Learning focus area 2: Laying the foundations

Strengthening assessment design 

Driving Question: What has assessment got to do with reporting?


What is Assessment Design?

1. Developing quality assessment design to support meaningful student reporting underpins this Learning Focus Area (LFA). 

2. Assessment design occurs in conjunction with the curriculum program (what is to be learned) and learning design (how students will learn). It attends to different dimensions of learning, including knowledge and understanding, skills and capabilities, and motivations and dispositions.

3. Assessment design identifies evidence that will:

  • reveal where students are currently in their learning
  • demonstrate student progress along a learning continuum. 

The purpose of this learning focus area

1. This LFA builds the capacity of teachers to:

  • design quality assessments that provides a critical foundation for meaningful student reporting.

2. It supports the:

  • co-design of assessment that aligns to desired learning, where learning expresses what students need to know, understand and do
  • co-design of assessment that enables students to reveal the depth and breadth of their knowledge and understanding, the level of proficiency in their skills and capabilities, and how disposed they are to learn.

3. This LFA supports participants to investigate how students can be positioned as partners in the assessment process, by:

  • contributing to the generation of multi-modal forms of evidence through self-reflection
  • establishing learning portfolios to demonstrate their learning progress
  • reflecting on and evaluating their progress as they collaboratively identify new areas for learning growth and how they might pursue their next stretch
  • participating in learning conversations to make sense of their learning evidence in light of agreed progress indicators. 

How this learning focus area helps achieve its purpose

1. This LFA supports participants to:

  • review and better understand how to strengthen assessment design so that it is coherent and rigorous, anchored to aspirations for students, and informed by the Victorian Curriculum F-10 achievement standards
  • identify and document key considerations, implications and actions for leading change to strengthen assessment design, now and into the future
  • rethink and develop a clearer picture of the role of students in the assessment and reporting processes.


Outline of the investigation

The table below outlines the sections of the investigation and participants this LFA uses to achieve these steps.

Section Participants

1.      What can we learn from our current context?

  • Part A
  • Part B

The investigation team

The students from the learning community focus group

2.      What can we learn from other school communities? The investigation team
3.      What does the educational evidence say? The investigation team
4.      What does the system level say? The investigation team
5.      Pulling it together The investigation team

To complete the investigation follow the steps in each section below.

1. What can we learn from our current context? 

Part A: What are students seeking from their assessments? 

1. Purpose: 

  • To find out how students currently experience assessment in their school context and what they think they need from the assessment process. 

2. Participants:

  • the investigation team
  • the students from the learning community focus group

How does the Investigation Team facilitate ‘What can we learn from our current context?’ for Part A:

1. Read through Investigation: Part A Booklet (LFA 2.1 booklet).

2. Ensure the investigation team members have a copy of the LFA 2.1 booklet and any other necessary materials. 

3. Pair up teachers (one to be the conversation lead and one the recorder). 

4. Divide students amongst teacher pairs.

5. Teachers facilitate and record the conversations. Teachers use question prompts from LFA 2.1 booklet, page 4. Teachers record notes on page 5.  

6. Have teacher pairs synthesise and summarise what they have learned from the focus group discussions. Record findings on Synthesis and Analysis Scaffold for Individual Focus Group Conversations, page 7.  Reconvene the investigation team and analyse themes from findings across all focus group discussions. Record these on the synthesis and analysis scaffold for the whole investigation team, page 9. 

7. Keep these notes for LFA 4 – Meaningful Reporting – Making sense of our learning and taking action.

Part B:  How strong is our current assessment design? 

1. Purpose:  To find out: 

  • how well the assessment designs, which are embedded in Units of Work, enable students’ learning progress to be revealed 
  • the balance of attention given to different dimensions of learning – Knowing, Understanding, Being and Doing (KUBD) and how well-aligned assessments are.

2. Participants:

  • the investigation team
  • the students from the learning community focus group

3. How does the investigation lead (Principal/AP) facilitate ‘What can we learn from our current context’ for Part B?:

Workshop 1: investigation team

1. Ensure the investigation team has a copy of the Investigation: Part B Booklet (LFA 2.2 booklet) and any other necessary materials.

2. Form groups of 2-3 people. Have each group choose a shared unit of work to analyse – ideally one that has been taught recently.

3. Have each group analyse the unit of work. Use the KUBD scaffold on page 6. 

4. Map the timing and focus of the unit assessments. Use the Guide on page 7.

5. Record findings on the Assessment Grid on page 8. Record insights and implications from the analysis on page 9. 

Workshop 2: investigation team and the students from the learning community focus group.

1. Re-form groups from workshop 1.

2. Ensure members have a copy of the  Investigation: Part B Booklet (LFA 2.2 booklet).

3. Divide students amongst groups.

4. Use the discussion prompts on page 10. Note the students’ perspectives on the strengths and possibilities of the assessment design on page 11.  

Workshop 3: investigation team

1. Re-form groups from workshop 1.

2. Ensure members have a copy of the Investigation: Part B Booklet (LFA 2.2 booklet).

3. Make sense of the mapping exercises and discussions and record insights and implications. Use discussion prompts on page 13. Record discussion on page 14. 

4. Analyse school wide implications to strengthen assessment design. Record notes on page 15.

2. What can we learn from other school communities? 

1. This section provides an opportunity to learn from St Helena Secondary College’s journey.

  • Background: In 2018, St Helena Secondary College in Victoria, embarked on a journey to improve the quality and accuracy of teacher judgements on their student reports and better reflect the achievement and progress students were making. To begin, they paused and reflected on their current processes and undertook a review of their past practices. Leaders also consulted with staff, parents, carers and students to gauge their thoughts on what was working and what could be improved. They have since introduced a whole range of changes to the way they write and deliver school reports. Further details of St Helena Secondary College’s assessment and reporting approach can also be found on their website

2. Purpose: to learn from other communities and decide which possibilities are worth pursuing. 

3. Participants: the investigation team.

How do the investigation lead (Principal/AP)  facilitate ‘What can we learn from other school communities?’:  

1. Assemble the investigation team. 

2. Download: 

3. Listen to the podcast together. Take notes in the Professional Reading Discussion Guide booklet, Connect-Extend-Challenge scaffold on page 2.

4. In groups of three, reflect upon and discuss and the podcast. Use the Connect-Extend-Challenge process on page 3. 

5. Once everyone has had a chance to share their reflections and discuss responses, consider the following: 

6. Compared to St Helena’s Secondary College, what do we notice we tend to privilege in our reporting. How well do we balance attention to the following:

  • Summative and Formative Assessment
  • Assessment Tasks and Progress Tasks
  • Measuring Progress and Assigning Grades

7. What is something from St Helena’s Secondary College that is worth considering in our context? Why is that so? 

3. What does the educational evidence say? 

1. Purpose: to review the evidence on reporting with a view to incorporating the findings.

2. Participants: the investigation team.

3. How do the investigation team facilitate ‘What does the educational evidence say?’:  

4. Look over these readings: 

5. After reading the Optional Reading, use the Professional Learning Discussion Guides booklet, Making Meaning Conversation on page 4 to guide deeper discussion and analysis of the reading(s).  

6. Optional extra: In new groups of 3 teacher leaders/teachers, you can tackle the extension reading by just choosing 2-3 relevant pages at a time and one of the other reading processes such as, The Final Word on page 5. 

4. What does the system level say?

1. Purpose: to understand system level recommendations for quality report writing and reporting.

2. Participants: the investigation team.

How does the leadership facilitate ‘What does the system level say?’:

1. Scan  the following system-level guidance to understand requirements as well as recommendations for quality assessment design: 

2. Department of Education 

3. Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority 

4. Identify the most relevant resources in light of your school context and choose 2 to explore in more depth. 

5. Discuss the chosen documents using the Suggested Dialogue Questions below:

5. Pulling it together

1. Purpose: to use what the investigation team has learned to understand new possibilities for strengthening assessment design. 

2. Participants: the investigation team. 

How the investigation lead (Principal/AP) facilitates ‘pulling it together: 

1. Download the LFA 2.3 Key points template

2. Use the template to:

  • note what the investigation team have learned about the current approach to assessment design 
  • note the ideas and possibilities help us to reimagine how our assessment designs can better inform our reporting approach (and vice versa).

3. The investigation team is invited to consider the dialogue prompts, below: What have we learned about …

  • reviewing and examining findings from investigations into our own context, and from other schools, the system, and the educational evidence-base: What are we noticing? What might this mean? What themes are emerging?
  • the extent to which our assessment designs currently provide a foundation for meaningful student reporting?
  • our key strengths and opportunities for strengthening identified in assessment design?
  • possibilities that excite us, both now and in the longer-term?
  • our aspirations in this area? How might we engage our communities in these possibilities?
  • what has been revealed about what we need to grapple with? Further learning that is needed? About what, and from whom?
  • key implications, considerations and actions in leading change to achieve our aspiration, now and into the future?

4. Record notes in LFA 2.3 Key points template.

5. Along with the collated findings from Investigations: Parts A and B, keep these notes to be shared during Learning Focus Area 4. 

Learning Focus Area 2 Evaluation Guide

LFA 2.4 Evaluation Survey is provided for school leaders to distribute to participating members of the investigation team and Learning Community Focus Group. It is designed to determine the understanding and impacts of participating in the Strengthening Assessment Design investigation.