Brightpath Assessment and Reporting software was launched in 2015 to provide teachers with a new way to quickly and accurately assess writing online. Researchers at the University of Western Australia had discovered a way to assess that provides all the advantages of marking rubrics, automated essay scoring, and comparative judgements, using an intuitive display and identifying next steps teaching points. Brightpath now offers fully developed scales to assess narrative, persuasive, information report and recount writing, for students aged 4 to 15.
Figure 1 - Brightpath Assessments - Strong Growth through Word of Mouth
Currently around 800 schools are using Brightpath across Australia, ranging from small remote public schools to large metropolitan independent schools.
Why such strong uptake?
Gayle Williamson from Blackbutt State school in Queensland explains:
“In the school I lead, the writing data was the weakest set of data. I heard Professor Hattie recommend Brightpath’s use to improve the teaching and learning of writing and got excited to find out more about Brightpath.
As principal I had two goals:
improve the writing abilities and results of students Prep to Year 6; and
improve the knowledge and understanding of the teaching and learning of writing for each teacher at the school.
In my opinion, the use of Brightpath is a must do for all teachers across Australia. Not only does Brightpath show the writing abilities of students using a research calibrated set of rulers, but the program shows teachers where to go next in writing for each student.
Through Brightpath staff become more knowledgeable about the teaching and learning of writing. I really like the precision that is used in Brightpath to assess individual student writing abilities. I am grateful for the clarity that the program offers. The Brightpath teacher resources are excellent and really helpful in guiding teachers to use the program.
Our end of year whole school data in writing in 2021 surprised us all as we exceeded our annual target in writing by 9%-something we haven’t done in the last five years.”
The educational assessment community has come a long way since Black and Wiliam’s influential 1998 paper, Inside the Black Box and teachers are now well supported with using assessment to improve student learning.
Schools have many products offerings to choose from and thanks to advances in software development, teachers have immediate access to their student’s results. If you scan the products available, however, you will notice that support is heavily weighted to mathematics and reading. That’s because these aspects of learning are well served by multiple-choice or short answer assessments. Many of you will have discovered that support for formative assessment of extended performances, such as narrative writing, information report writing or oral storytelling, is lacking.
Dr Steve Humphry and I knew that formative assessment of writing posed a challenge. We had extensively researched the use of rubrics in the context of the Western Australian testing program, and we were acutely aware of the limitations that rubrics pose in classroom settings. This led us to exploring the use of comparative judgements as a formative assessment tool, but we uncovered limitations with the methodology as a classroom tool. We eventually developed a new way of assessing writing that provides the advantages of rubrics and comparative judgements with few of the disadvantages. We designed the Brightpath Assessment and Reporting software to make our innovative methodology readily available to teachers.
Figure 2 - Brightpath Assessment and Reporting Software - Assessing against calibrated exemplars
Current and future work
The Brightpath team has not stood still and 2021 was another big year. Now, when students complete their writing online, the program analyses their performances and provides predicted scores. Teachers remain central to the assessment, and this is important because teachers learn much about their students’ needs as they read their work, and because teachers are better at assessing the authorial aspects of writing (i.e. those aspects of writing that cannot be counted).
We also launched an extensive range of formative mathematics assessments in 2021 and we provide intuitive feedback about each student’s readiness to learn the mathematical skills and knowledge tested by each question.
We are continuing to work on improving Brightpath this year by providing additional Math scales, researching into additional learning areas and improving the usability of the software. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for staff to receive valued formative information for their teaching on various learning areas to improve student outcomes.