Education a university for the real world

Back to school in Queensland as students learn from home experience

First published 21 May 2020

The challenge of the COVID-19 disruption to the 2020 schooling year may well have put students on the front foot to transition into tertiary studies, a QUT education expert says.

As thousands of students prepare to head back to school in Queensland on Monday, joining Year 11 and 12s, Prep and Year 1s who went back a fortnight ago, QUT education’s Associate Professor Jill Willis says online lessons helped create a new culture of education.   

“It’s been a challenging trek for Year 12s and coping with online learning in their final year has set up this cohort particularly well for tertiary studies and life after school,” she said.

“Across year levels, students have adapted and so too have teachers and methods of assessment.”

Associate Professor Willis said teachers had worked in difficult circumstances to be flexible in planning, differentiating and adjusting for students and learning outside the classroom.

Assessments have been changed to adapt to the COVID-19 situation.

Year 12s have one less piece of assessment for the new ATAR.

The new external exam system, which will weigh 50 per cent for mathematics and science subjects, will go ahead as planned in October, despite other states such as New South Wales delaying its year 12 exam timetable by a week.

“In Queensland, with one less internal assessment, there is flexibility and time for students and teachers to check in, catch up, and enjoy learning together before these exams at the end of October,” Assoc Prof Willis said.

“Let’s not turn Year 12 external assessment tasks into the whole story of Year 12s.

“The adaptability, perseverance and community spirit that students have already shown are achievements setting them up well for transition to tertiary studies and post school life.”

Associate Professor Willis is a specialist on student performance and assessment.

She said fairness in assessment during the COVID-19 disruption depended on teachers and school leaders meeting seven key conditions: -

  • Have the most important things you want students to learn been made clear?
  • Has it been made clear what successful performance of these important things could look like for students?
  • Have students had the opportunity to learn these important things?
  • Have students had the opportunity to check that they understand what has been taught, and to adjust their learning before they are assessed?
  • Does the assessment enable students to demonstrate what they know?
  • Do the teachers who are making judgements have support to check their decision making is trustworthy, and comparable to judgements made by other teachers?
  • Are there ways to give students and their carers feedback on how the assessment results can inform future actions?

Associate Professor Willis warned not every child would have had similar opportunities to learn with sickness, unemployment, disabilities and internet access or accessibility of resources barriers to consider.

“The good news is that there are ways to support students at each stage provided teachers are aware of the barriers so they can work through and make adjustments,” she said.

Naplan tests will not go ahead for 2020.

“Assessment results get used for many far-reaching impacts, ranging from a student’s entry to further study to school performance evaluations and school funding,” Assoc Prof Willis said.

“In times of COVID-19, systems built around assessment will need to be consistent.”

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