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Teachers & Students – Is the AST past it?

By Joe Canberran - 3 October 2007 33

James Patmore from NowUC has written this opinion piece questioning the fairness of the AST (ACT Scaling Test) as a means of assessing students finishing Year 12.

He makes several points including that we and Queensland are the only jurisdictions not to sit external exams and that “that a school’s General Achievement (GA) score in the AST is used to standardise students results, not the individual’s AST score, meaning students are relying on the performance of their peers to obtain successful results, which in an unfair form of assessment”.

The whole article is worth a read but I was wondering what, if anything, Canberra’s teaching and student community thinks of both the current system and of any possible improvements.

What’s Your opinion?

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33 Responses to
Teachers & Students – Is the AST past it?
VYBerlinaV8 now_with 4:16 pm 03 Oct 07

I think it depends on what you are studying. For example, in engineering your own opinion doesn’t typically carry much weight. The essay writing is an interesting one, too. When I was in year 9 (a while ago now) we had a teacher straight out of uni who made it her mission to teach us to write essays – one each week for most of the year. For students who don’t get that, essay writing can indeed be difficult. That said, I think I wrote about 2 essays in my entire engineering degree!

There’s always going to be advantages and disadvantages to each approach. I still think the exam technique and practice of the HSC was incredibly helpful, but maybe that’s just me.

As for Woody’s question, well who can tell? Depends on how you define ‘better’. I’d suggest it’s not really possible to compare scores across different courses to get any meaningful result, and many courses may not have anough NSW students to get meaningful comparisons. I suspect, though, that if you can survive the HSC (yep, it’s stressful!), that you can survive most of what uni dishes out.

b2 2:44 pm 03 Oct 07

from someone that went through the ACT system recently and is now enjoying the high life at UC.
I think with the ACT system you actually learn how to write essays, I’ve noticed that a lot of the non-ACT students don’t know how to write an essay properly, and so we are have had lectures about simple essay writing. By the time you start uni, you should really have that down pat.

In term’s of the big HSC style exam, I don’t think there is any advantage. In any case where I’ve studied hard for a one off exam, I have forgotten most of it by the next week. In most cases I don’t think it is an efficient way to learn, instead of you forming your own opinion, it is about remembering exact details and what not.

I agree that the AST isn’t perfect, and I was under the impression that they were changing the way it was structured so that it was only your result that influenced your mark (compared to the result of the school).

and with what VYBerlina said, I would have thought if you were studying engineering you would know that it wouldn’t be easy. And you would have had to complete some pretty hard maths courses at school, which in my case, had pretty big exams at the end.

Woody Mann-Caruso 1:56 pm 03 Oct 07

I would suggest that the ACT does not prepare people adequately

Do ACT students do better, no better or worse or worse than their interstate counterparts at university?

VYBerlinaV8 now_with 11:23 am 03 Oct 07

Oh, and as was pointed out above, continous assessment is 50% of the HSC.

Snahons_scv6_berlina 11:22 am 03 Oct 07

life is full of needless stresses….

VYBerlinaV8 now_with 11:22 am 03 Oct 07

Sepi – I agree that unsupervised attendance is probably much better for those who have come through the ACT system, but I was referring to results rather than intentions. And ultimately, results are what count. Standard generalisation disclaimers apply, of course.

sepi 11:12 am 03 Oct 07

Years ago the ACT govt had research which showed that ACT students did just as well at Uni as anyone else – and coped better in terms of the unsupervised attendance. Students from strict private schools in fact performed the worst in their first term of university as the unstructured nature was so foreign to them.

It seems that anyone who wwent thru HSC wants to see others suffer thru it just becuase they did.

Of course life has stresses, but what is the point of needless ones like HSC, if the same result can be achieved with continuous assessment.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with 10:49 am 03 Oct 07

Execution technique, that is (I just lost 5%).

VYBerlinaV8 now_with 10:47 am 03 Oct 07

Having done the HSC followed by 2 fairly tough degrees (one full time, the other part time while working full time), I would suggest that the ACT does not prepare people adequately for the exams universities set in the more challenging courses. If you don’t have substantial experience with 3 hour exams when you start first year, you are going to have real trouble with engineering, for example. Placing students under pressure is a deliberate strategy in some uni courses to weed out those who don’t really want to be there (or shouldn’t have made it in). Based on my experience, those students who did ACT yr 12 had to play a lot of catch up in the area of exam preparation and exuction technique. It’s worth remembering too that the HSC is not a single exam type assessment, but a result that combines 50/50 with your continuous assessment during years 11 and 12.

caf 10:45 am 03 Oct 07

I’ve put my position in support of the current continuous assessment system here several times before. In regards to the NowUC article, the problem with a system like that proposed is that with no scaling test equivalent, it encourages schools to mark the 75% (or 50%, or whatever) coursework component easier than other schools, so that their students get higher marks.

The scaling test isn’t perfect, but it’s hard to think of a better alternative. By the way, I don’t think the scenario given by AG can skew the results much as the “dummies” would have had lower coursework marks too – so excluding them from the AST would also bring up the schools coursework marks which means that they wouldn’t get a scaling advantage.

Snahons_scv6_berlina 10:43 am 03 Oct 07

Yes sepi, thats right we don’t want to ‘pressure’ these poor year 12 students. Heaven forbid they have to learn to deal with pressure on the precipice of adulthood that will continue for the rest of their life…

No school system is perfect but in life there will always be ‘crunch times’ and the external exams of the HSC is merely one of many.

Morgan 9:43 am 03 Oct 07

The 50/50 internal/external style assessment as used in NSW is a much better preparation for university study. There are very few courses (at least at the ANU) that don’t have large weighting end of course exams. At least the external exams at the end of the HSC are taken seriously, no one turned up to them drunk like I’ve heard happening at some ACT schools for the AST.

sepi 9:42 am 03 Oct 07

Continuous assessment is definitely the way to go.

What benefit is there is putting so much pressure on teens in year 12 with HSC? ACT teens don’t have to suffer through it, and still do well at Uni, as well as actually enjoying year 11 and 12.

The ACT has fantastic retention rates in year 11 and 12, and offers good subjects for those not going to uni as well.

The ACT system is good.

AG Canberra 9:33 am 03 Oct 07

The problem is that some schools discourage any “dummies” from attempting to get a UAI – therefore raising it’s overall AST ranking. Instead of assisting these students to work hard and gain a reasonable score – they discard them so that they don’t bring the school’s mark down.

Having said that – continous assessment is the way to go – just because out parents had final exams doesn’t mean that they are the right way to go.

J Dawg 9:26 am 03 Oct 07

I think the AST system works well. Sure it has flaws, but so does every equivalent system.

With that extract posted, I must say I disagree. The schools GA is important because the AST is used to standardise. A students UAI is based upon their scores in schoolwork. Every school has different students, hence the standard of work is different. Getting a course score of 95 at School A might mean that you get a course score of 80 at School B. This is because School B has a higher standard of students for that particular course. Now, that student might go to school B, and their UAI needs to reflect the fact that they are attending a school with brighter students. Hence the AST recognises that School B has a high standard, and if the student does well in the AST, then it will compensate for their lower school marks, and their UAI will be higher.

So the system is complicated but it works.

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