After experiencing the religious rituals, students should be able to:
1. show some understanding of the religion which they have just experienced through its rituals and practices;
2. recognise the diversity in religions and cultures; and
3. adopt a positive attitude towards people from different religions and respect for their beliefs.
The majority of the above assessment objectives are applicable to both internal and public assessment, while some may not be applicable to public assessment. Those objectives applicable to public assessment are listed in the approved Regulations and Assessment Frameworks published by the HKEAA.
5.4 Internal Assessment
This section presents the guiding principles that can be used as the basis for designing internal assessment and some common assessment practices for ERS for use in schools. Some of these principles are common to both internal and public assessment.
5.4.1 Guiding principles
Internal assessment practices should be aligned with curriculum planning, teaching progression, student abilities and the school contexts. The information collected will help to
motivate, promote and monitor student learning, and will also help teachers to find ways of promoting more effective learning and teaching.
(a) Alignment with the learning objectives
A wide range of assessment practices should be used to assess the achievement of different learning objectives for whole-person development. The weighting given to different areas in assessment should be discussed and agreed among teachers. The assessment purposes and criteria should also be discussed and agreed, and then made known to students so that they have a full understanding of the learning expected of them.
(b) Catering for the range of student ability
Assessment practices at different levels of difficulty and in diverse modes should be used to cater for students with different aptitudes and abilities. This helps to ensure that the more able students are challenged to develop their full potential and that the less able ones are encouraged to sustain their interest and sense of success in learning.
(c) Tracking progress over time
As internal assessment should not be a one-off exercise, schools are encouraged to use practices that can track learning progress over time (e.g. portfolios). Assessment practices of this kind allow students to set their own incremental targets and manage their own pace of learning, which will have a positive impact on their commitment to learning.
(d) Timely and encouraging feedback
Teachers should provide timely and encouraging feedback through a variety of means, such as constructive verbal comments during classroom activities and written remarks on assignments with an indication of where improvements can be made. Such feedback helps students sustain their momentum in learning, and to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
(e) Making reference to the school’s context
As learning is more meaningful when the content or process is linked to a setting which is familiar to students, schools are encouraged to design some assessment tasks that make reference to the school’s own context (e.g. its location, relationship with the community, and mission).
(f) Making reference to current progress in student learning
Internal assessment tasks should be designed with reference to students’ current knowledge, as this helps maintain the students’ commitment to learning.
(g) Feedback from peers and from the students themselves
In addition to giving feedback, teachers should also provide opportunities for peer assessment and self-assessment in student learning. The former enables students to learn among themselves, and the latter promotes reflective thinking which is vital for students’ lifelong learning.
(h) Appropriate use of assessment information to provide feedback
Internal assessment provides a rich source of data for providing evidence-based feedback on learning in a formative manner.
5.4.2 Internal assessment practices
A range of assessment practices suited to ERS, such as open book tests, oral questioning, projects, and fieldwork should be used to promote the attainment of the various learning outcomes. However, teachers should note that these practices should be an integral part of learning and teaching, not “add-on” activities.
Open book tests
Open book tests are suitable for this subject as it is based on a wide range of religious texts. Students are allowed access to the source materials during the tests, so that they do not need to memorise the texts. Questions for this type of test should aim to stimulate the use of reference materials and help students to organise their ideas.
Oral questioning with feedback need not be seen as a test of spoken language only – it can be helpful for assessment in other subjects also. It is a flexible approach which allows teachers to discuss matters in depth with able students, to tease out the meaning of obscure statements, and to find out reasons for conclusions. Teachers are encouraged to try using oral assessment as it can be a valuable supplement to conventional assessment methods.
A project is any piece of extended work from which the constraints of lesson time have been largely removed. Asking students to carry out project work provides them with an opportunity to study a topic of interest in depth, and teachers may encourage students to:
Clarifying the areas of interest
Establishing a framework for enquiry
Selecting resource materials
Fieldwork in ERS involves serving people in need and participating in religious rituals, and its specific objectives range from collecting information to reflecting on personal experience. It calls for keen observation, mastery of concepts and skills, and accurate recording. Fieldwork can often contribute significantly to establishing good relations between the school and the community. Also, the results of fieldwork can be very rewarding for students, both in learning the subject-matter and in enhancing their social, moral and spiritual development.
5.5 Public Assessment
5.5.1 Guiding principles
The principles guiding public assessment are outlined below for teachers’ reference.
(a) Alignment with the curriculum
The outcomes that are assessed and examined through the HKDSE should be aligned with the aims, objectives and intended learning outcomes of the senior secondary curriculum. To enhance the validity of public assessment, the assessment procedures should address the range of valued learning outcomes, and not just those that are assessable through written examinations.
The public assessment for ERS includes a written examination to test students’ mastery of the expected learning outcomes, together with School-based Assessment (SBA) through which areas such as “Faiths in Action” can be more appropriately assessed.
(b) Fairness, objectivity and reliability
Students should be assessed in ways that are fair and are not biased against particular groups of students. A characteristic of fair assessment is that it is objective and under the control of an independent examining authority that is impartial and open to public scrutiny. Fairness also implies that assessments provide a reliable measure of each student’s performance in a given subject so that, if they were to be repeated, very similar results would be obtained.
The assessments and examinations in the HKDSE need to accommodate the full spectrum of student aptitude and ability.
The written examination for ERS includes different types of questions to cover the spectrum of ability, so that all students will be able to demonstrate their achievements. Also, the SBA provides opportunities for students to show their competence in a variety of learning skills ranging from relatively straightforward tasks (e.g. data collection and reporting) to more sophisticated ones (e.g. evaluation, informed discussion and reflective thinking).
The reporting system is “standards-referenced”, i.e. student performance is matched against standards, which indicate what students have to know and be able to do to merit a certain level of performance.
The HKDSE qualification and the associated assessment and examinations system provide useful information to all parties. First, it provides feedback to students on their performance and to teachers and schools on the quality of the teaching provided. Second, it communicates to parents, tertiary institutions, employers and the public at large what students know and are able to do, in terms of how their performance matches the standards. Third, it facilitates selection decisions that are fair and defensible.
5.5.2 Assessment design
The assessment design is subject to continual refinement in the light of feedback. Full details are provided in the Regulations and Assessment Frameworks for the year of the examination and other supplementary documents, which are available on the HKEAA website (www.hkeaa.edu.hk/en/hkdse/assessment/assessment_framework/). The table below shows the outline of the assessment design of Ethics and Religious Studies.
Component Weighting Duration Public
Paper 1: Ethics 40% 1 hour 45 minutes
Paper 2: Religious Traditions 40% 1 hour 45 minutes School-based
Assessment (SBA) Faiths in Action 20% -
Table 5.1 The assessment design of Ethics and Religious Studies
The table below shows the assessment design of the subject for the 2014 to 2016 HKDSE Examinations. The Implementation of SBA in Ethics and Religious Studies will be postponed to the 2019 HKDSE Examination.
Component Weighting Duration Public
Paper 1: Ethics 50% 1 hour 45 minutes
Paper 2: Religious Traditions 50% 1 hour 45 minutes
Table 5.2 The assessment design of Ethics and Religious Studies for the 2014 to 2016 HKDSE Examinations
5.5.3 Public examinations
The written examination covers the learning outcomes and provides a variety of questions at different levels of difficulty. It incorporates various question types, such as:
1. Short questions that aim at assessing basic understanding of related concepts and theories.
Students may be required, for instance, to illustrate certain concepts with examples, provide simple solutions to non-complex theoretical disputes, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of certain theories, and apply theories appropriately to simple situations, etc.
2. Guided essay questions that allow students to handle problems using a step-by-step approach.
Students may be required to integrate, refer to and/or apply their answers in different parts of a question.
3. Essay questions that focus on assessment of students’ higher-order thinking skills.
Students may be required to provide critical analysis, evaluation and meaningful discussion on some relatively complicated issues, usually adapted from real-life experience.
Schools may refer to the sample and live examination papers regarding the format of the examination and the standards at which the questions are pitched.
5.5.4 School-based Assessment (SBA)
In the context of public assessment, SBA refers to assessments administered in schools and marked by the students’ own teachers. The primary rationale for SBA in ERS is to enhance the validity of the assessment by including important areas of the subject that cannot be easily assessed through an external examination. e.g. informed reflection based on personal experience, ethical theories and religious concepts SBA is also very suitable for assessing other important qualities in ERS, such as students’ initiative, communication skills, and ability to cooperate with others and work independently.
More generally, SBA reduces dependence on the results of one-off examinations, which may not always provide the most reliable indication of the actual abilities of candidates.
Assessments based on student performance over an extended period of time and developed by those who know the students best – their subject teachers – are more reliable.
Another reason for including SBA is to promote a positive “backwash effect” on students, teachers and school staff. Within ERS, SBA can serve to motivate students by requiring them to engage in meaningful activities and for teachers it can reinforce curriculum aims and good teaching practice, and provide structure and significance to an activity in which they are already involved in on a daily basis, namely assessing their own students.
Some examples of SBA activities and the related assessment criteria are outlined below.
Students are expected to work over a period of time that can be divided into the following stages, each characterised by specific tasks/activities:
Stage Task Related activities
1 Identification of the SBA activities and their aims
Through discussion with the teachers, students explore possible SBA activities and identify the aims of the activities.
2 Data collection
Students search for information about the specific organisations/religious groups/rituals and formulate a preliminary proposal for the SBA activities.
Development of an action plan; identification of personal expectations of the activity; receiving the necessary training and rehearsing the action plan. Students will be required to submit proposals for the SBA activities.
4 Implementation –experiencingExecution of the action plan; personal involvement in the activity.
Summarising the experience; getting feedback; reflection based on the experience gained; seeking further learning opportunities and exploration of the possible impact on personal morality, spirituality and relationship with others;
followed by oral reporting and discussion in class.
Students will be required to submit written reports on the SBA activities covering the tasks in stages 4–5 with an emphasis on personal accounts and reflection based on relevant ethical/religious concepts and theories.
Table 5.3 Stages and activities in SBA
1. To keep the SBA activities manageable, it is advisable that students should participate together in one SBA activity.
2. A good mix of group activities and individual guidance is needed in order to promote learning through the SBA activities.
3. The above only serves to highlight some key stages and major activities. Teachers are expected to take measures to ensure smooth implementation of the SBA, including liaison with relevant religious groups/social organisations, organising suitable follow-up activities and frequent review of the progress of the SBA activities.
In line with the assessment objectives, students’ proposals and their reports are assessed in relation to the following areas:
Knowledge and understanding of the backgrounds, needs, feelings and expectations of the people they served;
Application of relevant knowledge in the proposals and in real-life situations; and
Meaningful discussion on the experience gained.
Knowledge and understanding of relevant religious rituals;
Recognition of diversity in religions and cultures; and
Understanding of the importance of a positive attitude towards people from different religions and demonstration of respect for their beliefs.
Teachers will judge each student’s overall performance in the SBA activities with reference to the following areas:
ability to cooperate with others; and
ability to work independently.
It should be noted that SBA is not an “add-on” element in the curriculum. The modes of SBA are normal in-class and out-of-class activities suggested in the curriculum, and therefore should not unduly increase the workload of teachers and students. The requirement to implement the SBA has taken into consideration the wide range of student ability. Detailed information on the requirements and implementation of the SBA and samples of assessment tasks are provided to teachers by the HKEAA.
Implementation of SBA in Ethics and Religious Studies will be postponed to the 2019 HKDSE Examination. This will allow sufficient time for schools to get familiar with the revised curriculum and assessment arrangements as well as the conduct of the SBA.
5.5.5 Standards and the reporting of results
Standards-referenced reporting is adopted for the HKDSE. What this means is that candidates’ levels of performance are reported with reference to a set of standards as defined by cut scores on the mark scale for a given subject. Standards referencing relates to the way in which results are reported and does not involve any changes in how teachers or examiners mark student work. The set of standards for a given subject can be represented diagrammatically as shown in Figure 5.1.
Figure 5.1 Defining levels of performance via cut scores on the mark scale for a given subject
Within the context of the HKDSE there are five cut scores, which are used to distinguish five levels of performance (1–5), with 5 being the highest. A performance below the cut score for Level 1 is labelled as “Unclassified” (U).
For each of the five levels, a set of written descriptors has been developed to describe what the typical candidate performing at this level is able to do. The principle behind these descriptors is that they describe what typical candidates can do, not what they cannot do. In other words, they describe performance in positive rather than negative terms. These descriptors represent “on-average” statements and may not apply precisely to individuals, whose performance within a subject may be variable and span two or more levels. Samples of students’ work at various levels of attainment are provided to illustrate the standards expected of them. These samples, when used together with the level descriptors, will illustrate the standards expected at the various levels of attainment.
In setting standards for the HKDSE, Levels 4 and 5 are set with reference to the standards achieved by students awarded grades A–D in the HKALE. It needs to be stressed, however, that the intention is that the standards will remain constant over time – not the percentages awarded different levels, as these are free to vary in line with variations in overall student performance. Referencing Levels 4 and 5 to the standards associated with the old grades A–D is important for ensuring a degree of continuity with past practice, for facilitating tertiary selection and for maintaining international recognition.
To provide finer discrimination for selection purposes, the Level 5 candidates with the best performance have their results annotated with the symbols ** and the next top group with the symbol *. The HKDSE certificate itself records the Level awarded to each candidate.