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PAT Spelling Skills launched
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PAT Spelling Skills launched

ACER news 5 minute read

A new assessment launched in March 2022 will help teachers measure learning progress in this important area – and report results in exciting ways.

Spelling is integral to becoming literate, and to clear and effective communication. Strong spelling skills help students learn across subjects and domains by aiding comprehension. While some argue that the ability to spell has become less important with the advent of spellcheckers and predictive text functions, spelling skills are vital even when using these tools, which ask the reader to choose from the options they provide and to understand their meanings. It’s a clear requirement of the Australian Curriculum that students learn to spell in standardised English, and spelling content descriptions are included at every level of the national English curriculum.

Coming soon: PAT Spelling Skills

A new assessment in the PAT range, PAT Spelling Skills, measures the development of three interrelated aspects that, the research shows, develop concurrently as spelling ability advances:

  • Phonological: the ability to hear all the sounds in a word and knowing how to write them
  • Orthographic: for example, knowing a range of spelling rules for base words and recognising legal and illegal letter combinations
  • Morphologic: knowing how elements of meaning affect spelling, including affix rules and root words.

Consistent with contemporary research that describes the development of spelling ability as non-linear and integrated, PAT Spelling Skills is organised into sets that target stages of skills development, rather than year levels. Twenty audio-based tests for students in Foundation to Year 10 are divided into five sets of increasing difficulty, each described briefly to help teachers decide how to assign sets to students.

Broadly speaking, they are:

  • Set A: designed for students who have just started to spell simple words with three letters or fewer
  • Sets B–D: appropriate for primary and secondary students with varied levels of spelling skills and vocabularies
  • Set E: targets students, typically in mid-secondary and higher, with good spelling skills and wide vocabularies.

The assessment uses four types of test item:

  • Complete the word: students hear the word then drag and drop the missing letter/s in a short, simple word.
  • Listen and spell: a dictation task.
  • Select the correct spelling: a multiple-choice task.
  • Correcting the misspelled word: students must identify the incorrectly spelled word in a short sentence and type the correct spelling.

Although the audio format makes the assessment accessible to students with limited reading skills, very basic computer skills – such as the ability to work with a touchscreen device – are required for tests in Set A, while older students are asked to type in responses.

Understanding results

As with all Progressive Achievement assessments, results are reported against a described scale of bands, so that students within a band – regardless of year level – have approximately the same skills, knowledge and ability. For example, a student in the 90–99 band can ‘identify the correct spelling of one-syllable words with blended letters or irregular spelling’ and ‘spell one-syllable words with regular spelling, including affixes such as ‘-ed’’. An example of their skill level in action is to be able to ‘identify the ck in lock’.

Describing learning in this way helps teachers understand what a student is capable of, determine the next steps in their teaching of that student, and understand their learning progress over time.

Because PAT Spelling Skills is a substantially updated and revised set of spelling assessments, it uses a new reporting scale. If you are currently using PAT Spelling, you may choose to continue with it in order to maintain continuity of reporting on the original scale; results from the two versions will not be comparable. However, we recommend you consider switching to the newer, more dynamic assessment in order to take advantage of the upgraded features it offers.

One of those features is the PAT Data Explorer, a flexible tool that allows you to sort and report on data in new ways, revealing powerful insights that can guide your teaching – available to users of PAT Spelling Skills. Read more about using the PAT Data Explorer to answer some commonly asked questions and how to gain extra insights by identifying patterns in assessment data.

Keen to find out more?

PAT Spelling Skills was launched on 7 March 2022. Why not try it free for 30 days? Ask us how.

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