy-makers and
assessors." It provides a theoretical framework grounded in the experience of
numeracy practitioners. Do the authors accomplish what they set out to do? Very
definitely, yes! This resource advances the field of numeracy, but more
broadly, it breaks ground in assessing learning in adult basic education.
Marr, Beth, Sue Helme and Dave Tout (2003). Rethinking assessment: strategies
for holistic adult numeracy assessment. A resource book for practitioners,
policy-makers, researchers and teachers. Language Australia: Melbourne.