Assessment in geography

The Australian Curriculum: Geography (and the subsequent HASS iteration) describes assessment based on achievement standards for each year level. These illustrations aim to support teachers in understanding the standards, and how to apply them in both planning and practice.

The Illustrations of practice provided are:
Illustration 1: Curriculum-based program planning and assessment
Illustration 2: Designing quality assessment


The F-10 Australian Curriculum: Geography is organised in two related strands: Geographical Knowledge and Understanding, and Geographical Inquiry and Skills …
The achievement standards describe expected student learning at each year level. They emphasise the depth of conceptual understanding, the sophistication of skills and the ability to apply essential knowledge expected of students. Achievement standards will be accompanied by sets of annotated student work samples as support material that illustrates actual achievement in relation to the achievement standard.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Australian Curriculum: Geography strands Geographical Knowledge and Understanding and Geographical Inquiry and Skills are interrelated and consequently need to be taught in an integrated way. The strands and achievement standards are written at one-year intervals. The achievement standards describe the expected learning for all students at each year level. They describe what students should know, understand and be able to do after being taught the content.

Knowing and understanding the achievement standards

Within Australian Curriculum: Geography the achievement standards for each year level are described explicitly at the end of the year level section.

The first paragraph of the achievement standard describes what students should know and understand about the geographical concepts at that year level. The second paragraph describes the inquiry skills that are expected for the year level.

Both the geographical concepts and the inquiry skills have been developed to clearly show cognitive progression and sequence of skill development. You will need deep knowledge of the achievement standards in order to plan assessment and teaching activities that allow students to produce evidence of their learning.

One way of knowing what is required is to highlight the concepts and skills in the first and second paragraphs of the achievement standards. This can be done for the year level being taught, and for the year level above and below. By highlighting the verbs in each paragraph the progression of thinking skills will be identified (that is, from describing, to explaining, to analysing). It is also useful to identify the nouns (or concepts) to show what needs to be taught. An example of how you might do this is provided in Geographical nouns and verbs.

It is useful to look at each year level's achievement standard in relation to the content descriptions and find ways that the teaching of the content can be aligned to the learning requirements of the achievement standard.

Using the achievement standards to plan a program and design assessment

Use the key inquiry questions and the content descriptions to identify and understand the 'big ideas' for each year level. Design assessment tasks and activities that allow students to engage with the content and apply their geographical knowledge and skills in authentic ways.

Writing quality assessment tasks that allow a diverse range of students to show what they know, understand and are able to do, is crucial. The tasks must be clearly linked to aspects of the achievement standard allowing students opportunities to demonstrate learning.

The Identifying learning requirements template shows a framework you might use. Illustration 1: Curriculum-based program planning and assessment provides more detail on this.

Progression of learning

The sequence of achievement standards is structured to produce progression through the levels of schooling.

The curriculum starts at the Foundation year level with a few concepts (place and space) and leads to a growing number of geographical concepts which require deeper understanding as students move through the levels of schooling. Concepts are developed from the early years through exploring, investigating and explaining local, regional and global places moving to topics developed around environmental and human geography in Years 7 to 10.

The sophistication of the inquiry skills requires more critical analysis of the evidence and knowledge as students proceed through year levels.

The sequence of achievement standards comprises a progressive map of achievement. You can use this progression to decide where students' current achievement is located.

Evidence of student achievement

Any single task will only provide an opportunity for a student to show learning of limited aspects of the achievement standard. A range of assessments will be required for students to be able to demonstrate their learning against the whole achievement standard. Gather a folio of evidence of their learning which will show what they know, understand and are able to do. Use each student's folio to determine the depth of understanding, sophistication of skills and the extent of their knowledge.

Your professional judgement will enable a decision to be made about a student's achievement against the standard. By collaborating with other teachers, student work can be moderated to provide quality assurance and confidence in reporting to parents and carers.

About the illustrations

Illustration 1: Curriculum-based program planning and assessment provides guidance on how to plan programs and assessments based on Australian Curriculum: Geography. It poses questions for consideration and resources for support (including a process for identifying and planning around learning requirements).

Illustration 2: Designing quality assessment shows how summative and formative assessments can be used to measure student learning. It contains resource materials to support professional learning about assessment measures and teaching practice.