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Visibly Learning: Teachers' Assessment Practices for Students with High and Very High Needs

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International Journal of Inclusive Education Volume 15, Number 4, ISSN 1360-3116


This paper examines the assessment practices of teachers working with students with special educational needs in New Zealand primary and secondary regular and special schools. A national survey was used to identify current assessment practices used by teachers working with students designated, through a resourcing policy, as having high and very high needs. Specifically, the survey sought to determine the type of assessment practices used, reasons for using different approaches, the role of the person carrying out the assessment and levels of confidence in assessing students in relation to learning. The use of learning stories as a form of narrative assessment was further explored through the questionnaires and in a relatively small number of interviews. The results showed that teachers were largely responsible for assessment, and that the three main assessment methods used included collecting examples of work, observations and anecdotal records. Teachers reported confidence in assessing students for learning, but not for funding applications and assistive technology applications. Approaches such as narrative assessment and learning stories were used by some teachers in school-based settings. Learning stories and narrative assessment are strategies where parents, teachers, teacher-aides and students engage in meaningful dialogue around learning. Teachers reported that through narrative assessment they could demonstrate that learners with high and very high needs were visibly learning. Through a sociocultural conceptualisation of formative assessment, the role of teachers and learners in assessment is explored. (Contains 3 tables and 2 notes.)


Bourke, R., Mentis, M. & Todd, L. (2011). Visibly Learning: Teachers' Assessment Practices for Students with High and Very High Needs. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(4), 405-419. Retrieved March 22, 2023 from .

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