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Making teacher judgments on progress and achievement

Teachers working together.

No single source of information can accurately summarise a student’s progress or achievement. A range of approaches is necessary to compile a comprehensive picture of the areas of progress, areas requiring attention, and what a student’s unique progress looks like. Using a range of approaches allows the student to participate throughout the assessment process and build their assessment capability.

The three elements that comprise teacher judgment of student work, according to Sadler (1988) are:

  • teachers attending to the learning students produce
  • appraising this work against a reference framework
  • making an explicit response such as feedback or judgment on the learner’s work.

Gathering evidence

Teacher judgment for sharing information on progress and achievement for reporting purposes has an added complexity because the judgment is made on a range of evidence. Teachers draw on and apply the evidence gathered up to a particular point in time, in order to make a judgment about a student’s progress and achievement.

The use of a range of evidence builds dependability in decisions. A teacher judgment can be made when the teacher reviews all of the evidence in relation to the benchmarks decided upon by the school, be they curriculum levels or progressions of learning.

Evidence can be gathered in a range of ways, by:

  • observing the process a student uses to complete a learning task. 
    • focused classroom observation
    • student work books
    • rich tasks
    • running records
    • self and peer assessment  
  • conversing with the student to find out what they know, understand and can do.
    • conferencing
    • interviewing
    • questioning
    • explaining
    • discussing
  • gathering results from informal and formal assessments, including standardised tools.

School example – This article, Using a range of information – Reading example shows how evidence is collected from multiple sources in reading. You can see clearly from the example that students are fully involved in the learning and assessment process.

Increasing the dependability of teacher judgments

                                            Select the image to view at full size.

Increasing the dependability of evidence from all sources is fundamental to reaching a valid and defensible judgment on student progress and achievement. Students’ performance in assessments will vary from day to day depending on:

  • the nature of the assessment task
  • the conditions in which the assessment is undertaken
  • the purpose of the assessment
  • the student’s preparation
  • the student’s engagement and motivation.

When teachers experience any inconsistency with assessment information, they should inquire into this further. If the inconsistency cannot be explained by normal variation in students’ performance, then there may be a need to collect further information in order to reach robust judgments. 


Moderation can help to improve the dependability of teacher judgments, and of the evidence that informs and supports them. Teachers should moderate their assessments and their overall judgments of progress and achievement in relation to school benchmarks. This process is discussed in more detail in the Moderation section of this site.

Student participation

Students should actively participate throughout the assessment process. This is a vitally important characteristic of effective assessment for learning.

It benefits the students' assessment capability by clarifying what they know, understand and can do, and what they need to learn next. All students can participate in the assessment process to some degree. As their assessment capability grows and develops, they can become more and more actively involved.

Including the students in the judgment-making process will also give them the confidence to talk about their progress and achievement with their parents, caregivers and whānau.

Involving students – an example illustrates how, through conversation, year 5–6 students become clearer about their learning, progress, and achievement.

Questions and summary

Questions for discussion

  • How can I involve students in the process of making judgments on their progress and achievement in my classroom?
  • How much information do I need to make a judgment?
  • How can I support the judgments I make and how dependable are they?
  • What do I need to do to increase the dependability of my judgments?
  • How does our school manage the moderation of assessments and judgments?


  • Making judgments about progress and achievement involves both student and teacher.
  • There is a need for information from a range of assessment approaches so that decisions are dependable.
  • Moderation improves both the dependability of teacher judgments and the evidence that supports them.
  • Teacher curriculum and pedagogical content knowledge is essential for making dependable judgments.