Thursday, 11 Mar 2021

In our regular 'Meet the Team' feature, we learn more about the people who bring you PAT. Today it's the turn of Dr Sandra Knowles, expert test developer and assessment and reporting team leader at ACER.

Dr Sandra KnowlesWho are you and what do you do?

I’m Sandra Knowles and I’m the PAT Reading Test Manager. It’s my job to oversee all Reading test development and put test forms together. I also develop content for the PAT Teaching Resources Centre and give webinars on implementing the progressive achievement approach in classrooms.

Tell us about yourself.

I live in Sydney with my family. I did a PhD in English Literature before joining ACER in 2009. I’ve worked on a lot of projects but my main interest is in literacy development. The most rewarding parts of my work always involve thinking about how assessment data can be used in classroom practice, to target students where they are actually at in their learning rather than where they’re expected to be. Any chance I get to work directly with schools, I take!

Any hobbies?

My only hobby, which I don’t make enough time for, is writing fiction. I love playing with words and trying to find the perfect way to suggest an idea or build a character. If I’m lucky, I sometimes get to write stories for work.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love the stimulating conversations I have with colleagues about issues that matter to us. Whether it’s about the best way to assess a particular skill or to support teachers, I always come out of those conversations stimulated, curious and ready to explore some more.

And the worst?

I live in Sydney and almost everyone I work with is in Melbourne, so it’s definitely being stuck on a screen and not being able to have informal coffee catch-ups with my friends and colleagues down there.

What are you reading or watching right now?

I’m slowly reading my way through Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. It’s challenging my outlook like no other book ever has.

Biggest challenge of 2020?

I think almost everyone would have to mention COVID for this one. I missed family and found the home schooling/work balance a bit more than I could manage!

What are you looking forward to in 2021?

Like many others I miss travel. I’d love a chance to get to Melbourne again, or Queensland, or anywhere really!

Tell us your favourite PAT tip, fact or insider secret…

I’m particularly proud of the text complexity resources in the new and improved PAT Teaching Resources Centre. If teachers use these examples as a guide for selecting texts, as well as the achievement band descriptions to select skills for targeting, they can create lessons that are evidence-based and that allow for differentiated learning. Also, teachers may not realise that the teaching activities for each reading strand in the Centre are now grouped according to reading processes (e.g. Generalising and summarising), which can further support lesson planning that covers a range of abilities along the PAT scale.

See the new strands in practice material for support in this.