Access keys | Skip to primary navigation | Skip to secondary navigation | Skip to content | Skip to footer |
Problems viewing this site

Understanding K–12 assessment

The following information outlines the K–12 assessment position of the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) and provides a foundation for building and clarifying knowledge and understanding of assessment literacy. It is intended to support and guide the processes integral to quality teaching, learning, assessment and reporting.


All Queensland teachers and students deserve to benefit from their assessment experiences. Assessment should provide timely and useful information that can be used by teachers and students alike to improve how teachers teach and how and what students learn. Assessment is an essential component of effective teaching and learning.


  • improves teaching by providing information on what students know and can do
  • helps students progress in their learning by giving them feedback to inform their next steps in learning
  • provides meaningful information on students’ strengths, learning needs and achievements.

Principles and attributes of assessment

The following principles form the foundation of beliefs about assessment practices.

Principles of quality assessment (QCAA 2017a) should be:

  • aligned with curriculum and pedagogy
  • equitable for all students
  • evidence-based, using established standards/continua to make defensible and comparable judgments about students’ learning
  • ongoing, with a range and balance of evidence compiled over time to reflect the depth and breadth of students’ learning
  • transparent, to enhance professional and public confidence in the processes used, the information obtained and the decisions made
  • informative of where students are in their learning.

Quality assessment (QCAA 2017b) is characterised by three attributes:

  • validity, through alignment with what is taught, learnt and assessed
  • accessibility, each student is given opportunities to demonstrate what they know and can do
  • reliability, assessment results are consistent, dependable or repeatable.


Assessment is the ongoing process of gathering, analysing and reflecting on evidence to make informed judgments about the achievement or capabilities of individuals and cohorts.

Assessment plays an integral role in improving learning and informing teaching. Its fundamental purpose is to establish where learners are in an aspect of their learning at the time of assessment (Masters 2014).

The literature uses different terms about assessment, including assessment for, as and of learning, diagnostic, formative and summative.

Assessment for, as and of learning

Assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment of learning (Earl 2013) are purposes for which evidence is gathered about student progression to improve teaching and learning. Assessment for these purposes can involve both teachers and students, providing opportunities for them to give and receive feedback and inform future planning. The principles and attributes described above should be considered when planning any assessment.

Assessment for learning

Assessment for learning occurs throughout the learning process and could be diagnostic[1] and/or formative[2].

Assessment as learning

Assessment as learning places the student central to the processes of assessing and learning. Students monitor their own learning and use formal and informal feedback and self-assessment to determine the next steps required to meet learning outcomes/objectives. Assessment as learning encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.

Assessment of learning

Assessment of learning is often referred to as summative[3] assessment and can include formal assessment tasks, internal or school-devised assessment and external assessment.

Uses of assessment

Assessment information has multiple uses, including:

  • provision of feedback to teachers, such as
    • evidence of students’ strengths, ways of learning, areas of development, the depth of their knowledge, and their conceptual understandings, which informs the teacher, so they know what students can do, and what subsequent teaching is required to progress student learning
    • identification of students’ learning needs across a range and balance of assessments that enhances teachers’ ability to establish where students are in their learning and to help them attain higher levels of performance
  • provision of feedback to students and parents/carers that gives
    • clear, specific, meaningful and timely feedback, allowing reflection on the learning process and collaboration to support future learning and development
    • evidence of student learning and advice for further progress, underpinning the provision of meaningful reports/statements to parents/carers and others
  • development of lifelong learners by enabling students to identify and reflect on the progress they are making, which is crucial to building self-evaluation, self-efficacy and self-responsibility for in-depth and long-term learning
  • refinement of quality teaching, by supporting teacher reflection and professional learning
  • provision of information for certification
  • measurement and evaluation of policies, programs, interventions and teaching strategies to provide better understanding of student achievement and growth.

Assessment literacy

What is assessment literacy?

Assessment literacy is defined as the skills and knowledge teachers require to design, evaluate and quality assure assessment performances to support student learning (DeLuca 2016).

Teachers who are assessment literate:

  • produce quality assessment
  • demonstrate the required knowledge and skills to validly and reliably assess students’ learning
  • apply standards/descriptions consistently to, and make judgments about, students’ learning/work
  • interpret and apply the feedback and data from assessment to improve teaching and learning.

As students move through the phases of schooling, they become increasingly assessment literate, with the ability to:

  • understand the purpose of what they are doing
  • understand the basis on which judgments will be made
  • demonstrate this understanding through their engagement with assessment
  • reflect on feedback and apply it in the future.

School assessment policies

School assessment policies provide guidelines for teachers and expectations for all staff and students for assessment. These policies support schools in promoting equitable and credible outcomes, including academic integrity.

Academic integrity

Academic integrity requires academic responsibilities to be approached in an honest, moral and ethical way. Schools, parents/carers and others who support students in their learning are responsible for promoting and maintaining academic integrity.

When students genuinely demonstrate their learning, they achieve results based on their own work and effort. Students will become increasingly more aware of their responsibility in demonstrating academic integrity as they progress through the phases of schooling.

Quality assurance

Assessment-literate teachers use quality assurance processes to develop a shared understanding of the expected quality of learning performance (Willis & Adie 2016). This assists teachers to improve teaching and inform assessment processes.

Quality assurance processes involve teachers:

  • engaging in in-depth conversations and/or professional learning prior to teaching about what standards will look like in practice
  • collaborating to design assessment tasks aligned with the principles and attributes of quality assessment
  • sharing learning intentions/objectives and standards/marking criteria with students
  • engaging in feedback, moderation and professional conversations and activities.


Moderation of assessment is a process in which teachers engage in focused dialogue to share their observations and judgments in order to:

  • improve the consistency of their decisions
  • ensure their judgments are as valid, reliable and fair as possible.

Conversations should occur before judgments about the quality of work are given to learners. This provides students and parents/carers with confidence that the decisions made are an accurate judgment of achievement.

Quality assurance processes for Senior schooling

The QCAA operates quality assurance processes for internal assessment in Applied, Applied (Essential), General, General (Extension) subjects and Short Courses.

The QCAA quality assurance processes support schools to develop and administer assessment instruments and ensure consistency of judgments about student responses. The processes support the continual improvement of assessment practices in schools.


Purpose of feedback

The purpose of feedback is to provide meaningful information about a student’s strengths and areas for improvement to support them to progress towards their learning goals.

How teachers and students make use of assessment information is vital to understanding and improving learning. Effective feedback encourages self-reflection, allows students to actively monitor and evaluate their own learning, and facilitates self-direction and motivation. Together assessment and feedback support continuous, collaborative, active and self-directed learning.

Characteristics of effective feedback

To support evaluation, self-reflection and improved understanding, feedback should be:

  • ongoing
  • individualised
  • specific to the teaching, learning and assessment related to the standards/descriptions
  • clear, and in language that is readily interpreted by the intended audiences
  • timely, so that students can act on it and adjust their learning
  • collaborative, so that students, teachers and parents/carers all support and participate in the students’ learning
  • delivered in a way to support the learner to reflect, act on the feedback and build their capacity for self-assessment.


Schools should refer to their sector policies for reporting requirements.

Purpose of reporting

The purpose of reporting is to communicate assessment information, formally or informally, to help students, parents/carers, teachers and education authorities make decisions about what students know and can do, including recommendations for their future learning.

Reports/statements may provide:

  • information about progress and achievement to parents/carers and students
  • summaries of the school’s achievements and progress for school communities
  • statewide and national statistical information and analyses to broader educational communities.

Characteristics of effective reporting

To support the effective communication of achievement, areas for improvement, and actions that the student, school and parents/carers might take, reports/statements should be:

  • aligned with the curriculum and assessment
  • defensible, comparable and based on clearly defined achievement standards
  • accurate
  • individualised
  • meaningful
  • in plain English so they are easy to interpret and understand.

The National Education Agreement (Australian Government 2015) underpins the legal obligations of schools and teachers in relation to reporting.


Australian Government 2018, The National School Reform Agreement:

Earl, L M 2013, Assessment as learning: Using classroom assessment to maximise student learning 2nd edn, Corwin, California, USA, ISBN 978-1-4522-4297-2

DeLuca, C, LaPointe-McEwan, D & Luhanga, U 2016, ‘Approaches to classroom assessment inventory: A new instrument to support teacher assessment literacy’, Educational Assessment, vol. 21, issue 4, pp. 248–266,

Masters, G N 2014, ‘Assessment: Getting to the essence’, Designing the Future, issue 1, Centre for Assessment Reform and Innovation,

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) 2020, QCE and QCIA policy and procedures handbook v2.0

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) 2018, Understanding K–12 assessment,

QCAA 2018a, Principles of quality assessment,

QCAA 2018b, Attributes of quality assessment,

Willis, J & Adie, L 2016, ‘Developing teacher formative assessment practices through professional dialogue: Case studies of practice from Queensland, Australia’, paper presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association,Washington DC, 8–12 April,

[1] Diagnostic assessment gathers evidence on a student’s strengths or discrete knowledge and skills. This evidence can inform further support, differentiation or intervention to teaching and learning.

[2] Formative assessment is undertaken throughout the teaching and learning process to determine progress on achieving learning outcomes/objectives. Formative assessment provides the basis for feedback that is used to adjust teaching and learning and can help teachers to differentiate instruction.

[3]Summative assessment is undertaken at defined key points of the teaching and learning process to indicate standards achieved and informs reporting/certification. Summative assessment provides sufficient evidence of learning to make defensible and comparable judgments about the quality of student responses against predetermined standards/objectives.

Back to top