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Research Developments from ACER


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A learning pathway

A commitment to every student’s progress on a learning pathway invites particular ways of thinking about learning, learners, teaching, the curriculum, assessment and the reporting of student achievement, writes Geoff Masters.

The way we conceive learning, learners, teaching, the curriculum, assessment and the reporting of student achievement can support the progress of all students, says Professor Geoff Masters AO, Chief Executive of ACER.

Writing in Teacher Magazine, Professor Masters says a useful starting point is to understand successful learning in terms of the progress students make on a well-articulated learning pathway.

‘From this perspective, two students who begin at different starting points but make equal progress might be considered to have learnt equally well, despite their different end points,’ he writes.

As Professor Masters notes, current understandings of learning and brain plasticity invite us to think differently about learners.

‘Today we are much less inclined to place limits on what individuals can learn given time and the right conditions. This view recognises that students of the same age will be at different points in their learning and may be progressing at different rates, but sees every learner as capable of making good learning progress,’ he writes.

When students are widely dispersed in their levels of attainment, Professor Masters observes, effective teaching depends first on establishing and understanding where individuals are in their learning and second on providing well-targeted and differentiated teaching and learning opportunities to meet their needs.

The curriculum can support this, he explains, if we think in terms of a continuous path of progress within an area of learning and recognise that, in any given year of school, students are widely spread out along this path.

‘Importantly, the construction of a map of long-term progress in an area of learning depends on empirical evidence about the nature of learning within that area, including the role of prerequisites, typical sequences and learning progressions,’ Professor Masters writes.

Such a view of the curriculum also requires an understanding of the purpose of assessments to establish and understand where learners are in their long-term learning progress, and an understanding of the role of reporting to support learning.  The purpose of reporting is to support learning by informing students, and their parents, about the specifics of what students know, understand and can do, and the progress they are making over time. ■

Read the full article:

A commitment to growth’, written by Geoff Masters and published in Teacher, is available at

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