Taylor Hughson

English Teacher – Hutt Valley High School
Speaking at

Sonya Clark

English Teacher, Kāpiti College


The tyranny of summative assessment in the NCEA English classroom: how standards-based teaching impacts teaching & learning

The internal assessment component of NCEA has been lauded for its “liberating potential” (Hipkins, Johnston & Sheehan 2016) due to its flexibility. Under NCEA, standards-based assessment allows teachers to assess student understanding in multiple different ways at different points throughout the year. This flexibility comes at a cost however: a perennial focus on summative over formative assessment in the classroom.

This presentation will offer a considered analysis of the prevalence of summative assessment under NCEA, with a particular focus on the senior English classroom. With reference to international research into assessment, we will explore how the constant summative focus of NCEA creates what Dylan Wiliam calls a “banking model” of assessment, where the focus is on short-term ‘banking’ of learning and credits at the expense of long-term learning. We will examine how this means teachers neglect approaches to teaching and learning that have the potential for long-term gain, and how opportunities for effective formative assessment are drastically reduced. Finally, we will evaluate some of the proposed solutions to reduce this summative-heavy focus, from “stealth assessments” (Hipkins, Johnston & Sheehan 2016) where assessment is an organic part of daily classroom work, to a return to traditional exam-focused assessment system.


Taylor Hughson is a high school English teacher in Wellington. Prior to this he taught in South Auckland for two years as a participant on the Teach First New Zealand/Ako Mātātupu programme. In this role he designed a new whole-year cross-curricular course for students on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and established a peer tutoring programme for senior students. He holds a Master of Arts with Distinction in English Literature from Victoria University in Wellington, where he also tutored in renaissance literature.

Sonya Clark is a secondary English teacher on the Kāpiti Coast, previously having taught in a low decile school in Auckland on the Teach First New Zealand/Ako Mātātupu programme. Prior to teaching, Sonya contributed to policy development on assessment, pedagogy and qualification development in her role as President of the Victoria University Students’ Association. Sonya’s interests lie in the place of knowledge in the curriculum, and the use of explicit teaching to improve student writing.