Education ministers have agreed that learning progressions and online formative assessment should be a national priority initiative for education.


A central finding of the Gonksi Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools was that learning progressions can help teachers tailor their teaching to support students’ achievement through continuous learning growth. The Review found that aligned, online and on-demand assessments, combined with professional learning and resources, will aid the use and interpretation of learning progressions in order to maximise the learning growth and attainment of every student every year.

At the end of 2018 all states, territories and the Commonwealth signed the National School Reform Agreement and agreed to progress a ‘learning progressions and online formative assessment national initiative’ (the initiative) to investigate this recommendation.

In March 2019, three education agencies – Education Services Australia (ESA); Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA); and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) under the governance of the Education Council – were tasked to undertake a six-month discovery phase to inform this national initiative, which began in May 2019. The findings from the discovery phase will be reported to education ministers in December 2019.

In the discovery phase, there are three main foci: learning progressions and aligned assessments; engagement with teachers to understand what they need and how they want to be able to work; and research into evidence of effective practices.

Formative assessment and learning progressions

Learning progressions and formative assessment enhance the capacity of teachers to make evidence-informed decisions to address the learning needs of their students and the impact of their teaching on learning.

Learning is maximised when students are provided with appropriate teaching and learning opportunities.

Australian teachers already use a range of assessment resources and strategies to tailor teaching to students’ strengths, levels of readiness and learning needs. Formative assessment is any form of purposeful classroom interaction that assists teachers to adjust teaching and learning. Teachers currently undertake formative assessment of student learning in a variety of ways, from routine observations and questioning to quality structured assessment tasks. 

Formative assessment assists teachers to use their professional judgement to target their teaching practices and better understand how well students have learnt what has been taught, the progress they have made and the progress they need to make. Learning progressions describe the skills, understanding and capabilities students acquire as their proficiency increases. They can provide a frame of reference for establishing where each student is in their learning and for monitoring learning growth over time.

However, the design of structured tasks takes significant time and skill, as does the analysis of results to make informed decisions. Online and on demand assessment resources aligned to learning progressions, as recommended by the Gonski Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, would assist teachers to administer quality assessment quickly and easily to inform their professional judgement of a student’s progress and confirm next learning steps.

Both the development of learning progressions and assessment resources can inform, enable and be used by students as a key part of their own learning, and assist teachers to educate students to have greater understanding of their own progress to achievement.

The discovery phase

The first phase of work is the discovery phase and has three main foci: learning progressions and aligned assessments; engagement with teachers to understand what they need and how they want to be able to work; and research into effective practices.

The three elements of the discovery phase of the project are:

Investigating learning progressions and aligned assessments, beginning with existing examples such as the National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions.

Development of user profiles and needs analysis for groups such as teachers, school leaders, students, parents and systems through close consultation with the teaching profession and other stakeholders.

Research into professional learning content and practices to support effective implementation and use of learning progressions and online assessments.

The initiative will take a user-centred design approach to meet the needs and capabilities of teachers and students.

Scoping of design will be developed with implementation in mind, using the best user-centred technology design principles to ensure the system is intuitive, engaging and efficient to meet the needs and capabilities of teachers and students.

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