Publication Date



ACER Occasional Essay


Advances in our understanding of human learning require new approaches to assessing and monitoring student learning. Much assessment thinking has changed little over the past fifty years. The field continues to be dominated by twentieth century introductory textbook concepts, including such dichotomies as formative versus summative assessment, criterion-referenced versus norm-referenced testing, quantitative versus qualitative assessment, informal versus formal assessment – distinctions that often hamper rather than promote clear thinking about assessment. Assessment practice also has changed little over this period. Traditional, high-stakes examinations continue to dominate what is taught and learnt in many of our schools and universities. Greater use is now being made of promising new technologies, including banks of online assessment tasks, computer adaptive tests and technology-based assessments of ‘new’ life skills and attributes. However, while emerging technologies are capable of providing more innovative and informative explorations of student learning, much electronic assessment remains pedestrian and underpinned by traditional assessment thinking. At the same time, progress in our understanding of learning itself is challenging long-held assumptions and pointing to the need for a paradigm shift in assessment theory and practice.

Place of Publication

Camberwell, Victoria


Australian Council for Educational Research