HOMEWORK HELP: Dr Lois Harris from CQ University with her new co-authored text book Handbook of Human and Social Conditions in Assessment.
HOMEWORK HELP: Dr Lois Harris from CQ University with her new co-authored text book Handbook of Human and Social Conditions in Assessment. Chris Ison ROK261016cbook1

5 homework tips for parents helping children with homework

PARENTS looking for tips about how to help their children with homework can get expert advice from a local researcher.

CQUniversity academic Dr Lois Harris is a co-author of a new book about ways parents can help their children with homework and other school-based assessment (exams).

The book, Handbook of Human and Social Conditions in Assessment, helps parents by showing ways they can deconstruct the task and criteria, so they understand what a quality performance looks like.

Dr Harris said it was important for parents to help their children understand the purpose of a particular assessment and also what was expected.

"For example, NAPLAN testing only provides a snapshot of a child's achievement at a particular point in time; the score certainly does not provide a comprehensive picture of the child's abilities and competencies," she said.

"If children are taught to understand this, a substantial amount of anxiety about their performance on this (or any other assessment) may dissipate."

Dr Harris, a member of CQUniversity's LEAP Centre, is excited about how the book will further LEAP's agenda of creating fairer and more equitable learning and assessment opportunities for diverse students.

She said the new book should help readers think far more deeply about the way people interact with assessment and its results, thereby identifying threats to validity and reliability which can occur.

Top 5 tips for parents

1. Focus on the learning rather than the assessment

2. Help your child deconstruct assessment tasks to understand what a quality performance looks like

3. Do not let assessment become high stakes at home

4. Ask your child's teacher what he/she needs to do to improve rather than demand scores and grades

5. Support teachers who are using innovative forms of assessment

Listen to Dr Harris talk about these five tips in depth



"We explore the impact teachers have in assessment development and implementation, the influence student experiences have on their participation in assessment, the way the classroom context shapes participation, and the impact of culture on assessment policy and practice," Dr Harris said.

"This handbook synthesises cutting-edge research in this area, providing recommendations for psychometric modelling, policy and practice."

Dr Harris said parents are a vital educational stakeholder group who are often overlooked and that parents' concerns about assessment are often driven by their own data needs.

"Parents need assessment results to help understand how their child is progressing against expectations," she said.

"There have been many studies suggesting parents support standardised testing, like NAPLAN, but this seems to be primarily because parents think such data can provide a clear picture of their child's progress, as sometimes narrative comments from teachers can be indirect and grades can be viewed as potentially subjective.

"It is for this reason that studies show parents are less concerned than teachers about factors like test anxiety. However, in good news, research shows that parents are willing to support alternative assessment systems if they are informed about them and can be convinced that these will also provide valid and easy to interpret data about their child's progress."

Dr Harris said there had been many ground-breaking developments within assessment in recent times.

"Within our handbook, the chapter by Irvin Katz and Joanna Gorin highlights some of the exciting ways computers can allow students to demonstrate complex problem-solving and teamwork within virtual environments.

"Likewise, Katrien Struyven and Joana Devesa talk about student perspectives of the many new modes of assessment being implemented around the world, including forms like self-assessment, peer assessment, performance assessment, portfolio assessment, and many others.

"How these will play out in the Australian classroom is still being determined. Studies suggest that in some schools, pressure to get students to achieve well on NAPLAN tests is certainly impacting on teacher willingness to try alternative forms of assessment. Likewise, how the new senior assessment system in Queensland will impact upon on-the-ground practice is yet to be seen."

Dr Harris said educators have an increasingly large challenge to assess fairly in contexts of diversity.

"Tonya Moon discusses this issue within her chapter, focusing on the importance of differentiation within assessment, particularly for students with disabilities or those for whom English is an additional language.

"There are many ways that learning can be assessed, and it is of vital importance that we adjust conditions so all learners are able to demonstrate what they know and can do; we must move beyond the notion that to be fair, assessments must be identical."

Dr Harris co-edited the book with New Zealander Professor Gavin Brown.

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