Extracts from the proceedings in the IRC

At this stage there are over 1,000 pages of transcript from the salaries case. Here are some extracts from the transcript of proceedings in the Industrial Relations Commission arising from cross-examination of teacher witnesses.

The government's legal team acts on instructions from the government/DET. This legal team has been cross-examining public education teacher witnesses (including Professor Tony Vinson) about the work value of teachers. The cross-examination about outcomes-based assessment has been designed to make the following points:

  • Teachers exercise less professional judgment and discretion now than they did in the past (ie everything is more structured and we are "delivering a script").
  • The work attached to outcomes-based assessment and reporting is not mandatory (and hence shouldn't be paid for).
  • Outcomes-based assessment and reporting practices are local, school-based decisions and not centrally-mandated by DET (so if you are doing extra work it's your own fault).
  • Even if teachers by their own choice at a local level have a greater workload, the actual work itself is of less value.

The following is an extract of the DET's cross-examination of a high school teacher. The line of questioning is clearly that not every outcome has to be assessed.

  1. Does that reflect the view that not every departmentally identified outcome has to be separately assessed but a more global sense of outcomes, approach to outcomes is appropriate?
  2. Not at all. I would think that I could get the sack if I answer that in the affirmative, because it is not up to me to decide that. Basically I have to teach and assess all the outcomes. My problem is in reporting to parents about the progress of their students. I have to report on the basis of outcomes and I have to do that in a way that is not looking like I am trying to confuse people and it's a very difficult process.
  1. What I have put to you is that the process that you have described in that paragraph reflects the view that not every departmentally identified outcome has to be separately assessed but in a more global sense - -
  2. Each outcome has be assessed - that's my understanding. When we designed our programs, for example with year 11 I had to make sure that through the year we make sure we are covering all those outcomes and the outcomes covered are assessed. I have an absolute obligation to do that and to give my students meaningful feedback on each of the outcomes.
  3. So you see that as an absolute obligation?
  4. I have to teach and assess those outcomes for my students, absolutely.
  5. Do all students have to achieve all outcomes?
  6. Wouldn't that be nice. One of the columns that we have on the report card is "not yet demonstrated". I am sorry to say for certain outcomes there are a lot of students for whom I am ticking that box for sure.

The following is an extract of the DET's cross-examination of a high school teacher. The line of questioning is clearly that not every outcome needs to be reported. There is also an implication that outcomes-based assessment and reporting practices were not central DET requirements but local decisions. ("In theory you could put a number on the paper".) This is a line of questioning developed with other witnesses.

  1. But it would be a matter for judgment for the school as to the extent to which the outcomes which might have been identified for teachers were translated into the reporting mechanism, correct?
  2. My understanding is we are obliged to go to outcome based reports. Once we were obliged to go to that there was some flexibility as to how you approached it after that.
  3. It was clear that flexibility goes to the question of degree of reporting by reference to specific outcomes as opposed to a more general view of outcomes?
  4. Could you repeat that please?
  5. The flexibility goes to the question of whether you are bound to report in relation to every specific outcome or whether the reporting mechanism might be more generally related to outcomes - that's correct, isn't it?
  6. No, we actually found the reverse in the senior school. We went to individual schools for each assessment task which in some cases highlighted weaknesses which were very specific. Sorry, there was a reference I made earlier to a general comment might be a general comment how someone is going overall but there are certain levels of expectation of a more specific nature included.
  7. No-one has told you that you have to report in relation to every outcome, have they?
  8. At the one time, no.
  9. It would be completely within your mandate to report globally in relation to a group of outcomes?
  10. Once again if I was doing that it would be in a summative comment and I would be expecting to address the specific aspects that were assessed in that semester period. And from our meetings and discussion about outcomes based reporting I have certainly come away with the impression I was to try and address specific areas and try and make my report more specific.
  11. Where was that discussion?
  12. In the school and the executive who were implementing Departmental change, I have assumed they were implementing.


  1. Before the adjournment I was asking you about the extent to which you had responded to outcomes based reporting in relation to the rewriting of the schools report format. Correct me if I am wrong but I think you said particularly in relation to the HSC you had tracked or were tracking more closely into the particular outcomes - is that correct?
  2. We were attempting to do that, yes.
  3. Is that something that is a developmental process?
  4. It is something we have had a go and looked at the current system, whether we'll continue with that - I think I said individual reports and particular assessment tasks which highlighted individual strengths and individual weaknesses and gave specific written feedback, that is continuing to be evaluated, so whether we will continue doing that.
  5. Or do what?
  6. That is the next question. There's different ways to provide feedback. It could be in an open discussion, individual interview with the student. In theory it could be simply a number on a piece of paper but I certainly don't think that's going to be the case. The current written feedback is very different to what we've done in the past, it's like writing a report every time you do a test.
  1. You say in theory; could you put a number on the paper; the problem with that from your perspective would be you wouldn't be following through the outcomes based reporting and providing feedback to the student in relation to what the expectation was, would that be part of it?
  2. Yes.
  3. Although, theoretically, you do do that?
  4. It would be something you could certainly do. I don't think it would be acceptable. It could be a component of what you do.

The following is an extract of the DET's cross-examination of a primary school teacher in a promotions position. The line of questioning is that outcomes-based assessment and reporting practices are local decisions and not mandatory DET requirements.

  1. In your oral evidence this morning you described the response to the unsatisfactory trial of Kidmap, and you took the Commission to what is now happening instead, and I think you described a situation in which teachers have devised their own method of tracking and assessing by manual means or a computer, or a combination of both. Is that correct?
  2. That's correct.
  3. One of the things that you described to the Commission was that the teachers are deciding which outcomes to teach, rather than teaching every single outcome that might find its way into a syllabus document?
  4. That's correct.
  5. That involves the teachers making a professional choice as to what's the best way to come to grips with the syllabus and the outcomes based approach, which is inclusive therein?
  6. That's correct, although that there are points which the system tells us to teach students to do certain things and the advices given to the teachers are often contradictory. We have some people coming coordinating the - people coming to the school basically say, "You should be reporting on every single outcome." So there is still a confusion as to what to do.
  7. Some people seem to be giving teachers that message that they need to be teaching every outcome?
  8. Yes.
  9. But the approach that you have described to the Commission this morning is not that approach, but one where the teachers are taking a view as to what outcomes they are going to teach?
  10. That's correct.
  11. And they are certain not moving on the basis that they are required to teach every outcome, is that correct?
  12. That is correct, but there continues to be a problem because teachers would have debates even amongst themselves, even at team meetings, as to which are the appropriate ones. We do not have freedom to do exactly as we like. The whole aspect about outcomes based education has presented a problem for teachers because if you have a syllabus that says, for example, in English, there are 14 outcomes that you decide, for example, that "well, I am only going to do ten of them", you will find that someone, be it the principal - or a parent will say to you, "Why hasn't my child covered those?" So that professional judgment, while we are glad to have professional judgment, is nonetheless bringing pressure to bear that didn't exist prior to the introduction of outcomes based education.
  13. And that pressure is because there is an identification of something which in the instance that you give has not been assessed?
  14. That has not been assessed by the system, I believe, in part. Maybe the ELTIS review which has been done with this and has not been released to the public might shed some light on this.
  15. Yes, because - it may be not familiar to the Commission, the reference to the ELTIS review - that is E L T I S?
  16. Yes.
  17. is the second review to be known an ELTIS review?
  18. On reporting assessment.
  19. There was a major ELTIS review back IN the mid 1990s?
  20. Yes.
  21. And one of the recommendations that came out of that review was that matters of reporting and assessment should be matters that should be developed at the school level only, not at central level?
  22. That was one of the recommendations, but the workload that has generated has been phenomenal. For example, the introduction of the new Maths syllabus means that the reporting system we have at our school, which is only two years old, will have to be changed yet again because there are now five strands in the Maths syllabus as distinct from three. So what should be something that is easy has, in actual fact, generated an enormous workload.
  23. The fact that flowing from ELTIS first report in the 90s, the focus was on assessment and reporting at the school level?
  24. Yes.
  25. It has led to a variety of responses within schools as to how outcomes should be reported and assessed?
  26. Yes, it has, but I haven't been in a school where it hasn't been complicated and have an enormous amount of work. In the three schools that I had been in, each one has done it differently, but each one has done so much work that there isn't even comparability equally between schools and parents who take their child from one school to the next actually say that, "your reporting system doesn't match with the one down the road", and that has caused a lot of controversy, a lot of time and effort to try and explain to parents our school did it this way. In actual fact, while professional judgment is valued by teachers, the administration of the original idea that teachers should develop their own reporting systems has not made things easier. It has made things harder.
  27. And, as you understand it, these are matters that you would anticipate being addressed in -
  28. I believe the staff around the State, I hope this time around that we will get something that is more systematic throughout the whole State.
  29. The variety in terms of assessment and reporting that you have seen as between schools, are they considerable, the variations?
  30. In some ways yes, in other ways no. To a teacher's point of view, we understand because we know the outcomes, what each report is trying to say. In terms of generating the report format that has been in each of the three schools, and I have been in the committee in each school to do that, there has been a lot of arguments and debates and usually the majority rules, which is not always the right one, but nonetheless we understood what we have done. In terms of parents, there has been a big debate as to whether these are easily understood. One particular school actually ranks kids as well as do that, which is contrary to the philosophy, but that's what that school decided and the second school didn't do that at all and so a parent moving between schools would say why does this rating system occur on one report and not on the other. So I would think there is a lot of difference to an outside person. Maybe to teachers they can interpret the jargons well enough to know what similarities between the reports are.
  31. Would you understand that some teachers might believe, apparently contrary to you, that they are required to teach and focus on every outcome?
  32. Many teachers believe that they are required to teach every outcome and many teachers actually feel, not so much reporting, but from a teaching point of view: If there are 14 outcomes in the English curriculum and 19 in the Maths curriculum, on what basis do you decide, well, I will teach some and not others. Many teachers believe inherently that if the syllabus gives you that many outcomes that some way or somehow rather you should actually be teaching those outcomes to every student. It makes it very difficult from a reporting point of view.
  33. Yes, but from your professional perspective and from your position on the Board, their perception, although it may be one that they honestly hold, is not a perception as to their requirement?
  34. From my perception on the Board, the outcomes are all there, but it's teacher judgment that will determine which ones are taught to which student at which point in time.
  35. That judgment, that professional judgment that you have just mentioned there, that is a structured judgment because outcomes are part of the syllabus and the structure, but is there something essentially different between that exercise of judgment that you have just described and the exercise of judgment that a teacher, as a professional, prior to the introduction of the outcomes based syllabus would have been required to exercise on a day-to-day base in terms of what matters to focus on within a syllabus?
  36. Yes, I think there is a fundamental difference. I don't think they are the same. Prior to the introduction of outcomes, the syllabus was largely content based, it was largely driven by norms, it was largely driven by the specific units of work that you might want to teach. Outcomes are child centred. They are criterion based and they involve skills that the child has rather than knowledge that they are being assessed on and that is the fundamentally different way between the two systems. I could have taken a unit of work on gold, for example, present the children with videos, let them read some articles on it, give them data and at the end of the term I might give them a test to do, a piece of writing, give a little speech, mark them all, rank them all and said: This kid is right at the top. You know he is my top A student, 95 per cent; this student has failed the course, 23 out of 100 marks and that would be all that was involved. No one would question that. I now no longer worry about the unit of gold. I now worry about the outcomes that each child is supposed to have.

    The definition of outcomes is no one fails. You are along on a continuam somewhere. So you might have a child who, even though in the study in gold, has the skills level of a child in Year 2 or Year 3, I am talking about Year 4 or Year 5 students. I can no longer say: This child has failed the unit of gold. I now, as a teacher, have to teach them the skills back at Year 2 level to understand the concepts that children at Year 5 or Year 6 level do and I have to be able to show that I have understood the child's level at Year 2 and that I have to take him further along the continuam and that's for every child in my class, and that's the fundamentally different way of looking at a curriculum between pre-outcomes and post-outcomes.

  37. Accepting all of that, it is a different way that involves the teacher on the basis of different structures making a professional judgment about, first of all, what to teach?
  38. You are guided by the syllabuses as to what you teach. You just can't teach what you want to teach. So you must teach the units in the syllabus and you must teach towards the outcomes in the syllabus.
  39. The teacher has to, and always has been to make a professional judgment as to what the expectations would be from students at the relevant level?
  40. Prior to outcomes based education, you taught by and large to the content to 30 children at a time. There was not a great deal of group work. There was not accountability to a great extent for an individual child at the bottom end, or even at the top end of the spectrum. A child would be even asked, who is very bright, to continue doing more of the same. We now have to make a special judgment which is much broader and much more difficult and much more accountable than prior to outcomes based education.
  41. Perhaps we can come to it in this way. Would you look at paragraph 8 of your second affidavit in which you describe the previous process. In that paragraph you tell us, at the second line it starts: "Previously, I assessed how much content was known and understood using norm references to set benchmarks". Do you see that?
  42. Yes.
  43. So there was a process of assessment as to how much content was known and understood using what you describe as norm references?
  44. Umm-umm.
  45. What does "norm references" mean in that context?
  46. References is the expectation of the majority of the children of Year 3 class, or a Year 5 class, should be able to do this. So I would take a unit of work on say: This is approximately the work of a ten-year-old, or an eight-year-old, or a twelve-year-old, and I would set the work along that line. Some children might do very well, some students might do very poorly. The norm references, especially with regard to English, often related to ages of reading, and norm references are till used in diagnosing reading in the State, but you might say: This is the reading of a ten-year-old, using the NEALE, for example, as a reading test.
  47. Now you say in that paragraph, the next thing: "I could also determine assessment targets based on my own judgment", is that something different?
  48. That might be something for a KLA, such as PDHE where I am looking at how well children have got gross motor coordination and I might decide: Well, I will see how well they skip and I might set a skipping activity. I wouldn't have had any norm references with them, although if I had a child with severe problems I might have him go to an occupational therapist to assess if his coordination is exceptionally poor. So there would be areas outside regions where I might set my own judgment as to what I think is appropriate.
  49. Okay. Now having taken those steps in relation to any particular assessable activity, or activities, you would then have to actually undertake the task of assessment in the previous time, I am talking about the occasions that you are referring to in paragraph 8?
  50. I would have done some assessment on students, yes.
  51. Now those assessments would have been, as you told us in the affidavit, normative?
  52. That would have been by and large normative, yes.
  53. And that would have involved the task of determining, in relation to the number of students in the class, where they stood in relation to each other?
  54. By and large, yes.
  55. In relation to that activity, did you make determination as to the appropriate performance band by reference only to your own students, or did you look more broadly?

A. For a class of 30, on most issues only my class because possibly in some areas of Maths and English I might talk to the class next door, if there is another Year 3 teacher to get some cross-referencing between the classes, but by and large I was left alone very much to do what I wanted to do in my classroom. Very few people would question me what I did and how I did it. As long as my performance as a teacher seemed adequate, nobody would ever say, "Well, the actual assessment task that you designed for this gold unit, does it meet any set criteria?" No one ever checked. I simply chose what I thought was appropriate and I was level alone.

Q. So did you have any experience at all with the notion of cross-validation in the previous period?

A. In the previous period, as I said, with Maths and English we might do extended Year 5 at the end of the year or at the end of the term test where I would set a Maths exam that's similar to the Maths exam of the class next door so that we can both compare how our classes were going and that would depend whether that was a streamed class or a parallel class.

Q. Would you exercise professional judgment in those times as to whether that sort of process was necessary or desirable?

A. Yes.

Q. And everything was much more necessarily unstructured in those days?

A. Everything was simpler in those days, yes.

Q. And unstructured?

A. Yes.

Q. And within that unstructured arena the teacher was required to exercise a broad series of professional judgments about the matters that I have been asking you about?

A. The teachers made many professional judgments, yes, at all times.

Q. Could I take you back to the main affidavit, paragraph 5.7? You tell us that part of the changes that you describe has been the portfolios that have been reinterpreted and schools have been expected to develop their own system of managing portfolios and the like?

A. Yes.

Q. Again that's the system, the issues that you have been identifying, including the ones that cause you problems whereby there was expected to be autonomy, or local decision making about matters like these, is that correct?

A. That is partially correct. Part of the problem of the reinterpretation comes from the documents that go with it. The Department has replied in telling us how to do our portfolios. To look at it in particular, portfolios was something that I didn't do in the early 90s, but 93, 94 I had students' workbooks in which I would simply put in a sample of the students' workbooks that would be marked. That would be all that was required. With the outcomes based education, we suddenly have a scenario where at the top of the portfolios we would have to write the outcomes which teachers would feel uncomfortable doing sometimes because the language of the outcomes is likely to confuse parents. The actual task, write a box explaining the context of that task so that it wasn't just isolated. Then write down the indicators on which that task would be judged. Then you would put in a piece of work and then you would mark it and all this is to go on the one piece, or two pieces of paper which we put in the portfolio and those ideas of the context, to indicate the outcomes came directly from the information that the government gave teachers on what was expected of a portfolio. So it became an assessment task rather than a sample of student's work.

Q. But it would appear from what you tell us in paragraph 5.7 that schools and teachers have taken different approaches to this matter as well?

A. Well, with that broad statement, the question was: How do you actually do this in schools? It is one thing to say so on a piece of paper to teachers, but in actual fact how do you get all this onto paper and each school, depending on whether - this was very comprehensive. Each school, depending on how. If it's comfortable with its computers, it might decide we will do this via the computer in an attempt to save work. Other school where computer wasn't great might decide we will do this manually. Some task involved long explanations of what the task involves, some didn't. So it was a generalized statement given by the Government. Teachers then had to reinterpret and do it at each school.

Q. But the position you describe in your paragraph 5.7 ranges in one in which teachers simply include samples of what the students were actually doing to, at the other end of the spectrum, work samples being send home having to involve formal assessment task, is that right?

A. That's correct, but in many places where teachers have simply done a work sample there had been pressure on them by both the executives in the school and the Department that that is not considered satisfactory. So schools haven't - many teachers have done this work, but also pressure by outside people to actually do it differently, especially again if you have a parent who comes to you with portfolios from one school and says: "Well, look, the school I just went to, they do an all different portfolio. Why aren't you doing this", they will actually criticize you and say, "I don't think that's good enough", and so there is pressure then put on schools to do it differently. They had been reinventing and doing the same sort of tasks in so many different ways with their professional judgment more often than not being questioned because there is this overarching directive by the Government that that should be comprehensive, they should state the outcomes, they should have indicators on them and they should have the task and content of that sample all on the one piece of paper which makes it highly labour intensive. So the schools have decided: Well, we will do exactly as the Department has said.

Q. You don't deny, do you, that a fundamental approach since ELTIS has been that matters of assessment and reporting should be matters essentially to be determined at the school level?

A. I don't deny that. What I am saying is that that decision has brought about new, more labour intensive work which has not stayed static. In other words, if the school in 97 decided, "We will go this way", you will find that in 98, 99, they had to change it because of the community expectations about these portfolios. So that the decision made by one group of teachers in 97 is often not good enough and so in 98 you redoing it again. There is not one school that I had taught at that had not had three to four different reporting formats over the last six years. It was never good enough, it seems, to have one reporting format. We made an executive decision at Eschol Park, which had a new reporting format as of 2002, that we would leave it the same for at least twelve months. The new Maths syllabus means we have so change it again next year. So that decision by ELTIS, while I don't deny it has brought new work to teachers that they never had to do before. It's labour intensive at all times and it is subject to the scrutiny of the community and the Department with teachers often feeling a lot of pressure that their professional judgments are not being valued, hence they must do it all gain, and they do.

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