Measuring learning involves comparing assessment results between two or more points in time. Learning becomes evident when a learner’s achievement increases over time demonstrating they are making progress along the learning continuum.
Curriculum as a common reference
A common reference is required if assessment results are to be compared to measure learning. AusVELS is the Foundation to Year 10 curriculum that provides a single, coherent and comprehensive set of prescribed content and common achievement standards which schools use to plan student learning programs, assess student progress and report to parents. The F-10, eleven level, structure of the AusVELS outlines what is essential for all Victorian students to learn and is intended to better cater for personalised learning.
Measuring learner understanding
To measure learning practitioners can create their own assessment tools or use instruments developed by others. Accurate records of learner performance at each assessment need to be maintained to enable analysis of learning gains and identify learning needs. They also provide the evidence for providing feedback to learners and parents.
Measuring learning involves conducting an appropriate assessment and analysing the data to identify strengths and learning needs. It is not sufficient to only look at the total number of correct responses or observations – sometimes called percentage correct – for each assessment. Simply comparing percentage correct can conceal important aspects of learning. For example, a learner with an average percentage correct may excel at certain aspects of the curriculum and perform quite poorly on others. Such learning gaps need to be addressed to help the learner make progress in their learning.
Measuring relative growth in learning
The relative growth is a measure of how much a learner's achievement improves over a specified period of time. This growth can vary and depend on factors including the age of the learner, the level of achievement at the start of the period being considered, and the aspect of curriculum being assessed. For example, learning can be fast for some aspects of the curriculum during the early stages of schooling when compared to the later stages of schooling. Further, learners starting with a high achievement level may learn at a slower rate than those with a lower achievement level or their learning may progress consistently or may accelerate.
For NAPLAN, the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority uses the concept called Relative Growth to analyse and compare the learning of individuals. Learn more about measuring relative growth with this
Large-scale assessment programs collect a lot of data about learning. These programs generally reference curriculum but because they operate over many jurisdictions, each with their own curriculum, these programs generally develop their own scale for reporting achievement.
Australia has a population based National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). It also includes a number of sample based assessments that are conducted every three years in the areas of Science Literacy, Civics and Citizenship, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy.
Population based assessments
NAPLAN is a large-scale assessment program that is population based and able to report at the student, school, state and country level. NAPLAN has its own scale against which student results are reported. NAPLAN also uses the concept of Bands and Minimum Standards for measuring learning. Visit the
Using Assessment Data website for more information about the NAPLAN scale.
The Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) is another assessment program that involves a full census of the population of learners in their first year of formal full-time schooling. The AEDI provides a comprehensive map of early developmental outcomes across Australia. Visit the
AEDI website for more information.
Sample based assessments
Australia has three national sample based assessment programs that conduct assessments every three years.
- Science and Literacy that focuses on Australian students in Year 6
- Civics and Citizenship that focuses on Australian students in Year 6 and Year 10
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy that focuses on Australian students in Year 6 and Year 10
NAPLAN website for more information about NAP sample based assessments.
International sample based assessments
Australia also participates in three international sample based assessment programs:
- The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which is conducted every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and which samples 15-year-old school students.
- The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) which is conducted every four years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and samples students in Years 4 and 8.
- The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is conducted every five years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and samples students in their fourth year of schooling.
International sample based assessment programs develop their own framework documents and do not reference a particular curriculum because the assessments are conducted over many jurisdictions. The assessment frameworks detail what knowledge is assessed by the program and the frameworks are used to design and develop the assessment instruments as well as for reporting results. As the underlying assessment frameworks vary between programs, the reported measures also vary as an assessment of Reading in PISA is different from an assessment of Reading in PIRLS, and an assessment of Mathematics in TIMSS is different from an assessment of Mathematics in PISA.
Sample-based assessments are generally not able to accurately make inferences about individual learners. Instead they focus on making inferences about their target populations.