Students are the focus of the QCE system. They have access to flexible learning pathways that respond to the dynamic world of work and learning, and provide them with the skills they need to succeed in a range of post-school pathways. Their achievements are assessed and aggregated in ways that support meaningful reporting and certification.
The QCE system has five defining characteristics:
- quality contemporary syllabuses
- a balanced, integrated assessment program
- predefined standards
- teacher professionalism
- credible and informative credentials.
1.3.1 Quality contemporary syllabuses
Syllabuses shape and influence teaching, learning and assessment by describing what must be taught and how student performance must be assessed. QCAA syllabuses outline the rationale, content, assessments and marking guides for each subject.
QCAA syllabuses are based on design principles developed from independent international research about how excellence and equity are promoted in the documents teachers use to enact the curriculum.
The factors underpinning senior syllabuses vary with the distinctive nature of subjects. They include literacy, numeracy, 21st century skills, core skills for work, community connections and applied learning. These skill sets, which overlap and interact, are derived from current education, industry and community expectations. They encompass the knowledge, skills, capabilities, behaviours and dispositions that will help students live and work successfully in the 21st century. Aboriginal perspectives and Torres Strait Islander perspectives have been considered, where appropriate, in the development of syllabuses.
All syllabuses are supported by resources and professional development. Support materials are web-based, allowing for progressive improvements and open access for teachers and the community.
1.3.2 A balanced, integrated assessment program
Assessment is the ongoing process of gathering, analysing and reflecting on evidence to make informed judgments about student achievement.
Evidence of student achievement is gathered over time from a range of complementary approaches to assessment that have been selected because of their relevance to the purpose of the assessment and to the knowledge, skills and understanding to be assessed. Assessment techniques include projects, investigations, extended responses, performances, products and examinations.
The validity of assessment is improved by assembling evidence of student achievement from a variety of assessment techniques and conditions. Reliability of assessment is improved by providing students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills, as well as by collecting evidence at different times and under different conditions. Accessibility of assessment is achieved through measures such as ensuring all students have a clear understanding of how to demonstrate their learning, considering accessibility of language and layout when developing assessments, and implementing appropriate principal-reported or QCAA-approved access arrangements and reasonable adjustments (AARA).
The QCE system is based on an innovative model of senior assessment that combines the flexibility and authenticity of school-based assessment, developed and marked by classroom teachers, with the rigour and consistency of external assessment set and marked by QCAA-trained assessment writers and markers.
For decades, Queensland teachers have been reporting student achievement based on evidence collected from school-based assessment. This is an important consequence of valuing different techniques of assessment and seeking to provide teachers with meaningful professional development that improves their assessment skills and expertise. School-based assessment requirements are described in the syllabus, with guidelines for teachers on the conditions and techniques for assessment. Particular assessment approaches are mandated, but the syllabuses also allow teachers to contextualise assessments to the particular characteristics of the school and students. School-based assessment is marked by classroom teachers using advice in syllabuses. The instrument-specific marking guides (ISMGs), instrument-specific standards, and exit or reporting standards provided in syllabuses provide a structure for making judgments related to the objectives being assessed.
The reliability and comparability of school-based assessment results is assured through the unique processes of endorsement and confirmation. In endorsement, the QCAA checks that assessment instrument design meets the requirements of the syllabus. It ensures that all summative assessments provide sufficient opportunities for students to demonstrate syllabus requirements and builds teachers’ capacity to develop high-quality assessments. In confirmation, QCAA-trained assessors independently review QCAA-selected samples of student work for every General subject in every school to ensure that they have been marked consistently and accurately.
Subject-based external assessment occupies an important place in the range of assessment techniques used for General subjects. It contributes equally valuable, but different, evidence of achievement to a student’s final subject result. The syllabus details the scope and scale of each external assessment, which occurs at the end of a course of study.
1.3.3 Predefined standards
Queensland has a long tradition of using predefined standards to describe how well students have achieved syllabus objectives. The use of standards ensures that:
- students and teachers know what is required to achieve certain grades
- there is comparability between the assessments designed by schools
- internal and external assessment results can be combined
- teachers can discuss standards with parents/carers when reporting a student’s achievements.
QCAA syllabuses include a statement of content and standards of achievement. They are targets for students and teachers to work towards.
The standards are based on an agreed model that is applied across subjects. This approach establishes a common vocabulary for teachers, students and parents/carers for describing student performance in and across school subjects.
1.3.4 Teacher professionalism
Queensland teachers have accumulated substantial experience working in a standards-referenced assessment system. In the QCE system, they continue to:
- collect evidence of student achievement
- provide feedback to students to support learning
- make judgments about student work to support certification processes.
The processes of endorsement and confirmation strengthen these aspects of teacher professional practice.
The system invests in teacher knowledge and expertise and fosters a culture that trusts and empowers them to do their work. Teachers:
- engage in syllabus development processes
- interpret syllabus requirements to contextualise classroom learning and assessment that is tailored to students’ needs
- are enabled to network and share resources, practices and ideas
- make accurate judgments about student achievement
- are heavily involved in the quality assurance processes of endorsement and confirmation, and in external assessment development and marking.
This expansive involvement in the curriculum development and assessment process develops teachers’ pedagogical practice and assessment literacy.
1.3.5 Credible and informative credentials
Queensland’s senior schooling credentials provide students with pathways to work, training and further education.
The QCE is a standards-based qualification issued to individuals who demonstrate the required knowledge and skills, including literacy and numeracy. The QCE is internationally recognised and provides evidence of senior schooling achievements.
The flexibility of the QCE means that students can choose from a wide range of learning options to suit their interests and career goals. To receive a QCE, students must achieve the set amount of learning, at the set standard, in a set pattern, while meeting literacy and numeracy requirements.
The QCE reflects the principles of:
- inclusion and flexibility — through the wide variety of learning included, the amount of learning required and accessibility for students from diverse backgrounds and for different pathways
- integrity of standards — with challenging and achievable standards, clear and rigorous criteria, and literacy and numeracy requirements
- credibility and portability — so students have a valid ‘passport’ for future pathways with a qualification that has high status, recognition and public confidence
- communication — between the QCAA, schools, students, community and coordination of processes and procedures.
The QCIA recognises the achievements of students who are on individualised learning programs. It is for students with impairments or difficulties in learning that are not primarily due to socioeconomic, cultural and/or linguistic factors.
The QCIA is an official record that students have completed at least 12 years of education, and provides students with a summary of their skills and knowledge that they can present to employers and training providers.
The QCAA issues students in Queensland with a Senior Education Profile (SEP) on completion of senior secondary schooling. The SEP may include a:
- Senior Statement
- Statement of Results