Document Sample
                        INVESTIGATION REPORT

A Professional Resource
Module 14 of the PSP2 explored the nature and value of „assessment as inquiry‟ in languages
teaching and learning. As part of this exploration, the teachers who facilitated the program,
conducted an „investigation‟, involving classroom based research into their teaching and their
students‟ learning. They analysed ways that assessment data can be used to draw
conclusions about the assessment process itself and the ways in which assessment data
might be used for enhancing professional learning. They explored the ways that data
generated through the assessment process can be used to address gaps in knowledge about
student achievement and growth of student learning over time.

The group of teachers were required to produce a report on investigations that they had
undertaken into their own, or their colleagues, practice. These reports are provided to the
profession, as models or exemplars of assessment as inquiry. They make for very interesting
study and demonstrate the high level of professionalism and commitment of those teachers
who undertook to inquire into their own processes of assessing and judging, and to share
their investigation with their colleagues.

Issues of confidentiality
The teachers were diligent in gaining appropriate approvals from students and parents and in
assuring confidentiality. There are significant ethical issues that arise in investigating and
making judgements about students, and the involvement of students in such exercises, and
the extent to which students have access to the thinking and judgements of their teachers. In
order to ensure confidentiality and also to include the fullest commentary by these
professional educators within their reports, names of schools and the teachers who wrote the
reports have been edited from individual investigation reports.

The following is a list of those teachers who conducted and reported on their investigations.
This list is provided to acknowledge their professionalism and to enable other professionals to
engage further through contact with them.

Teacher              Expertise                          Contact Details

Kylie Farmer         K-7, Japanese, bilingual 
                     programs                           Huntingdale Primary School (on
                                                        family leave)
Jane Macdonald       7-12 French                        Castlemaine Secondary College

Amanda Pentti        Japanese, advisor to schools       Lutheran Education Queensland

Melissa Gould-       7-12 Indonesian, intercultural     Macarthur Anglican School
Drakely              teaching

Meri Dragicevic      Primary Italian                    Yarralumla Primary School
Gillian Cordy        Senior High French       

Jill Bignell         K-10 Japanese advisory role

Lidia Faranda        Primary Indonesian                 Plenty Parklands PS
Sarjit Ladd

                               Language: Japanese

                           Year Level: Prep – Year 6

This Huntingdale Primary School primary school operates a Japanese bilingual program for
all children from Prep to Year 6. It has been involved in the “Bilingual Schools Project” since

During 2009 a team of Japanese teachers from the school and a Japanese teacher from a
nearby primary school were successful in applying for Teacher Professional Leave. This
provided 80 days of teacher release funding to enable us to work together on developing our
teaching and learning practice.

The package of resources developed through this work includes:
    VELS Progression Measures Unpacked - provides more detail (particularly in levels 1
       – 3) than those currently documented in VELS.
    Japanese Linguistic Items Scope and Sequence Chart – provides a guide to the
       Linguistic Items which should be taught at each level eg. Grammar patterns, essential
       vocabulary, characters etc
    Sample Assessment Tools including Benchmark Tools – provides sample
       Assessment Tools which can be used to elicit student achievement. This is based on
       the „VELS Progression Measures Unpacked‟
    Annotated Writing Samples – provides a sample of student writing from level 1.5 –
       5.5 to assist with moderation of student writing
    The school‟s Bilingual Program Pedagogy – provides a summary of various teachers‟
       pedagogy including effective strategies for teaching in a bilingual program.

With the wealth of experience and the continuing expansion of the program it was important
to document the planning, teaching and assessing of Japanese to ensure consistency across
teachers and across time. We also wanted to continue our work on strategically aligning the
Japanese and English literacy practices at the school to strengthen the whole school
approach to literacy. Another key goal of the project was to develop a resource which would
be useful to the wider community of Japanese language educators.


This work is the culmination of a number of years of experience and it was a significant
accomplishment to document it. It was challenging to accurately capture what we have “just
done” for many years. We see all of these documents as evolving works in progress and
since finalising the project we have continued to make changes to the resources. For this
inquiry I wanted to focus on the Assessment Scheme we had developed (referred to as the
“Sample Assessment Tools including Benchmark Tools”). In particular I felt the intercultural
dimension needed improvement. We found this the most difficult area to document as there
has not been a well planned or documented approach to the teaching and assessing of

intercultural understanding at the school.

Other areas of the scheme also needed to be reviewed once they were trialled with students
this year. For example, the Reading tasks needed to be trialled to see that they were actually
suitable for students working at the level they were specified for. Other tools needed to be
trialled to see that they elicited the type of information we needed. We also needed to see
how much scaffolding/support was needed to complete tasks and this needed to be
documented to facilitate accurate judgement. Following my participation in the Stream C
Train-the-trainer program my understanding and expectations of effective assessment were
heightened and this caused me to reflect on how the assessment scheme could be improved
to improve our assessment for learning practices. It also caused me to reflect on how much
the “Assessment Tools” planner was driving our teaching and how this needed to be balanced
with our teaching actually driving the assessment. In reality there is much more assessment
happening than what is captured in the “Assessment Tools” but it was something I wanted to
be mindful of.


I initially identified a number of focus questions and data to be gathered to help guide the
investigation. These are outlined below:

Focus Questions
    Are all dimensions of the VELS LOTE curriculum represented appropriately in the
       scheme? ie. Communicating in the language, Intercultural Knowledge & Language
       Awareness. (As we are a Victorian government school we are required to report on
       our students‟ achievement against VELS at level 4. As part of our involvement in the
       Bilingual Schools Project we also provide DEECD with an annual report summarising
       the achievement of all students from Prep to Year 6 in relation to VELS. All parent
       reports sent home in June and December also indicate the VELS level at which their
       students are working for LOTE.)
    Are there other dimensions that should also be included?
    Does the scheme incorporate both formative and summative assessment
    How does the scheme capture progress in learning over time?
    How does the scheme connect to the program?
    How does the scheme connect with school/ system requirements?
    Does the scheme cater for the diversity of learners? (Given there are a significant
       number of background speakers in the program this is particularly important.)
    Is there sufficient information in the scheme to enable consistency of judgement
       across the teaching team? Does it need more details? Criteria? Does it cater for
       learner difference?
    How does the scheme connect to reporting processes?

Data to be gathered:
    Feedback on the scheme from a colleague at the school based on their experience of
        beginning to implement this scheme. If possible collect student work samples.
    Feedback on the scheme from other colleagues
    A copy of the existing assessment scheme including the student work samples
        included in the package which exemplify expectations
    Personal reflections on the scheme
    Possible improvements to the scheme and justification


       I began by doing some professional reading relating to this investigation including
        Assessing intercultural capability in learning languages: Some issues and
        considerations Scarino, A 2009

     I referred to online resources from Teaching and Learning Languages: A Guide
      (Scarino and Liddicoat) for samples of whole school approaches to teaching and
      assessing intercultural understanding.
     I reflected personally on the assessment scheme using the focus questions outlined
      above and PSP Stream C materials.
     I consulted with colleagues at my school, initially informing them of this investigation
      and asking them to note any reflections as they began to implement the scheme for
      the 1 time in 2010. I then met with the Japanese Immersion program co-ordinator to
      discuss effectiveness and possible improvements suggested by the bilingual team at
      the school.
     I shared the resources developed through this project widely at various Professional
      Learning programs I was facilitating to both inform teachers that this resource was
      available for them to use/adapt and to seek their feedback on possible improvements,
      particularly feedback on the Assessment scheme.
     I then collated, consolidated and organized the data for analysis. This included notes
      and recordings of conversations with colleagues, personal reflective notes and
      student work samples.


     Throughout the investigation I made personal reflections on the assessment scheme
      as my thinking was prompted through professional reading, conversations with
      colleagues and observation of effective assessment practices. In particular, seeing
      the Investigations presented by the Victorian PSP Stream C participants was an
      excellent inspiration for expanding my thinking about assessment.
     When I presented Stream C to the DEECD Regional Project Officers we decided that
      as they were not working in schools that they wouldn‟t do an investigation
      themselves. Instead I shared our Assessment Scheme and asked them to reflect on it
      in light of their participation in Stream C and to provide critical feedback. This
      prompted valuable discussion and suggestions for improvement.
     Through my role as the MLTAV Bilingual Schools Network facilitator, I met with a
      number of the bilingual school co-ordinators to discuss how we could address shared
      concerns about assessment and reporting in bilingual schools. Interestingly three
      schools had been involved in Teacher Professional Leave projects in 2009 all looking
      at different aspects of assessment and reporting. As a result we are working with the
      DEECD to develop an assessment and reporting package for bilingual schools to be
      able to more effectively capture student achievement in languages. This assessment
      scheme will form part of this assessment and reporting package for bilingual schools.
     A sample unit on “The Guide” website provided an excellent example of a whole
      school approach to developing students‟ intercultural understanding. As I am not
      currently teaching (as I am on family leave) I provided the current co-ordinator with a
      copy of the unit and suggested that he might want to work with staff in developing a
      similar approach. He was supportive of this suggestion and appreciated the
      information provided as we share a common concern for how to better plan for, teach
      and assess intercultural understanding. In terms of assessment, there is a double
      issue (1) how to assess effectively, in a way that includes intercultural capability, (2)
      how do we provide a sense of overall achievements?


Based on my investigation I have responded to the focus questions below:

       Are all dimensions of the VELS LOTE curriculum represented appropriately in the
        scheme? ie. Communicating in the language, Intercultural Knowledge & Language

The Assessment scheme breaks the „Communicating in the language‟ dimension into the four
components: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. As languages teachers we found we
were quite confident in understanding each of these areas and were able to identify suitable
tasks which would elicit the required information.
In my opinion, the Intercultural Knowledge & Language Awareness dimensions are not
strongly represented in the scheme. These tend to reflect the activities suggested in VELS
and are not necessarily linked to what actually happens in the program or what should/could
be happening.
A comment from a colleague demonstrates this point:
    These are largely ‘language knowledge tasks’ and are very much ‘systemic’ driven to
    exemplify curriculum standards. The problem is that systemic requirements of
    ‘intercultural’ are not always necessarily ‘intercultural’!

       Are there other dimensions that should also be included?

In thinking about what is captured in this scheme, I feel it is only reflecting what VELS
requires. It does not go beyond this to include the many “other” things students do in
language learning. One example of this is the achievement our students demonstrated while
travelling to Japan for a week in Year 6. I am always impressed by the way the students
respond competently to being immersed in the language and culture of Japan. In the many
trips I have taken I have rarely had students ask “What are they saying?” or “I don‟t know
what to do – I don‟t understand!” Our students have been immersed in Japanese since Prep
and have incredibly high receptive language skills and comprehension strategies that are
significant but not formally assessed or recognised by VELS or this assessment scheme. I‟m
still not sure the best way of reflecting this!

       Does the scheme incorporate both formative and summative assessment

In devising this scheme we began with the VELS document and sought to “put into the
scheme” assessment procedures to document how our students were achieving across the
dimensions. As a result this tended to elicit summative assessment procedures. If,
conversely, we had begun with our program and documented how we actually do assess
learning we may have documented more of the formative procedures which do actually occur
in the classroom. Based on this reflection, I feel it is important to ask teachers to share more
of their formative assessment procedures to strengthen the scheme and to ensure it is more
reflective of actual classroom practice.

       How does the scheme capture progress in learning over time?

A key element of the scheme is the Benchmarking Tools used to capture learning over time.
Benchmarking is done for all students in Prep to Year 6 in reading. When developing the
scheme we initiated this and adjusted the tasks for each level based on trialling. However we
haven‟t included these tasks beyond level 2. This can easily be done to demonstrate how the
scheme captures progress for Reading. The school‟s Reading scheme is another tool
identified in the scheme which is used for tracking progress long term. Writing is another area
where this is done quite well at the school with moderated writing tasks done every 6 months.
However this is not accurately reflected in the scheme so also needs to be added. There is
scope to improve this for other dimensions of Japanese too.

       How does the scheme connect to the program?

As mentioned earlier, the starting point for developing this scheme was the VELS document
and identifying how it connected to our program rather than starting with our program. One
reason for this was that our program was not documented centrally but rather was
implemented by a number of different teachers at each level. Fortunately, since beginning to
implement the scheme this year, teachers have found it complements their program and has
been a useful tool for formalising assessment and ensuring consistency between staff and
across levels. Through this investigation I have asked teachers to note any additional
assessment tasks they are using so we can add these into the scheme and ensure a strong
connection with the program.

       How does the scheme connect with school/ system requirements?

As the scheme is based on VELS it connects very well with system and school reporting
requirements. In particular, as the school is part of the DEECD Bilingual Schools Project, we
are required to report on student achievement in LOTE every 6 months. (We also see this as
important as it recognises and values the considerable effort and success students achieve in
LOTE). For other DEECD schools this is only required from level 4 so the Standards are not
provided in detail for levels 1 -3. Another part of the package of resources “unpacked” the
VELS Progression Measures for levels 1 – 3 and the assessment scheme was developed
based on this. The assessment scheme has been invaluable in ensuring consistency between
staff and across levels. It has also been seen as an invaluable resource by other teachers of
Japanese as it provides a more detailed example of progression which is currently lacking in

 An ongoing challenge for our school has been how to capture the achievement and
progression of students with Japanese language background. We find that often their
language skills may be at level 5, 6 or even beyond however cognitively they are not able to
produce the type of language required by this level. e.g. a year 1 student would be unable to
write an essay as required for VCE but may be able to use linguistic structures beyond what
is expected at VCE. Another challenge is that this scheme is based directly on VELS so does
not capture achievement beyond VELS.

       Does the scheme cater for the diversity of learners?

In developing this scheme we were constantly mindful of the significant number of
background speakers at our school. The ongoing challenge for staff is how to best extend and
assess these students. We know that often their language skills are significantly above the
expected VELS level for their age however their cognitive level does not enable them to
address all aspects of LOTE at the higher levels. For example, a year 2 student may be able
to use grammar patterns and kanji expected at year 10 however they are not able to write an
argumentative essay as required at that level.

The way we decided to cater for these learners was to extend them sideways either at, or
maybe one level above, the expected level for their year of schooling. This does seem to be
working effectively but needs to be monitored carefully and adjusted as necessary.

The school also has a number of students who enter the bilingual program after Prep so the
scheme also needs to cater for these students. So far, it has been found to be a useful tool for
identifying the aspects of language that need to be addressed, often in a “fast-tracked”

       Is there sufficient information in the scheme to enable consistency of judgement
        across the teaching team? Does it need more details? criteria? Does it cater for
        learner difference?

In June this year a team of teachers at the school used this scheme and the accompanying
“Annotated Writing Samples” to moderate a range of writing pieces for all students in Prep to
Year 6. It was found to be very useful for this, particularly having levels 1 – 3 broken down
into the 0.25 progression points which we hadn‟t had documented previously.

In future as we add to this scheme it will be good to be more mindful of learner difference as
the tasks are somewhat limited in the scope for variety of responses that they allow. This may
also be included more effectively as more formative assessment tasks are included.

       How does the scheme connect to reporting processes?

As mentioned earlier, this scheme connects very effectively with reporting processes as it
allows for more informed decision making by teachers when allocating levels for reports.
Particularly at levels 1 – 3 this has made significant improvements in consistency of
judgement amongst staff.


A reduced version of the assessment scheme is included as an attachment to this report. It
provides examples of some of the tools used to assess students‟ skills in Japanese Listening,
Writing and Intercultural Knowledge.

A sample of the suggestions for improvement provided by colleagues included the following.

To enhance the formative assessment element of the oral tasks, work with students to
develop and negotiate sample criteria for the self introduction oral activity at level 2 and
provide students with a variety of good examples.

In terms of strengthening the Language Awareness section a suggestion was made to set
goals with students (perhaps by creating rubrics together) and review these through the term
to develop self assessment/reflective skills. An example could be setting a goal for how much
target language they speak in class. This could also be linked to increasing students
understanding of the language learning cycle/continuum.

One thought which was prompted by a conversation with a colleague is that it would be good
to encourage students to recognise how their skills have built up over time. By collecting, for
example, their moderated writing sample done every 6 months it would allow them to reflect
on achievement and set goals for future. This would also be an invaluable resource for the
teacher to use to identify strengths and weaknesses of students both individually and as a
class and to facilitate planning for future teaching.


Based on feedback from colleagues, my own teaching experience and my involvement in
Stream C of the PSP (and the associated research and readings), I see this scheme (and the
other resources developed) as a valuable resource for monitoring and assessing student
achievement in Japanese. This investigation has helped me to identify a number of strengths
and weaknesses with the scheme which we will address as we continue to trial it with our

The materials presented through Stream C of the PSP increased my understanding of
formative assessment and has inspired me to work with colleagues to strengthen the use of
formative assessment in the bilingual program at the school and to reflect this in the
assessment scheme.

We will continue to share the package of resources we have developed at various
Professional Learning programs (including the Bilingual Schools Network workshops) so that
many teachers can benefit from and contribute to expanding and improving this assessment
Not being in the classroom at present I feel this is the most strategic way I can support other
teachers in developing their understanding of effective assessment practices and benefiting
from the considerable work which has gone into this package of resources.


This investigation has provided the ideal opportunity to reflect on and improve the
assessment scheme developed in 2009. As soon as it was “finished” we knew there was
more we wanted to do with it and more that it could do to enhance and support the
assessment practices of the bilingual program teachers at the school and other Japanese

LOTE teachers.

The positive feedback from teachers about this resource has been encouraging and inspires
us to continue to develop it to ensure it remains contemporary and a useful tool to enhance
the teaching and learning of Japanese.

I have really valued the opportunity to apply the learning gained through Stream C of the
Professional Standards Project in a way which can be used by many teachers of Japanese.
The investigation has opened up rewarding professional conversations for me personally and
I am excited to see where this will lead into the future!

June 2010


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