ACER progressive achievement model

ACER’s progressive achievement model has been developed over many years by ACER’s expert team of test developers and psychometricians to meet a need for high quality tools that support the investigation and diagnosis of pupils' learning, and the implementation of individualised learning strategies.

Achievement in Essential Learning Metrics (ELMs) tests is reported on a described achievement scale. It gives quantitative results (scores) as well as qualitative descriptions of the kinds of skills, knowledge and understanding that is associated with different scores.

ELMs support teachers and help gather evidence to:

  • establish where pupils are in their long-term learning
  • identify the best next steps for action
  • decide on appropriate evidence-based interventions
  • monitor what progress pupils are making over time
  • evaluate the effectiveness of teaching and learning strategies.

The approaches taken to assessing and reporting learning send powerful signals to pupils, parents and the community. Psychologist Carol Dweck has highlighted the importance of promoting a ‘growth mindset’ through assessment processes:

When [teachers and pupils] change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort and mutual support.
(Dweck, 2006, 244)

An assessment approach that focuses on assessing and monitoring pupil growth over time is underpinned by an understanding that pupils of the same age and in the same year of school can be at very different points in their learning and development, and that all pupils are capable of progress given the right learning opportunities. This approach stands in contrast to the ‘lockstep’ assumption that all pupils in the same year of school are at the same point in their learning and draws on research showing that, typically, the most advanced pupils in any school year are five to six years ahead of the least advanced. Under a growth mindset, high expectations are held for every pupil's learning progress, regardless of their starting point.

In addition to useful reporting, teachers have the option to select the appropriate ELMs test level for every pupil, whether they are working towards, at or above age-related expectations. Using an appropriate test level and working with the data helps to gain an understanding of what the pupils can do. This ensures that the wealth of data can be used to inform what teachers do in the classroom and that the results from the assessment return the greatest benefits to pupils.   

In an era of ‘Life without Levels’, ACER’s approach to assessment encourages and supports teachers to work within a ‘growth mindset’, and provides the tools they need to focus their thinking and teaching on improving learning outcomes for every learner. The benefits are likely to be better targeted teaching and thus increased levels of pupil engagement and improved learning outcomes.

Read more in an article by Geoff Masters, ACER's CEO.