Progressive Achievement Tests (PAT) Launch

Assessment - Getting to the Essence

Tuesday 11 August 2015



Keynote address by Professor Geoff Masters AO

Podcast available HERE (mp3 format 24MB)

With presentations from the Hon Susan Close MP, Minister for Education and Child Development and Mr Tony Harrison, Chief Executive, DECD.

DECD Launch of Key Initiative - Progressive Achievement Testing (PAT) celebrates the partnership between the Department for Education and Child Development and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and highlights the importance of measuring growth in student achievement.

The program includes a keynote presentation from Professor Geoff Masters, Chief Executive, ACER followed by a panel discussion with Professor Stephen Dobson, Head of School of Education, UniSA and Jayne Johnston, Chief Education Officer, DECD.

Keynote Address:
Assessment: Getting to the essence, by Professor Geoff Masters AO

Over recent decades, assessment of student learning has increasingly been put in the spotlight. Assessment of student learning is now expected to provide detailed, quality information that educators can draw on in multiple ways. Teachers and parents look to assessment of student learning to:

  • determine starting points for teaching
  • measure student learning and performance
  • monitor improvements and growth in learning to evaluate interventions
  • motivate students and encourage goal-setting and self-monitoring
  • provide feedback to plan and guide next steps in teaching and learning.

This increased focus on assessment has led to advances in theory and practice. The starting point in both theory and practice is to recognise that there is only one fundamental purpose of assessment in education: to establish and understand where learners are in an aspect of their learning at the time of assessment.

To establish the points that learners have reached in an area or domain of learning, such as Reading or Math, a map of the scope of the learning is required, preferably a map that is theoretically underpinned. The map has both a horizontal axis or structure, for example, the various knowledge and skills that are sub-components of Reading or Math, and a vertical axis or structure, which describes the progressive stages of long-term learning for each of the component areas of knowledge and skills.

PAT tests plot points of reference for on-going learning design. They are designed to investigate and diagnose student learning and to monitor progress or ‘growth’ in learning over time. In adopting and using the PAT tests, teachers are working within a ‘growth mindset’. The benefits are likely to be better targeted teaching and thus increased levels of student engagement and improved learning outcomes.

Speaker biographies:

Professor Geoff N Masters AO is Chief Executive Officer of ACER and Head of the Centre for Assessment Reform & Innovation.  He has a PhD in educational measurement from the University of Chicago and has published widely in the fields of educational assessment and research. He authored Australian Education Review No. 57, Reforming Educational Assessment: Imperatives, principles and challenges (2013) and provides regular advice on assessment to teachers, school leaders and policy makers. He will speak on assessment at events across Australia in 2015, including ACER's Excellence in Professional Practice Conference and Research Conference 2015, both of which will focus on assessment reform and innovation.

Tony Harrison was appointed to lead the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) in July 2013. He has a strong background in public administration in addition to matters pertaining to child protection. He is also a keen advocate for supporting those with a disability, particularly children and young people.

Mr Tony Harrison, Chief Executive, DECD
Mr Harrison has extensive experience in high level organisational management, through his previous work as a Police Assistant Commissioner with SAPOL, as Director- General, Community Safety, and as Chief Executive of the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission.  He is also the serving President of Minda Incorporated, the largest disability provider in South Australia.

As a member of the Australian Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs Senior Officials Committee (AEEYSOC) Mr Harrison has contributed to advancing the strategic role of national Directors General of education.

In 2014 Mr Harrison took on the national role of Chair of the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Advisory Group (ATSIEAG).  In his role as chair of the ATSIEAG and as a member of AEEYSOC Mr Harrison has an important role in supporting the Education Council to achieve its priority actions and fulfil its planning, monitoring and reporting responsibilities. The Advisory Group has responsibility for the development of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy.

Mr Harrison is committed to supporting the delivery of professional and contemporary education, child protection, and child development services. He is focused on ensuring the delivery of a highly integrated service delivery model to ensure young people are afforded the opportunity to reach their full potential in life.

Professor Stephen Dobson, Head of School of Education, UniSA
Professor Dobson was born in Zambia (1963), grew up in England and has previously lived for many years in Norway. Prior to entering higher education he worked for thirteen years with refugees as a community worker. His research and teaching interests include assessment, professional development, refugee studies, bildung, inclusion and classroom studies. He has published one collection of poetry. He is guest professor at the Centre for Life Long Learning, Lillehammer University College, Norway. Dobson is fluent in Scandinavian languages.

Jayne Johnston, Chief Education Officer, Department for Education and Child Development
Jayne joined the Department for Education and Child Development on 3 February 2014 as the State’s Chief Educator. She works alongside Chief Executive Tony Harrison in shaping educational strategy and policy to improve academic outcomes for all South Australian children while ensuring their wellbeing in the State’s schools. 

Jayne has a strong focus on performance improvement and her skills will be used to further build on strategies to lift literacy and numeracy results. She is a member of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) Board.

Jayne has previously held senior positions in the education sectors in Western Australia and the ACT in both metropolitan and country locations, and worked in tertiary education. She has also overseen widespread curriculum changes and developed new initiatives to support greater school accountability.

Jayne is committed to further developing a vigorous, high quality public education system. She is focused on having a real impact in contributing to the opportunities and aspirations of children and young people, and in shaping the social and economic wellbeing of our communities.


Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, the Department for Education and Child Development and the Australian Council for Educational Research


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