Marsden is a 1500 strong secondary school (Grades 8 - 12, 13 - 17 year olds) in a satellite city adjoining Brisbane. The school is in a lower socio-economic area and using an Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) standardised test, it has been shown that approximately 50% of the 300 - 350 students entering Year 8 have critical levels of numeracy and literacy equating to a Year 3 (age 8) level of development or less.
In 1994/95 Bevan Penrose, Head of Mathematics, began a process inspired by a task centre presentation by Charles Lovitt that led to extensive follow up study into Constructivism, and finally to lasting changes in teaching/learning practice at Marsden.
Bevan resourced the early stages of the change process with Task Centre Replacement Units and they proved so successful that the staff has gone on to create their own units in other curriculum strands. All work now begins with hands-on problem solving that is accessible to all learners through several entry points. A task of this nature is also an assessment item in each topic of the junior school.
Each activity has a set of skills attached which students can tick off on their own check list. Students have become responsible for their own assessment, which is monitored and moderated by teachers.
On several occasions in the school's assessment package has been chosen as a model for the district.
The results of years of consistent reconstruction of the curriculum around clear guiding principles has shown for some time in the Senior School. Throughout Queensland all assessment is internally set and then moderated. There have been various forms of this concept since 1973. The package of assessment is moderated by panels at district level and samples are then sent on for state moderation.
Over the years the school has shifted from having less than 50% of applicants succeeding at the Grade 12 exams to a success rate of 85-90%.
They have gone from having 1 or 2 students getting the highest category of assessment to 15-25 reaching this top standard.
Bevan comments: The embedding of the activities in the program give an impetus to staff to change pedagogy.