The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 445–470 | Cite as

Towards fairer assessment

  • Val KlenowskiEmail author


Drawing on the largest Australian collection and analysis of empirical data on multiple facets of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in state schools to date, this article critically analyses the systemic push for standardized testing and improved scores, and argues for a greater balance of assessment types by providing alternative, inclusive, participatory approaches to student assessment. The evidence for this article derives from a major evaluation of the Stronger Smarter Learning Communities. The first large-scale picture of what is occurring in classroom assessment and pedagogy for Indigenous students is reported in this evaluation yet the focus in this article remains on the issue of fairness in student assessment. The argument presented calls for “a good balance between formative and summative assessment” (OECD, Synergies for Better Learning An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, Pointers for Policy Development, 2013) at a time of unrelenting high-stakes, standardized testing in Australia with a dominance of secondary as opposed to primary uses of NAPLAN data by systems, schools and principals. A case for more “intelligent accountability in education” (O’Neill, Oxford Review of Education 39(1):4–16, 2013) together with a framework for analyzing efforts toward social justice in education (Cazden, International Journal of Educational Psychology 1(3):178–198, 2012) and fairer assessment make the case for more alternative assessment practices in recognition of the need for teachers’ pedagogic practice to cater for increased diversity.


Student assessment Fairness Intelligent accountability Social justice Indigenous education 



This article is based on research and evaluation, which was funded by Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and conducted by a team of colleagues. The views represented in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of DEEWR, the Stronger Smarter Institute and the Stronger Smarter Learning Communities Project nor the authors of the Formative and Summative Evaluations of the Stronger Smarter Learning Communities Project.


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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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