Online Formative Assessment Initiative

The Online Formative Assessment Initiative is developing a world-leading solution to the challenge of matching classroom experience to the learning needs of students. The initiative is developing the solution in collaboration with the teaching profession, school leaders, parents/carers and students.

This initiative aims to provide Australian teachers with innovative assessment solutions that integrate resources, data collection and analytical tools in a Teaching Tools Network that is easily accessible, interactive and scalable to meet future needs. The network will be opt-in and on-demand: and will build on existing systems and approaches.

The initiative will give teachers the tools, flexibility and professional learning they need to plan teaching that will work best for the students in their classroom. It will also give students more insight into their learning and better understanding about next steps to improve progress.

Stay up to date by signing up to the newsletter on the Contact Us page. You can read the April 2020,  August 2020, October 2020, December 2020, April 2021 and June 2021 newsletters about the initiative; and also download an Information Sheet.

A video was produced in April 2021 that shows the latest version of the prototype. You can view the video and give feedback here.

When will the work be completed?

The initiative is currently in the alpha phase, following the discovery phase that took place in 2019.

Alpha phase is focused on building prototypes and testing these with teachers and school leaders from all over Australia. You can sign up on the Contact Us page to get involved.

Steps after alpha will be determined by Education Council in 2021, with the Teaching Tools Network expected to be in use in classrooms in 2022.


Who is involved?

Prototypes are tested with Australian teachers and school leaders, and the profession’s views and voices are regularly captured through a representative group.

The Online Formative Assessment Initiative is a cross-agency project involving:

Key stakeholders have also been involved in the consultations alongside project reference groups to provide oversight and input into all phases of the initiative.

Most importantly, the initiative has convened a Teacher Practice Reference Group (TPRG) to  ensure that the views and voices of the profession are central to all aspects of the initiative. The TPRG has representatives from each state and territory; from across early childhood through to secondary; from small rural schools to large metropolitan schools.

Why are we building this?

Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Excellence in Australian Schools (Excellence Review) found that structured and individually focused learning progressions can help teachers to better support students’ success and growth. The Excellence Review proposed that student progress may be best achieved when teachers have the appropriate tools, resources and expertise to use formative assessments to help them understand how their individual students are learning.

At the end of 2018 all states, territories and the Commonwealth signed the National School Reform Agreement and agreed to progress a ‘learning progressions and online formative assessment national initiative’ (the initiative) to investigate how best to implement this knowledge.

In March 2019; ESA, ACARA and AITSL, under the governance of the Education Council, were asked to undertake an initial ‘discovery’ phase to consider how this initiative could work. The discovery phase began in May 2019, and findings were reported to education ministers in December 2019. The ministers agreed to proceed to an alpha phase that started in 2020.

The Teaching Tools Network will:

  • help teachers bring together information about student learning from a range of tools or resources that they might already be using
  • create a coherent view of progress that can be shared with the students and parents
  • support collaborative planning between teachers, by providing easily accessible, shareable, coherent and consistent views of student learning.

What we are doing in the alpha phase

Imagine if teachers and students had a set of tools and the in-class support to make effective decisions that helped improve individual student learning outcomes in every classroom.

The Online Formative Assessment Initiative is a coordinated national response to lift educational outcomes by providing innovative tools and new resources for teachers and students, as well as professional learning and support for teachers.

Teachers need evidence and information about student learning that is reliable and useful. Then they need the resources to plan and to support their own professional judgment. Finally, they need to know what they can do to have the greatest positive impact on their students’ progress.

Students will benefit from better insights, informative feedback and more targeted teaching, which will help them better understand their own learning progress and achieve their next learning steps.

During the alpha phase initiative (now underway) the initiative team is working to design and test the tools and processes to take this idea from vision to reality, incorporating input from front-line teachers, school leaders, parents/carers and students. As well as creating innovative resources and solutions, the Online Formative Assessment Initiative will develop an evidence base of best practice.

The project team understand the importance of having well-prepared, knowledgeable teachers who have the flexibility and the right tools to help students learn. This is why we put the needs of teachers and students at the heart of the initiative.

Achieving the right outcomes depends on having the right inputs

When teachers know what their students need, they can plan and teach in a more targeted way.

The Online Formative Assessment Initiative is designing a Teaching Tools Network that will assist teachers to identify where students are, what they need, and what resources will be most useful to support learning progress.

Teachers will have seamless online access to the data and the resources they need to adapt their teaching practice to meet the needs of their students. These digital tools can complement the ways teachers are already working. Students will also have access to information about their own learning progress.

In the short-term, the alpha phase of the project will develop innovative prototype solutions and products to support teachers to work more efficiently and effectively. Once complete, these solutions will be delivered in a purpose-built system capable of automatically connecting students, teachers and data in a way that supports informed decision-making.

The architecture of the system will be designed to make information about students’ learning progress and achievement visible to the students, teachers and school leaders in a meaningful and accessible format including:

  • a user-friendly dashboard for teachers and students that incorporates data visualisation and feedback tools for formative assessment
  • access to useful observational evidence that will help in the design of a teaching plan
  • access to useful digital resources for both students and teachers
  • a simple and seamless single sign-on process with support for mobile devices
  • a suite of professional development options for teachers and school leaders to support and assist effective implementation.

In the longer term, the initiative will build on current good practice and support the collection of empirical evidence about effective formative assessment practices, as well as valuable classroom observations, insights, and suggestions from teachers and students. When bundled together on the new national network, all elements of the Online Formative Assessment Initiative will create an empirical evidence base of effective practices available to teachers across Australia.

Input from teachers and school leaders, as well as students and parents, is necessary to ensure that the tools and processes created as part of the initiative are informed by their needs. The Online Formative Assessment Initiative will be successful when it is embedded in the national education landscape and gains a reputation for helping teachers in their day-to-day work.

What we learned in the discovery phase

The discovery phase of the project was completed at the end of 2019. In the discovery phase, there were three main areas of work:

  • researching learning progressions and aligned assessments
  • engagement with teachers to understand what they need and how they want to be able to work
  • research into professional learning that could support successful implementation of new practices.

Work was completed on updating the National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions (NLNLPs), and a new Version 3 will be used in the alpha phase.

Consultation with teachers and other stakeholders has given the project team insight into what users want from the Online Formative Assessment Initiative. This will now inform the alpha phase, where tools, resources, protocols and processes will be prototyped and tested, including the preparation of professional development for teachers.

The user-centred design approach that informed the discovery phase will also guide the alpha phase of the initiative.

You can read more about the discovery phase in the discovery phase reports.

Consultation and user research

The Online Formative Assessment Initiative has built stakeholder consultation and engagement into all stages of the project.

Throughout the discovery phase, the process of consultation with teachers and school leaders; suppliers; curriculum and assessment specialists; as well as students and parents/carers, across all systems and jurisdictions, enabled the project team to make sure that the proposed solution would meet the needs of various stakeholders. This process revealed that teachers want access to a consistent and coherent system that includes resources, assessments, plans, suggested classroom practice, and professional development to better support student learning.

You can read more about our user research findings from the discovery phase in the discovery phase reports.

In the alpha phase, prototypes are being tested by teachers, school leaders, parents/carers and students. You can sign up to help below.