The principles behind the development of our NZAI assessment principles

The introduction to the Assessment PPP outlines our belief in the power of assessment to play ‘a key role in the building and growth of educational relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand, empowering Interconnectedness between the different tiers of the school system: schools, students, parents/whānau, and the wider educational sector…’

Guided by the wisdom of the group we shaped the set of seven principles that we believe define and encompass assessment that improves learning and supports a ‘system that learns’.

You might ask how we arrived at seven principles? Why not 8, or 10, or 3?  The process we used was collaborative and iterative. It took about 18 months for all of the NZAI executive to arrive at a set of agreed principles and supporting practices and proofs.  It took this long to mull over the concepts, proof test them against national assessment issues and emerging trends, and to agree that we had a tight and efficient description of the core concepts needed to guide the effective use of assessment to support learning at all levels of the education system. 

Subsequently a couple of us have been pondering on what guided our process other than a strong desire to arrive at something useful.

In retrospect, we were guided by an implicit set of ‘metaprinciples’ against which we iteratively evaluated the assessment principles we drafted. These metaprinciples are:

  1. Utility– Each principle must clearly exist to support the fundamental purpose of the task. In this case, it is to define and encompass assessment that improves learning.
  2. Coherence– All of the principles, if adhered to in practice, must together deliver on the purpose they were designed to meet.
  3. Necessity and sufficiency– The principles must include everything that is necessary, nothing that is not.
  4. Orthogonality– Each principle must be independent of the others; changes to one principle should not affect the integrity of the others.
  5. Clarity– The meaning of each principle must be clear, and its existence must be capable of being verifiable – which is why we have our ‘practice’ and ‘proof’ columns in the document.
  6. Universality – Each principle needs to be applicable in multiple settings, in different sectors and circumstances.

These principles did not consciously guide us but they do now seem to capture the process we used and we think that they may prove useful in guiding future work.  If you like them, use them.