​What is Assessment?

Assessment is the process of gathering information from multiple sources in order to understand what a child knows, understands, and can do based on what they make, write, draw, say and do as a result of their learning program. Assessment enables education professionals to gain an understanding of the progress a child has made in their learning and where they are on the learning continuum at a point in time. Assessment is ongoing, continuous and frequent. An education professional will continuously assess children's learning for example by asking questions, having a discussion, observing the child at play or constructing an artefact or writing an essay. These assessments enable the education professional to plan the next steps in the child's learning.

In the early years, assessment by early years practitioners includes a focus on children's health, alongside assessments of learning and development through everyday and play-based experiences.

Early childhood professionals assess the progress of children's learning and development, what children are ready to learn and how they can be supported. All children benefit when assessment reflects a whole-child approach, providing a holistic view of learning and development. Effective early childhood professionals use a range of assessment tools, processes and approaches to build on prior learning, avoid duplication and add value. They understand that families play a vital role in their children's learning and development and are aware of the health and wellbeing of the family when planning for the child's learning and development.



In the school years, assessment is the process through which practitioners work out what children know, understand and can do, and what they will need to know in order to progress in their learning. Assessment of children's  achievement is an essential part of effective teaching and learning. Assessment is a powerful learning tool and children are encouraged to self-assess to reflect on and monitor their own learning to inform their future learning goals and take increasing responsibility for their learning as they progress through school.

Evidence used for school-based assessment may be gathered through written work, models, objects or videos or through teacher observation, participation in class discussions, presentations  and the child's approach to learning.

A partnership between the service or school and families

The key purpose of assessment is to understand where the child is at in their learning. This understanding develops from purposeful assessment by all partners in the child's schooling:

  • practitioner's formal and informal assessment of what the child knows, understands and can do
  • child's self-assessment of their achievement and progress
  • parent's assessment of their child.

When all three work together and share their knowledge about the child's achievement, strengths and challenges, they develop a common understanding about the child's progress in learning. The practitioner uses this information to plan the next steps in the child's learning program. Often this planning is conducted in collaboration with the child and their parents.​​

Different types of assessment

Assessment is a 'point in time' judgement about what the learner has achieved and how much progress they are making in their learning. Assessment informs adjustments practitioners might need to make to a learning program to better meet a learner's needs.

Assessments can be:

  • informal where the feedback gathered is used straight away to influence the direction of the learning, eg through discussion, a question,  and observation of the learner at work. Informal assessment occurs frequently throughout the day, learning activity or play period
  • formal, where the learner​ is presented with a task that requires a particular type of response or set of responses, eg an essay, music performance or test. Formal assessments are often undertaken by all learners at the same time and produce a mark or grade that enables the teacher to make judgements about the achievement of the whole class/group and individual students.

Assessments are sometimes classified as formative and summative:

  • Formative assessment is assessment that occurs throughout the learning program ie it is ongoing during the learning
  • Summative assessment occurs at the end of the learning program ie like a topic test or an essay on a book the learner has read. This assessment is often marked and graded.  Summative assessments are often used to make judgements about how well the child has mastered the learning and to determine the level of achievement against the curriculum standards.               

In practice all assessment can be formative. The results of both a formative and summative assessment enable the teacher to make a judgement about where the child is in their learning and to plan the next steps in the learning.


How practitioners make assessments

Practitioners make assessments based on multiple sources of information from which they can form judgments about learners' specific skills and depth of knowledge and understanding. Assessment tasks are developed with the goals and objectives of the activity, lesson plan or unit of work in mind, and reflect the learning intentions provided to children.

In the early years, practitioners make much use of observation and discussion during interactions with the child. During the school years, teachers use a variety of formal and informal assessment tasks that may include:

  • evaluating learning tasks written to align with the achievement standards published as part of the Victorian F-10 curriculum
  • learner self-assessment and reflection
  • group assessment
  • portfolios
  • learning journals
  • observations
  • presentations
  • demonstrations
  • peer evaluations
  • tests
  • essays
  • presentations
  • performances

Practitioners make on-balance judgments based on evidence gained from the range of formal and informal assessment tasks and learning experiences about a learner's progress in relation to the curriculum standards.



What practitioners assess

Practitioners have different approaches to assessment as children progress along the learning continuum from early childhood and on through school.

Read about the approaches to assessment​ across early years to senior secondary.​​


Characteristics of Effective Assessment​

 The Practice Principle Guide for early childhood professionals (DET, 2014) on assessment for learning and development provides clear direction for early childhood professionals to undertake assessment in line with eight principles.


The principles for assessment of children as they progress through school are articulated in the Principles of Assessment.
















​page updated 29/04/2015