NCEA Trivial Pursuit?

November 18, 2018

Exams-Getty

“New Zealand students say word ‘trivial’ in exam confused them.”
  BBCNews Headline 16/11/18

Year 13 Level 3 NCEA exam students (usually aged between 17 and 18 at exam time) were recently asked to write a History essay based on the Julius Caesar quote: “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

More than 2,600 people signed an online petition over the “unfamiliar” word, demanding not to be marked down as a result of their lack of comprehension.

Examiners said the language used was expected to be within the range of the year 13 students’ vocabulary. However, in a statement, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority [NZQA] added: “If candidates have addressed the quote and integrated their ideas with it, then they will be given credit for the strength of their argument and analysis and will not be penalised for misinterpreting the word ‘trivial’.”

That’s all right then-and at least the petitioners displayed some digital and collaborative skills as well as their surprising semantic deficit.

But perhaps the old-fashioned exam format, involving writer’s cramp-inducing marathons for those who use pens of any sort infrequently, is the real trivial pursuit.

All concerned will watch the continued roll out of the NZQA’s digital transformation process with interest.

20/20 Vision

NZQA’s vision is for NCEA examinations to be made available online by 2020.

The approach to online examinations reflects the teaching and learning happening in classrooms and the capabilities of the technology to support a good digital examination user experience in a given subject. This means that it may be some time before all subjects are available for online examination.

While the approach is currently focussed on digitising the paper-based examinations to help schools manage the transition, the opportunity exists to support a transformation in the way in which external assessments when digitally supported teaching and learning is pervasive. See https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-vision/.

At the same time, since 2017 NZQA has been digitising its approach to external moderation of internally assessed work, since learners are increasingly producing and submitting learning evidence digitally. The vision is to see 100% of moderation materials, in subjects where it’s appropriate, being submitted digitally by 2020.

A more effective and accessible digital system for accessing and sharing learning evidence from internal and external assessment will benefit learners, educators  and employers alike.

Lyall Lukey 18/11/18

[Lyall Lukey was a History teacher and external  History exam marker many moons ago. He still holds the world records for the number of pages he filled in his own School Cert. History Exam and for the smallest fraction of a mark awarded per completed page. He has given up playing Trivial Pursuit. Among other things, since 2007 he has been  the convener of  annual NZ-wide Education Leaders Forums .]