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NSW Curriculum
NSW Education Standards Authority

Assessment Principles

Assessment is used to analyse and interpret the knowledge, understanding and skills that students demonstrate throughout the learning process. Assessment provides information about student learning and achievement at a point in time and the progress students have made.

Assessment is most effective when it is an integral part of teaching and learning. The primary role of assessment is to identify where students are in their learning so that teaching can be adapted to target student needs, and progress can be monitored over time.

Assessment involves:

  •  identifying where students are in their learning
  •  ongoing monitoring of student progress in relation to the syllabus
  •  providing feedback about student progress to determine the next steps in learning.

Effective school-based assessment:

  • enables students to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do
  • is inclusive of, and accessible for, all students
  • is valid: there is clear alignment between the syllabus, the assessment activity and the criteria used to assess
  • identifies strengths, misunderstandings and skills not yet mastered
  • enables timely and relevant feedback about learning progress
  • provides opportunities for students to reflect on feedback
  • is regular, purposeful and integrated throughout teaching and learning
  • informs goal setting for learning and teaching.

Teachers should evaluate the effectiveness of their assessment approaches regularly to ensure they are fit for purpose. Reviewing student work in relation to assessment activities can provide useful information for decision-making.

Decisions teachers make about teaching, learning and assessment include:

  • what outcomes will be assessed in relation to the content that has been taught
  • why assessment will occur at a point in time and for what purpose
  • how information about student learning will be gathered and what approach will be used
  • how the information will be used, including to provide feedback, and to determine student progress and achievement
  • what next steps will inform future teaching and learning.

Standards-referenced assessment

Standards-referenced assessment refers to the process of interpreting information about student learning in relation to standards. It is used to compare student performance to a standard with objective criteria rather than to the performance of other students. Standards-referenced assessment can provide meaningful feedback about student achievement and support consistent assessment and reporting.

What are standards? 

A standards-referenced approach is used to assess and report student achievement in NSW. This approach comprises 2 components:

  • syllabus outcomes and content describe what students are expected to learn
  • how well students demonstrate achievement is described in performance standards such as the Common Grade Scale. 

Syllabus outcomes are used by teachers to: 

  • plan and develop learning and assessment opportunities in relation to content
  • assess student progress and achievement in relation to intended learning  
  • report student progress and achievement at key points in time. 

Performance standards used to report student achievement in NSW include: 

  • Common Grade Scale (Years 1 to 10) 
  • Stage 5 Course Performance Descriptors (end of Year 10) 
  • Common Grade Scale for preliminary courses (Year 11) 
  • HSC Performance Band Descriptions (Year 12)  
  • achievement level descriptions (Year 12 English Studies, Mathematics Standard 1, and Numeracy). 

It is not a requirement for student reports in Early Stage 1 to refer to a performance standard such as a grade scale. More information on standards-referenced reporting is available in Reporting and using grades.

Inclusive assessment

Approaches to assessment should be inclusive of all students. Assessment design should consider the ways students engage in the activity, how information is presented and accessed, and the different ways that students can demonstrate their understanding. Inclusive assessment means ensuring all students are able to demonstrate their learning.

Inclusive assessment considers the following:

  • How students engage:
    • developing accessible learning goals and criteria
    • integrating student choice, for example allowing students to choose topics or contexts in which they demonstrate learning
    • simulating real-life contexts that have explicit relevance to students.
  • How information is presented and accessed, including:
    • resources and/or stimulus material that is presented across a range of modes and that include accessibility options
    • both digital and non-digital resources.
  • How students respond:
    • using self-paced activities that support students to demonstrate learning without time constraints 
    • providing opportunities for students to make choices about how they communicate their learning
    • providing opportunities to challenge and/or extend students within their level of understanding. 

Adjustments for students with disability

It is a requirement under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 for schools to ensure that assessment tasks are accessible to students with disability. Some students with disability may require adjustments in order to access assessment activities and tasks and to demonstrate their learning. In some cases, this may mean providing an alternative assessment activity. Schools are responsible for any decisions made at school level to offer adjustments to assessment activities and tasks, including in-school tests. Decisions regarding adjustments should be made in the context of collaborative curriculum planning.