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Social Sciences Online. Ministry of Education


The New Zealand Curriculum states that the primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both student and teacher respond to the information that it provides (page 39). Effective assessment benefits students, involves students, supports teaching and learning, is varied to suit the context and purpose, and is valid and fair.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa expresses similar views in the section Ngā Ahuatanga Ako, under the heading Te Whakarite Aromatawai Whai Take (page 15).

For the senior social science disciplines, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the major assessment tool. It is a standards based form of assessment that ties in well with an assessment for learning approach. Teachers can use formative assessment processes as part of teaching and learning. For example, it is important that students working towards NCEA achievements are well informed of their progress and of the assessment requirements. This will enable them to discuss and clarify their goals, and understand more about how their learning processes contribute to better outcomes.

Links to key resources and information for assessment in senior social studies are provided here:

  • NZQA – NCEA resources for social studies

    This social studies subject resources page provides links to information relating to senior social studies assessment.

    Curriculum and standards documents comprise links to standards, social studies matrices, and teaching and learning guides on TKI.

    For internally assessed standards it provides links to moderator's newsletters, clarifications, annotated exemplars of student work, TKI resources, and conditions of assessment, social media links, and 2016 NCEA digital trials and pilots for digital assessment.

    For internally assessed standards it provides links to assessment specifications, examination papers and exemplars, assessment schedules, cut scores, assessment reports, exam documents for expired standards (prior to 2012), and scholarship documents for externally assessed standards.

    For other social studies resources there is a link to information about preparing digital visual submissions for moderation.

  • NCEA Levels 1, 2, and 3 achievement standards

    Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 registered achievement standards for social studies are available for use. They have been aligned with The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) and formally registered by NZQA.

  • NCEA support materials

    These support materials have been developed for use with NCEA achievement standards. NCEA support materials for social studies include guidenotes for assessment of the concepts and perspectives, as well as notes on the 'values' achievement standards.

  • Assessment Online

    This key community covers assessment in the classroom, effective use of evidence, and reporting to families and whānau. It offers news, assessment tools and resources, research, a glossary, FAQ, and related links.

    The linked site Consider the evidence promotes 'evidence-driven decision making for secondary schools' and supports secondary educators in making best use of evidence to improve student achievement.

    For an overview of assessment, see  Directions for assessment in New Zealand , a report by Michael Absolum, Lester Flockton, John Hattie, Rosemary Hipkins, and Ian Reid.

  • The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)

    Follow links to the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, NCEA, and subject achievement standards. Further information on assessing with unit standards can be found on the NZQA website. Some useful resources are also available.

  • ERO (The Education Review Office)

    In 2007, ERO published three reports on schools’ effectiveness in the collection and use of assessment:

    The Collection and Use of Assessment Information in Schools

    The Collection and Use of Assessment Information in Schools: Good Practice in Primary Schools

    The Collection and Use of Assessment Information in Schools: Good Practice in Secondary Schools

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