In schools across Australia, teachers have long been crying out for more time to improve their students’ learning outcomes, and fortunately, these calls are being answered.
Recently, Federal, State, and Territory Governments have been placing a stronger focus on improving student assessment through emphasising quality teaching, a less cluttered curriculum, and promoting effective, evidence-backed teaching strategies in the classroom.
There has also been a move towards online adaptive testing for more precise assessments and a focus on lifting student achievement to meet national standards in literacy and numeracy.
However, in 2024, a major challenge remains how to produce a test that addresses the inequities in the current assessment model.
One organisation that has been at the forefront of efforts to resolve this is Janison, a Sydney-based edtech company that delivers more than ten million online assessments annually in 120 countries. Since 1998, Janison’s assessments have been helping teachers, students and governments achieve meaningful educational outcomes through measuring knowledge and providing key insights.
A strategic approach to student assessment
Matt Linn, School Partnership Executive at Janison, has more than a decade of experience in education, including as a high school teacher and leader within South Australia’s schools and regional offices. His role took him into behaviour support for 40 regional schools and to departmental curriculum lead and principal consultant across 32 schools before he joined Janison.
Drawing from the work Linn has done with Australian education over the past year, Linn sees some key challenges for schools when it comes to student assessment.
“Student assessment holds a crucial role in evaluating learners' progress. Its fundamental purpose lies in identifying the specific learning needs of individual students and entire classes, serving as a foundation for tailored instruction, interventions, and support strategies,” Linn told The Educator.
“Australian schools grapple with multifaceted challenges in relation to student assessment. Striking a balance between the use of summative assessments for grading, ongoing formative assessments for continuous feedback, and standardised assessments for benchmarking is complex.”
Linn said there is also an increasing acknowledgment of the imperative to integrate skills like critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration into assessment frameworks, ensuring students are adequately prepared for future societal and workforce demands.
“One of the most pressing challenges revolves around accurately interpreting the data generated by assessments, including standardised assessments, to discern students' learning needs,” he said.
“Educators are dedicated to equipping themselves with the knowledge and strategies required to implement effective instructional approaches.”
However, Linn said the question often remains, how can educators be confident if they are implementing the appropriate strategy or intervention for the situation they are presented with?
“Navigating these challenges goes beyond extracting meaningful insights from assessment data; it involves providing educators with the necessary tools and support to respond to the evidence and enact impactful interventions and enhancements in teaching practices.”
Empowering teachers with quality decisions
Linn says that as we move deeper into the new year, effective student assessment “should evolve beyond traditional measures of academic knowledge to encompass a holistic view of a student's capabilities and potential.”
“It should be driven by clear objectives aimed at not just evaluating performance but also fostering growth and development in students. Assessments should serve as diagnostic tools, guiding educators in tailoring instruction to meet individual student needs,” he said.
“Furthermore, assessment should extend beyond the confines of the classroom, reflecting real-world scenarios and challenges.”
Linn said this could involve simulations, and performance tasks that mirror authentic situations students may encounter in their future endeavours.
“By engaging students in such tasks, assessment becomes more meaningful, promoting deeper learning and skill acquisition,” he said.
“At Janison, we’re privileged to work alongside schools to ensure that they have access to a broad range of high quality, rigorous student assessment data.”
Linn said Janison are big believers that quality assessment data is “a powerful first step towards quality decision making.”
“We actively work with schools to ensure all aspects of gathering diagnostic evidence runs smoothly. From assessment administration, supported by our team, through to results and reporting.”
Linn said Janison’s team of experts actively work hand in hand with school leaders and teachers to ensure that the data gathered is rigorously analysed and understood with contextual relevance.
“Our goal is to empower teachers and leaders in making high quality instructional decisions that support the growth of each learner.”
Where to from here?
When asked what role he sees technology playing in making sure student assessment is both rigorous, comprehensive in scope, and meaningful, Linn said that as student assessment methodologies evolve, the integration of technology, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI), emerges as “a transformative force”.
However, he notes that it is important to recognise that while AI offers a wealth of valuable information, its effectiveness hinges upon the quality of the input data.
“This principle lies at the core of our work at Janison. We strive to harness AI's immense potential while ensuring the integrity of the data, analysis, and feedback, aligning them with the instructional needs of educational settings,” he said.
“AI's capacity to analyse extensive student data enables the creation of personalised assessments, refining evaluation methods to cater to individual learning requirements.”
Linn said this approach not only fosters a nuanced understanding of each student's strengths and areas for growth but also fosters a more accurate and equitable evaluation process.
“The adoption of adaptive assessment platforms, driven by AI, introduces dynamic adjustments in question difficulty and content based on individual student responses. This adaptive approach offers a comprehensive measure of proficiency, encompassing diverse skill sets and knowledge domains,” he said.
“It advocates for a departure from traditional memorisation techniques, promoting active application of knowledge in varied contexts and fostering a deeper comprehension and practical application of learned concepts.”
Linn also pointed out that AI's ability to automate scoring and grading processes for specific assessments alleviates educators from routine tasks, enhancing efficiency and allowing them to focus on interpreting results and delivering tailored feedback and instruction.
“This results in a more personalised and timely response to each student's unique learning needs,” he said.
“A groundbreaking advancement at the intersection of AI and assessment is evident in result analysis and its implications for instructional approaches.”
Linn said AI possesses the potential to “meticulously scrutinise student performance data, offering a diverse array of evidence-based instructional recommendations.”
“These insights, derived from extensive research and data analysis, not only pinpoint effective strategies tailored to specific contexts. They also have the capacity to empower teachers in optimising tier 1 instruction, thus better accommodating the diverse needs of the entire class.”
Schools can contact Matt Linn or the team of Janison Assessments experienced consultants to discuss their 2024 assessment needs. Matt can be contacted via email at [email protected], or submit an enquiry via this page.