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Growth mindset: Tracking student progress

Progress in most areas of learning occurs over time, so it is important to be able to track the long-term progress that students make.

Tracking the long-term progress of our students requires a shift in mindset, writes Professor Geoff Masters AO, Chief Executive of ACER, in Teacher.

Rather than judging and grading all students on how well they have learnt what they have just been taught, assessment becomes a process of establishing and understanding where individuals are in their long-term progress. This means identifying the points they have reached – usually what they know, understand and can do at the time of assessment – and monitoring the progress they make over time.

A growth mindset in assessment includes a belief that, regardless of where students are in their learning at any given time, every student is capable of making further progress, Professor Masters explains.

Although students of the same age may be at very different points in their learning and may be progressing at different rates, every student is considered capable of successful progress if they are:

  • engaged
  • motivated to make the necessary effort, and
  • given appropriate and well-targeted learning challenges and opportunities.

Map of the learning domain

If we are to monitor long-term learning progress and meet individual learners at their points of need, Professor Masters explains, we require a ‘map’ of long-term progress in a learning domain to establish where students are in their learning.

An essential feature of such a map is that it describes what it means to learn, develop, grow or improve. In most areas of learning, progress occurs as students acquire more advanced knowledge, deeper understandings and more sophisticated skills. A map describes and gives examples of increasing levels of knowledge, understanding and skill. Importantly, a map of this kind describes progress across a number of years of learning. It is more than a specification of what students are expected to learn; it is a picture of how learning occurs in practice, informed by student performance data.

The advantages of a well-mapped learning domain – accompanied by quality assessment processes for establishing where students are in their progress within the domain – include the possibility of teachers, parents and students developing shared understandings of:

  • the points individuals have reached in their learning at the time of assessment
  • the knowledge, skills and understandings typically associated with those levels of attainment (by referring to the described proficiency levels)
  • the kinds of teaching and learning likely to be beneficial in promoting further progress, and
  • the progress (or growth) individuals make across the years of school.

Monitoring growth in this way depends on a growth mindset – a willingness to think in terms of long-term progress and to believe that every learner is capable of further growth, regardless of their current level of attainment. â– 

Further information:

Read the extended article published in Teacher at


About the author

Professor Geoff Masters AO is the Chief Executive of ACER. 

More [rd] articles by Geoff Masters

View selected works of Geoff Masters

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