Using narrative assessment to support secondary school teachers’ inclusive practices.

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Auckland - Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2019
Project end date: 
March 2021
Principal investigator(s): 
Professor. Missy Morton
Research team members: 
Dr Joanne Walker (University of Auckland) and Dr Anne-Marie McIlroy (University of Canterbury)
Research partners: 
St Kevin’s College in Oamaru, Kimi Ora Special School in Lower Hutt and Te Aho o Te Kura. In Year 2, there will be three new ‘teams’. Each of the Year 1 schools will have a partner secondary school from their Kahui Ako, or a new group of teachers for the Te Kura group.

Project description

Assessment capable teachers and students drive quality teaching and learning. Some students continue to be invisible in secondary school assessment landscapes and this is particularly the case students with special education needs. This project focusses on encouraging and supporting teachers to be capable and confident when working with all students in their classes. It investigates the formative use of narrative assessment as an approach to support the recognition of all students as learners. The students at the heart of this project are those secondary school age students working long-term within Level 1 of the NZ Curriculum.


We want to learn more about using narrative assessment to support teaching and learning for secondary students, their teachers and their families. Firstly, we will explore the effects of professional learning about the use of narrative assessment on teachers’ thinking and practices teaching learners with significant learning needs. Secondly, we will examine how these effects impact on the learning and social outcomes of this group of learners (for example participation in extra-curricular activities and events, in friendships). Our third aim is to expand the current resource Curriculum Exemplars for Students with Special Education Needs to include more exemplars in secondary academic subject areas.

Our research questions are:  

  • In what ways can narrative assessment processes support teacher inquiry? 
  • In what ways does using narrative assessment impact students’ academic and social achievement? 
  • What does assessment for learning look like for assessment capable teachers and students at secondary school?

Why is this research important? 

New Zealand has one of the most inclusive education system in the world. Yet students with special education needs and their families, teachers and educational leaders still express dissatisfaction with their experiences within our education system. Traditionally assessment for learners with special education needs has been largely for diagnostic purposes, or for applying for resources (e.g., ORS). The ongoing focus on deficits is demoralising for families and for teachers. Narrative assessment, with its focus on strengths and interests, has supported teachers to see the relevance of the NZ Curriculum for all learners.

What we plan to do 

This is a two-year participatory action research project. This project is a response to puzzles in practice expressed as current learning and assessment needs by the schools. To support our learning with and from narrative assessment, we will work with each school and each participating teacher to design teacher inquiries around narrative assessment. In each school the project team will include participating students and their families and whānau, and other interested teachers. The project participants and researchers will use qualitative methods to explore shared questions to understand assessment beliefs and practices, as well as the impacts of those practices on students, their families and their teachers.

Our partners:

Kimi Ora Special School, Lower Hutt; St Kevin’s School, Oamaru; Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, South Island Region

Contact details:

Dr Missy Morton, Professor, Disability Studies & Inclusive Education
School of Critical Studies in Education
Faculty of Education and Social Work
The University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142
Tel: +64 9 3737 599, ext 48775