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Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry

Marking Criteria

The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the highest qualification offered by the NSW Education
Standards Authority (NESA) and is the achievement that most year 11 and 12 students in NSW are
working towards (NSW Education Standards Authority, 2018). Recent media reports have called into
question the usefulness of the HSC and in particular the HSC exams and have called for it to be
redesigned or abandoned (Singhal, 2018). When examining the purpose for the HSC exam its
usefulness to either teachers or students as a formative or diagnostic assessment is limited as
students are not provided with significant detailed feedback (Hattie & Timperley, 2007) that would
allow them to improve or increase their understanding of syllabus material. The role of the HSC
therefore is purely as a summative assessment firstly to evaluate students understanding as
sufficient for the award (NSW Education Standards Authority, 2018) and secondly to allow students
to be ranked for admission to tertiary studies (University Admission Centre, 2018). This second
function in particular has become less relevant in recent years. In 2017 only 40.1% of university
offers were made specifically on the basis of a student’s rank (ATAR) (Australian Government:
Department of Education and Training, 2017). Critics also argue that the high stakes nature of the
HSC exam has resulted in both a narrowing of the curriculum taught (Singhal, 2018) and an increase
in student stress and anxiety (North, Gross, & Smith, 2015). In light of these criticisms I will be
examining the effect that the Higher School Certificate has both on student’s wellbeing and on the
curriculum being taught in New South Wales schools.

Very few studies could be located which directly examine the effect of the New South Wales HSC on
student wellbeing and mental health however extensive research has been conducted in both the
United States of America and the United Kingdom on the effect of high stakes testing and
assessment on student mental health. In this research high stakes testing is defined as assessments
which may have consequences for student success, teacher accountability and school reputation
(Polesel & Dulfer, 2012). By this definition the NSW Higher School Certificate can clearly be
described as a high stakes assessment process.

The most common effect of high stakes assessment on students wellbeing is the manifestation of
test anxiety. This is defined as the emotional, physiological and behavioural responses to the
potential consequence of a negative outcome of an upcoming assessment (Von Der Embse,
Barterian, & Segool, 2012). In the United States it is estimated that between 10% and 40% of
students experience some form of test anxiety (Von Der Embse, Barterian, & Segool, 2012). This
correlates with two surveys conducted in New South Wales. In 2015 a survey conducted by the
University of NSW found that 42% of the 722 year 12 students surveyed reported symptoms of high
level anxiety (North, Gross, & Smith, 2015). Similarly in 2017 the Mission Australia Youth survey
found that 48.6% of respondents in NSW stated that coping with stress was a matter of extreme or
high concern (Mission Australia, 2017). In the same survey 38.3% of NSW respondents reported that
school or study was a major area of concern and 24.6% of respondents were very concerned about
depression (Mission Australia, 2017). As was also reported in the United States (Von Der Embse,
Barterian, & Segool, 2012) female students were roughly two and a half times more likely to report
stress and anxiety as a matter of high concern than their male counterparts and roughly twice as
likely to indicate school and study problems as an area of concern (Mission Australia, 2017).
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

The main factors influencing test anxiety in year 12 HSC students were reported as the high work
load required of them and the expectations to perform well imposed by themselves, parents and
teachers (North, Gross, & Smith, 2015). The immediate consequences of test anxiety on students
include feelings of agitation and irritability combined with reduced concentration and increased
procrastination (North, Gross, & Smith, 2015). Longer term effects include reduced academic
performance and in some cases depression and a reduction in mental health (Suldo, Gormley,
DuPaul, & Anderson-Butcher, 2014). Of great concern to researchers in the United States is that test
anxiety seems to create a feedback loop in some students. A student experiencing test anxiety over
a particular assessment may exhibit reduced concentration and increased levels of procrastination
resulting in a poorer academic outcome than would otherwise be expected. This negative result will
in turn reinforce and confirm the student’s fears concerning assessment resulting in the level of test
anxiety increasing and the consequences of that anxiety becoming more severe (Von Der Embse,
Barterian, & Segool, 2012).

The significant number of HSC students reporting high levels of stress and anxiety as a consequence
of their studies combined with the results seen overseas warrants additional research into the
causes of stress within NSW HSC students and the development of measures to mitigate this stress
at the individual, classroom and school levels.

In addition to the effects on individual students overseas studies in both the United Kingdom and
United States have shown that high stakes testing will often but not always result in a narrowing of
the curriculum (Au, 2007). Curriculum is described as the body of knowledge to be conveyed
(syllabus), the form and structure of this knowledge takes and the pedagogy through which the
knowledge is conveyed (Au, 2007). The process by which the curriculum is narrowed is simple. Due
to the high stakes nature of the assessment teachers and students tend to focus more time on the
material that is most likely to be tested (Berliner, 2011). In the United States it has been observed
that the amount of time spent studying entire subjects has been changed by as much as 40% in
order to spend more time on and improve results in those subjects deemed critical for standardised
tests (Berliner, 2011). Although not directly related to the HSC similar observations have been made
in Australia in relation to the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)
(Polesel & Dulfer, 2012). The narrowing of the curriculum had been observed to take the form of
reduced content, narrowed context for knowledge and less diverse pedagogy (Au, 2007).

Narrowed content as a result of high stakes testing is often observed as a high degree of content
alignment with the test instrument (Au, 2007). This alignment is often described as teaching to the
test and results in the neglect of material that is less likely to be examined. In the United States
studies has observed in schools where high stakes testing has been implemented that up to 80% of
content covered directly aligns with the standard testing regime (Au, 2007). In addition to this more
time is spent during class preparing students for the test which results in a further contraction of
subject material taught (Berliner, 2011).

Narrowed context for knowledge is described as a fragmentation of the content to better match the
test format (Au, 2007). Rather than teaching students to understand how the content is used and
applied teachers have been observed to restrict their teaching of the content to individual concepts
rather assisting students to comprehend the relationships between such concepts (Au, 2007).
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

Knowledge is best retained when it is constructed by an active thinking process (Cakir, 2008) and
linked to student’s prior knowledge from outside the classroom environment (Blessinger & Carfora,
2015). The narrowing of context may result in poorer retention of knowledge by students and a
reduced ability to apply this knowledge is real world situations (Berliner, 2011).

Finally in the United States high stakes standardised testing has resulted in a reduction in the variety
of pedagogy used and a greater emphasis on teacher centred instruction (Au, 2007). As teachers
focus more heavily on content likely to be directly examined they assert a more direct control over
content by avoiding student centred pedagogies such as problem or enquiry based learning (Au,
2007). A similar trend has been noted in Australia in relation to the NAPLAN literacy and numeracy
tests (Polesel & Dulfer, 2012).

The result of this narrowing of curriculum is that while students may receive better marks on high
stakes standardised tests they have less exposure to critical and creative thinking and higher order
thought processes (Berliner, 2011) resulting in students being less prepared for further education
and future employment (Berliner, 2011).

In conclusion in light of the reduced importance of the Higher School Certificate as a tool for gaining
employment or entry into university and in light of the negative consequences it has on student
wellbeing and preparedness for life beyond school further research into how the HSC can be better
aligned to the purpose of schooling is warranted.

Au, W. (2007). High-Stakes Testing and Curricular Control: A Qualitative Metasynthesis. Education
researcher, 36(5), 258-267.

Australian Government: Department of Education and Training. (2017). Undergraduate Applications,

Offers and Acceptances 2017. Canbera: Australian Government.

Berliner, D. (2011). Rational responses to high stakes testing: the case of curriculum narrowing and
the harm that follows. Cambridge Journal of Education, 41(3), 287-302.

Blessinger , P., & Carfora, J. M. (2015). Inquiry-Based Learning for Science, Technology, Engineering,
and Math (STEM) Programs : A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators. In P. B.
Carfora, Inquiry-Based Learning for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
Programs : A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators (pp. 3-19). Emerald Group
Publishing Limited.

Cakir, M. (2008). Constructivist Approaches to Learning in Science and Their Implications for Science
Pedagogy: A Literature Review. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education,

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of Feedback. Review of Education Research, 77(1), 81-

Mission Australia. (2017). Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2017. Sydney: Mission Australia.
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

North, B., Gross, M., & Smith, S. (2015). Study Confirms HSC exams source of major stress to
adolescents. Sydney: University of NSW.

NSW Education Standards Authority. (2018, 08 10). About the HSC. Retrieved from NSW Education
Standards Authority: http://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-

Polesel, J., & Dulfer, N. (2012). The Experience of Education: The impacts of high stakes testing on
school students and their families Literature Review. Sydney: The Whitlem Institute.

Singhal, P. (2018, 08 18). Atar gone in 10 years and dire HSC unfit for future CEOs, Educators. The
Sydney Morning Herald.

Suldo, S. M., Gormley, M. J., DuPaul, G. J., & Anderson-Butcher, D. (2014). The Impact of School
Mental Health on Student and School-Level Academic Outcomes: Current Status of the
Research and Future Directions. School Mental Health, 6(2), 84-98.

University Admission Centre. (2018). ATAR. Retrieved from University Admission Centre:

Von Der Embse, N., Barterian, J., & Segool, N. (2012). Test Anxiety Interventions for Children and
Adolescents: A Systematic Review of Treatment Studies from 2000–2010. Psychology in the
Schools, 50(1), 57-71.
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry

Acids and bases, and their reactions, are used extensively in everyday life and in the human body.
The chemistry of acids and bases contributes to industrial contexts and the environment. Therefore,
it is essential that the degree of acidity in these situations is continually monitored. By investigating
the qualitative and quantitative properties of acids and bases, students learn to appreciate the
importance of factors such as pH and indicators.

Task Number: 2 Weighting 40% 6 Weeks

Outcomes Assessed:
A Student:
 designs and evaluates investigations in order to obtain primary and secondary data and
information CH11/12-2
 conducts investigations to collect valid and reliable primary and secondary data and
information CH11/12-3
 analyses and evaluates primary and secondary data and information CH11/12-5
 communicates scientific understanding using suitable language and terminology for a
specific audience or purpose CH11/12-7
 describes, explains and quantitatively analyses acids and bases using contemporary models

Nature of the Task:

Students will plan, carry out, analyse and report on an experiment to safely determine the
concentration of an unknown sample of sulphuric acid.

Part A: Due 2 weeks,

Students are required to plan an experiment to determine the concentration of an unknown sample
of sulphuric acid. As part of the planning students will need to research appropriate experimental
techniques, assess and mitigate risks and decide what equipment and chemicals you will use (for
example primary and secondary standards and indicators)
Students are required to submit:
1) the start of your experiment report including the aim, experimental procedure and risk
2) a list of equipment and chemicals required to carry out your experiment during class

Part B: Due 3 Weeks

Students will carry out the experiment they have designed during the double period in the week
following the submission of part A
Students will be required to demonstrate sound experimental and data collection techniques.

Part C: Due 6 weeks

Using the attached scaffold students are required to present the findings of their experiment in the
form of a journal article. The submitted report will include the title of the experiment, a brief
introduction, required equipment and chemicals, the experimental procedure, a summary of data
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

collected and analysed (including calculations), a discussion of these results and a conclusion.
Students are required to submit: An experimental report in the form of a scientific journal article
using the attached scaffold
Feedback Provided:
To assist students with future learning feedback will consist of:
1) an annotated rubric covering the marking scheme
2) annotations and comments through the submitted report
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

Scaffold for writing a scientific Journal article

A scientific journal article will contain the following sections in the order they are listed. A brief
description of what is required for each section is included

The title of your report should be concise and specific. It should clearly express the nature of your

The introduction briefly informs the readers as to the purpose of the report. It should describe the
question that your experiment is attempting to answer and why this is important.

Risk Assessment:
The risk assessment lists the potential risks that may be encountered in the process of carrying out
your experiment. It should also show how these risks have been managed to ensure the safety of the
person carrying out the experiment. This will include physical risks such as glass breakage as well as
chemical risks such as burns or poisoning.

This section contains a list of equipment and chemicals used during the experiment. It should
specifically name all equipment in enough detail that a chemist reading your report could duplicate
your experiment in the future

Experimental Procedure:
The experimental procedure is a detailed list of instructions explaining how you carried out your
experiment and collected your results. The procedure should contain enough detail that a chemist
reading your report could repeat your experiment in the future.

The result section describes but does not explain the results you received from your experiment.
This section will include a factual account of the data collected during your experiment including any
calculations performed.

The discussion section seeks firstly explain the results of your study and to discuss the significance of
these results. Possible topics that can be covered here are: Are the results consistent and reliable?
Did the experimental design answer the question posed in the introduction? What improvements to
the experimental procedure, data collection or analysis could be made in future?

The conclusion summarises the experimental report and seeks to show how the experiment answers
the question posed during the introduction.
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6

designs and Experimental shows Experiment show a Experiment Experiment design Experiment is well Experiment is well
evaluates extremely limited simplistic generally describes shows sound designed. designed and
investigations in awareness of understanding of the required understanding of Presentation is logically presented
order to obtain experimental experiment design procedure showing experimental detailed and
primary and design principles a basic principles coherent Student
secondary data and Risk assessment understanding on comprehensively
information Risk assessment is identifies some experimental Risk assessment Risk assessment is evaluates and
CH11/12-2 not present or does risks associated design adequately detailed and mitigates risk in a
not identify and with the describes and competently logical manner
mitigate experiment Risk Assessment mitigates some mitigates all
experimental risk identifies and risks identified risks
mitigates a single
category of risk
conducts Students does not Student carries out Student carries out Student carries out Student carries out Student carries out
investigations to carry out the experiment in a experiment in a the experiment in experiment in a experiment in a
collect valid and experiment in an safe manner. Data safe manner and proficient manner safe and competent safe and precise
reliable primary acceptable manner. collected but is not collects the basic and achieves clear manner and manner. Data
and secondary data Data collected is evaluated for data required. data for analysis achieved coherent collected is
and information not useful for accuracy or data collection extensive and
CH11/12-3 further analysis experimental error The student is Student identifies logically recorded
aware that at least one source Sources of error are
experimental error of experimental thoroughly Sources of error are
exists but does not error identified extensively
identify any specific evaluated and
sources quantified in an
insightful manner
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

analyses and Students are unable Students attempt to Students analyse Students Students Students accurately
evaluates primary to analyse collected analyse the data data collected to proficiently analyse competently analyse data
and secondary data results to establish collected to establish a possible data collected to analyse data collected to
and information the concentration establish the concentration for establish the collected to establish
CH11/12-5 of the unknown concentration of the unknown concentration of establish the concentration of
solution the unknown solution the unknown concentration of unknown solution
solution solution the unknown and the error within
Students identify at solution their
Students recall that least one potential Students identify measurements
their experiment sources of error in some potential Students identify
contains error but their sources of error in and quantify some Evaluate data
do not suggest any measurements their sources of error in collected to
specific causes measurements their establish and
measurements quantify sources of
Reflect on their
experiment and Reflect on their
suggest at least one experiment and
change to improve data collected to
accuracy, validity or suggest
reliability comprehensive
improvements in
accuracy, validity
and reliability.
communicates Student shows very Student report Student report Student report Student report Student report
scientific limited recalls the choices constructs an basic constructs an constructs an constructs an
understanding understanding of made in the design argument for the evidence based coherent evidence insightful evidence
using suitable the choices made in analysis and choices made in the argument for the based argument for based argument for
language and the design and discussion of the design analysis and choices made in the the choices made in the choices made in
terminology for a discussion of the experiment. discussion of the design analysis and the design analysis the design analysis
specific audience or experiment experiment. discussion of the and discussion of and discussion of
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

purpose CH11/12-7 Student report does experiment. the experiment. the experiment.
not present an Student report Student report uses
argument or follow includes some of appropriate Student report uses Student report uses Student report uses
the required format the required scientific some appropriate appropriate extensive
for a scientific sections for a nomenclature and scientific scientific appropriate
journal article scientific journal language to nomenclature and nomenclature and scientific
article communicate ideas language to language in many nomenclature and
and concepts communicate ideas places to language to
and concepts communicate ideas communicate ideas
Student report and concepts and concepts
includes many Student report
required sections includes most of Student report Student report
for a scientific the required includes all includes all
journal article sections for a required sections required sections
scientific journal for a scientific for a scientific
article journal article journal article and
uses them is a
comprehensive and
logical manner
describes, explains Students do not use Students describe Students use Students design Students design Students design and
and quantitatively or describe appropriate appropriate appropriate appropriate evaluate
analyses acids and appropriate experimental experimental experimental experimental appropriate
bases using experimental technique to technique to technique to technique to experimental
contemporary technique to analyse the analyse the analyse the analyse the technique accuracy
models CH12-13 analyse the concentration of an concentration of an concentration of an concentration of an to analyse the
concentration of an unknown acid unknown acid unknown acid unknown acid concentration of an
unknown acid demonstrating a describing the unknown acid
Apply calculations Apply correct clear understanding accuracy, validity evaluating the
Do not correct to establish the calculations to of validity, accuracy and reliability of the accuracy, validity
apply calculations concentration of establish the and reliability experiment and reliability of the
to establish the the unknown concentration of experiment
Assessment Task 2: Year 12 Chemistry
Marking Criteria

concentration of solution showing the unknown Apply correct Apply correct

the unknown working solution with some calculations to calculations to Apply correct
solution mistakes establish the establish the calculations to
concentration of concentration of establish the
the unknown the unknown concentration of
solution solution showing the unknown
mostly correct solution showing
working full and correct