The role of heads of departments in assessments
The post of head of department (HOD) was first introduced into Singapore schools more than twenty years ago. It is a formal leadership position, as middle leaders who would function as part of the school’s management team. But the key role of the heads of departments is to provide leadership in their departments. This encompasses setting directions for the subject(s) (e.g., mathematics) or areas (e.g. character and citizenship education) under their charge and includes planning, implementing and evaluating the pedagogical programme. They also need to ensure and uphold quality in all matters of curriculum, including that of how the students are assessed in their subject area. For example, the HOD is to develop and implement suitable assessment procedures and instruments for effective learning (Curriculum and Planning Division, n.d.). This includes ensuring quality examination papers for school-based examinations. HODs, for example, are tasked with the moderation of examination papers set and vetted by the teachers. They are also responsible for monitoring student performance. So it is common practice that year-end results are analysed and discussed with the school leaders. Such managerial responsibilities belie the complexities that beset heads of departments in leading assessments in their departments. This chapter aims to explicate such underlying issues and is organised around three questions:
• What are some obstacles to quality assessment? • What does learning require of assessment? • What does assessment require of heads of departments?