Ngaio School, Wellington, New Zealand

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Executive summary

In 2004, a troubling revelation about writing scores led to the deliberate choice of assessment for learning to improve learning results in one New Zealand school.

Scores rose dramatically, and insights were gained around the different ways teachers initially welcome new ideas related to the power of classroom assessment, into their practice.

The opportunity

Ngaio School, Wellington, New Zealand results showed that 80% of their students’ were writing well below expectations – despite reaching excellence in Reading and Numeracy.

This prompted the adoption of assessment for learning as a focus for school improvement. But it soon became clear that teachers were struggling to implement the strategies of assessment for learning effectively.

The commitment

Low writing scores at Ngaio School, Wellington, New Zealand sparked the search for a more effective form of teaching writing.

By implementing assessment for learning, however, another challenge arose – some teachers were having a difficult time understanding how assessment for learning fundamentally worked and implementing it more fully in writing instruction.

As they worked towards implementation, ideas shared by educators in Physical Education helped to shift their understanding of using assessment in the service of learning. They led the way to teaching using assessment in the service of learning – P.E. instruction included coaching and helping students discover their natural talents.

The opportunity was to help other teachers adopt a way of teaching that more resembled coaching.

The journey

The goal of this journey was to help more students learn how to write and to raise writing scores.

After discovering that 80% of students at Ngaio School were below proficiency level in writing, the principal and leadership team implemented assessment for learning across the school.

Many teachers initially found the shift difficult but ideas from Physical Education naturally included it. Perhaps this is because assessment for learning mirrors effective coaching techniques:

  • Having students focus on their strengths, 
  • Providing specific advice and mentorship, and 
  • Using multiple ways to show evidence as proof of learning.

School leadership made a huge difference; they also used assessment in the service of teachers learning. Teachers used assessment in the service of student learning. There was deliberate alignment of action across all levels.

As leaders helped teachers understand the fundamental shift, their teaching showed dramatic results.

The learnings

  • Classroom assessment is not simply a methodology to be taught to students. It needs to be internalized by teachers and leaders.
  • A coaching mindset enabled these teachers to more readily grasp the concepts of classroom assessment.
  • Once the methodologies are adopted and internalized by teachers, learning results among students are dramatic.

Special thanks

connect2learning is privileged to work alongside the educators of Ngaio School, Wellington, New Zealand as they support the learning of all students.


Like most education professionals, we have a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of learners. We started as teachers and leaders, but saw the potential to drive greater transformation by creating and sharing methodologies with other educators.

Learn more...



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