Designing quality assessment

About the illustration

This illustration provides information about assessment methods and principles that can underpin your work in the classroom and be used to measure student learning. Australian Curriculum: Geography requires evidence of student learning across all aspects of the achievement standards for the appropriate year level. This evidence is collected in multiple ways using a range of assessment strategies.


… teaching and learning methods should be supported by forms of assessment that enable students to demonstrate their ability to think geographically and apply geographical skills.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).


An 'on-balance' judgement is made about whether a student has met the standard as described in Australian Curriculum: Geography achievement standard for their year level. 

Classroom application

Summative and formative assessments measure student learning. Summative assessments measure what students know at a particular point in the school year. Formative assessments take place throughout the learning process, allowing for ongoing measurement of student understanding and performance. 

These assessments enable teachers to adjust instruction to better meet the specific learning needs of individual students. 

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is the national body responsible for the development of a national curriculum and assessment that supports 21st century learning for all Australian students. In 1995 they developed Guidelines for assessment quality and equity (PDF, 52 KB) that may be useful to you when planning assessment tasks.

Assessment for learning: 10 principles (PDF, 460 KB) were developed by the Assessment Report Group (ARG) in 2002 and are used in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. This resource illustrates how assessment for learning should:

  • be part of a teacher's effective planning
  • focus on how students learn
  • be a central feature of classroom practice
  • be seen as a key professional skill for all teachers
  • be viewed as a sensitive and constructive process
  • never underestimate the importance of student motivation
  • encourage a shared understanding of the criteria by which learning goals are assessed
  • ensure learners receive constructive guidance on how to improve their learning
  • develop learners' capacity for self-assessment
  • recognise the full range of educational achievement.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) provides information about types of assessment and standards to support teachers. Standard 5 (Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning) provides focus areas and descriptors to assist teachers with an understanding of what constitutes teacher quality in the area of assessment and reporting. The illustrations of practice include a range of videos and exemplars that show what teacher quality looks like in the school and the classroom.

The Australian Geography Teachers Association has published Professional standards for accomplished teaching of school geography (PDF, 544 KB). Standard 7 clearly makes explicit what accomplished teachers will be doing in planning, assessing and reporting. 

Questions for discussion

When designing an assessment task using the achievement standards, ask:

  • Which aspects of the achievement standard will be addressed in each assessment task?
  • What assessment opportunities will provide for students to achieve at an excellent level?
  • What assessment opportunities will provide for all students to meet the achievement standard?
  • Are there questions in the task which require higher-order cognitive ability? 
  • Do students know from the beginning what the criteria for success is? Does this have to be a rubric?

Questions for reflection

When collaborating with colleagues on designing assessment tasks, ask:

  • Will working with other geography teachers to design common assessment tasks be useful?
  • Are common tasks useful to quality assure assessment? Can teachers work together within and across schools to produce these?
  • How will teachers work together to collaboratively moderate student work to ensure reliable assessment?
  • How did teachers provide feedback along the way? Which feedback was most successful in more students achieving the standard?


Books and articles:

Australasian Curriculum, Assessment and Certification Authorities (ACACA). Guidelines for Assessment Quality and Equity (PDF, 51.50 KB). Retrieved November 2012, from:

Weeden. P. & Lambert, D. (2006). Geography inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the geography classroom. Sheffield: Geographical Association.


Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: .

Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA). Retrieved November 2012, from:

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved November 2012, from:

General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland. Access to research resources for teachers (ARRT) space. Retrieved November 2012, from:

Geographical Association: Geography. Geography Trainer Induction Programme (GTIP). GTIP Think piece - assessment for learning. More reading about formative assessment in geography. Retrieved November 2012, from:

Other relevant resources are contained in the sections above.