Assessment task advice 7–10

Advice on designing assessment tasks 7–10 that are supportive and challenging for all students.

Assessment is a powerful tool to measure student learning and plan for the next stages in the learning process. When designing an assessment notification:

  • Consider the skills, knowledge and understanding students need to complete the task. Identify where there are opportunities for students to refine these in the learning sequences associated with the assessment task.
  • Ensure the language and readability of the task present an appropriate challenge for the students completing the task. Direct, plain English will allow the greatest number of students to access and complete the task independently.
  • Marking guidelines should directly reflect the success criteria and syllabus outcomes of the task. They should align with appropriate levels of achievement for the stage of learning.
  • Keep active verbs like ‘do’, ‘say’, ‘make’, or ‘create’ in mind for the marking guidelines. This will help to avoid subjective language.[1]

Assessment as a learning opportunity

Assessment helps students to understand where they are in their learning, where they are going, and how they are going to get there. [2] Effective feedback helps students to engage with the next steps in learning.

Clear marking guidelines can support effective self-assessment. This assists students to become owners of their own learning. Students can then build their capacity for individual goal setting, which includes students asking questions such as ‘What do I need to improve?’ and ‘What is my next step?’ (CESE Growth goals setting – what works best in practice).

Greater learning gains may be made when teachers provide explicit descriptive feedback to students in a timely manner. This feedback supports students in forming their learning goals as well as helping the teacher to plan for the next iteration of the teaching and learning cycle.

Inclusive and differentiated assessment

As with the advice provided on inclusion and differentiation 7–10, an inclusive approach to assessing considers the needs of all students.

Some strategies to manage cognitive load may be useful to consider when creating assessment opportunities for all students:

  • identify the cultural and language demands in the task
  • consider multiple options for students to demonstrate their learning
  • remove unnecessary words or images [3]
  • simplify any tricky words or provided explicit instruction for tier 2 or tier 3 subject-specific vocabulary
  • reduce the lexical density of the steps by using student-friendly language [4]
  • chunk large passages of reading or offer alternate ways of representing the information, such as a visual or flowcharts
  • make the task description a checklist with numbered steps [5]
  • consider the cognitive load of the task and look for opportunities to reduce unnecessary decision-making so that the task becomes more manageable for students. [6]

For further information on cognitive load see the CESE publication Cognitive load theory in practice.

Differentiated learning can be enabled by differentiating the assessment approach to content, process, and product. Providing reasonable adjustments of assessment for students with disability is a legal requirement under the Disability Standards for Education (2005). For students with a disability, adjustment in assessment tasks should be made through the Collaborative curriculum planning process.

For more information on differentiation, visit Differentiating learning and Differentiation. When using this resource, teachers can use a range of adjustments to ensure a personalised approach to student learning:

The HPGE differentiation adjustment tool and differentiation package can assist teachers to decide how to provide extension and additional challenges to support learning for high-potential and gifted (HPG) students. Some other common adjustments are available through the inclusive practice hub assessment and reporting.

[1] Griffin P (2018) Assessment for teaching, Cambridge University Press.

[2] Black P and Wiliam D (2009) Developing the theory of formative assessment, Educational Assessment Evaluation and Accountability, 21:5–31.

[3] Lovell O (2020) Sweller's cognitive load theory in action, John Catt Educational Woodbridge.

[4] Garralda Ortega A, Hon Man Cheung A and Yuen Shan Fong M (2022) Developing e-reading pedagogies informed by research, Journal of World Languages, 2–25.

[5] State of New South Wales (Department of Education) and CESE (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation) (2017). Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand, State of New South Wales.

[6] Sweller J, Ayres P and Kalyuga S (2011) Cognitive load theory, Springer New York.


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