Assessment of learning

Assessment of learning provides evidence of student learning and this can be used to inform differentiation and reporting.

'Assessment of learning' provides evidence of student learning at particular key points in time.

Formerly known as summative assessment, 'assessment of learning' helps to summarise what pupils know, understand or can do against the relevant year level achievement standard for different learning areas/subjects, in order to report on achievement and progress.

Assessment of learning takes place after the learning has occurred - to determine if it did - and is used to:

  • plan future learning goals and pathways for students
  • provide evidence of achievement to the wider community, including parents, educators, the students themselves and outside groups
  • provide a transparent interpretation across all audiences.

To decide when 'assessment of learning' should take place - which key points in time - teachers can use syllabus outcomes within a standards framework, and related learning goals established at the beginning of a year, semester, term or unit of work.

Assessment of learning requires teachers to make judgements about student learning and to communicate to parents, other teachers and to students themselves about what students know and can do, in relation to the standards-referenced framework of syllabuses.

The reference point of the syllabus standards is a crucial factor in assessment of learning. Other reference points, such as other students (comparisons) and the students themselves (individual progress) should be communicated separately and should not interfere with judgements.

Effective implementation of assessments for and as learning ensures that the results do not come as a surprise to students and parents/carers.

It is important that the underlying logic and measurement of assessment of learning be credible and defensible. Gathering information over time and triangulating assessment of learning information assists in ensuring the accuracy of decisions made.

With the help of their teachers, students can look forward to assessment of learning tasks as occasions to show their competence, as well as the depth and breadth of their learning.

How to use 'assessment of learning'

Information under 'assessment of learning' can be organised under 3 headings (Earl & Katz (2006)):

  • feedback to students
  • differentiated learning
  • reporting.

Feedback to students

Since assessment of learning is usually at the end of a unit or learning cycle, feedback to students has a less obvious effect on student learning than 'assessment for learning' and 'assessment as learning'. Nevertheless, students do rely on their marks and on teachers’ comments as indicators of their level of success, and to make decisions about their future learning endeavours.

Differentiating learning

When assessing learning, differentiation occurs in the assessment itself. For example, it would not make sense for an examiner to ask a short-sighted person to demonstrate their driving proficiency without their glasses, but when the driver does use their glasses, the examiner can gain an accurate picture of the driver’s ability, and certify them as proficient.

Similarly, differentiation in 'assessment of learning' requires adaptation so a student's particular learning is visible. Many forms of assessment offer many pathways for making student learning transparent to the teacher. For example, a particular curriculum outcome requirement, such as an understanding of the social studies notion of conflict, can be demonstrated through visual, oral, dramatic, or written representations. As long as writing were not an explicit component of the outcome, students who have difficulties with written language, for example, would then have the same opportunity to demonstrate their learning as other students.

Although assessment of learning does not always lead teachers to differentiate instruction or resources, it has a profound effect on the placement and promotion of students and, consequently, on the nature and differentiation of the future instruction and programming that the students receive. This means assessment results need to be accurate and detailed enough to allow for considered and accurate recommendations.


There are many approaches to reporting student proficiency, and any reporting of assessment of learning needs to fit the intended audience/s and provide all information required so they can make reasoned decisions. Irrespective of the reporting form, it should be honest, fair, and provide sufficient detail and contextual information to be clearly understood.

Traditional reporting, which relies only on a student’s average score, provides little information about that student’s skill development or knowledge. One alternate mechanism, which recognises many forms of success and provides a profile of a student’s level of performance on an emergent-proficient continuum, is the parent-student-teacher conference. This forum provides parents with a great deal of information, and reinforces students’ responsibility for their learning.


  • Earl L. & Katz S. (2006). Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind.
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