Fairer Assessment for Indigenous Students: An Australian Perspective

  • Val KlenowskiEmail author
Part of the The Enabling Power of Assessment book series (EPAS, volume 3)


Drawing on the largest collection and analysis of empirical data on multiple facets of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in state schools to date, this chapter critically analyses the systemic push for standardised testing and improved scores in Australia, and argues for a greater balance of assessment types. Alternative, inclusive, participatory approaches to student assessment are recommended. Research evidence from a major evaluation of the Stronger Smarter Learning Communities (SSLC) project conducted by a Core Evaluation Team based at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Faculty of Education underpins this argument for fairer assessment and ethical leadership. This evaluation presents the first large-scale picture of what is occurring in classroom assessment and pedagogy for Indigenous students; however the focus in this chapter remains on leadership and student assessment. Additional evidence is drawn from an Australian Research Council Linkage project that sought to explore ways to improve learning outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through fairer assessment practices. At a time of unrelenting high-stakes, standardised testing in Australia with a dominance of secondary as opposed to primary uses of student achievement data by systems, schools and leaders, formative as well as summative purposes of assessment are called for with more alternative student assessment incorporated in teachers’ pedagogic practices to cater for increased student diversity and to recognise the cultural needs of Indigenous students.


Student assessment Fairness Accountability Testing Indigenous education 



The author would like to acknowledge the joint funding arrangement between the Australian Research Council, Queensland University of Technology, the Independent Schools of Queensland and the Catholic Education Diocese of Townsville.

Acknowledgement is also made for the funding received from the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the evaluation and research completed by the members of the Core Research Team.


  1. Ainscow, M. (2010). Achieving excellence and equity: Reflections on the development of practices in one local district over 10 years. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 21(1), 75–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angus, L. (2006). Educational leadership and the imperative of including student voices, student interest, and students’ lives in the mainstream. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 9(4), 369–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bishop, R., O’Sullivan, D., & Berryman, M. (2010). Scaling up education reform: Addressing the politics of disparity. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER Press.Google Scholar
  4. Carrington, S. B. (1999). Inclusion needs a different school culture. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 3(3), 257–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cazden, C. B. (2001). Classroom discourse: The language of teaching and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  6. Cazden, C. (2012). A framework for social justice in education. International Journal of Educational Psychology, 1(3), 178–198. doi: 10.4471/ijep.2012.11.Google Scholar
  7. Cobb, P., Confrey, J., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2003). Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 9–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Comber, B., & Kamler, B. (2004). Getting out of deficit: Pedagogies of reconnection. Teaching Education, 15(3), 293–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Comber, B., & Kamler, B. (2009). Sustaining the next generation of teacher-researchers to work for social justice. In B. Somekh & S. Noffke (Eds.), Handbook of educational action research (pp. 177–185). London, UK: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2008). National report to parliament on Indigenous education and training, 2006. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government.Google Scholar
  11. DEEWR. (2012). Indigenous overview. Retrieved from
  12. Duignan, P. (2012). Educational leadership: Together creating ethical learning environments (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dyson, A., Howes, A., & Roberts, B. (2002). A systematic review of the effectiveness of school-level actions for promoting participation by all students (EPPI-Centre Review, version 1.1). Research Evidence in Education Library. London, UK: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  14. Ehrich, L., Klenowski, V., Harris, J., Smeed, J., Carrington, S., & Ainscow, M. (2013, September 3–5). Ethical leadership in a time of increasing accountability. Paper presented at British Educational Research Association annual conference. Brighton, England.Google Scholar
  15. Fraser, N. (2000). Rethinking recognition. New left review, 3(May–June), 107–119. Retrieved from
  16. Fullan, M., & Hargreaves, A. (1992). What’s worth fighting for in your school? Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gipps, C. (1994). Beyond testing. London, UK: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gipps, C., & Stobart, G. (2009). Fairness in assessment. In C. Wyatt-Smith & J. J. Cumming (Eds.), Educational assessment in the 21st century: Connecting theory and practice (pp. 105–118). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9964-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gordon Commission. (2013). A public policy statement, The Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education. Retrieved from
  20. Hipwell, P., & Klenowski, V. (2011). A case for addressing the literacy demands of student assessment. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 34(2), 127–146.Google Scholar
  21. Klenowski, V., & Wyatt-Smith, C. (2012). The impact of high stakes testing: The Australian story. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, 19(1), 65–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Koretz, D. (2008). Measuring up: What educational testing really tells us. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Luke, A., Cazden, C., Coopes, R., Klenowski, V., Ladwig, J., Lester, J., … Woods, A. (2013, March). A summative evaluation of the stronger smarter learning communities project, Report (Vol. 1). Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.Google Scholar
  24. Mahuika, R., Berryman, M., & Bishop, R. (2011). Issues of culture and assessment in New Zealand education pertaining to Māori students. Assessment Matters, 3, 183–198.Google Scholar
  25. Murphy, P., Hall, K., McCormick, R., & Drury, R. (2008). Curriculum, learning and society: Investigating practice (Study guide, masters in education). Maidenhall, UK: Open University.Google Scholar
  26. O’Neill, O. (2002). A question of trust: The BBC Reith Lectures. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. O’Neill, O. (2013). Intelligent accountability in education. Oxford Review of Education, 39(1), 4–16. doi: 10.1080/03054985.2013.764761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. OECD. (2013). Synergies for better learning: An international perspective on evaluation and assessment, pointers for policy development. Retrieved from
  29. Strathern, M. (1997). Improving ratings: Audit in the British university system. European Review, 5, 305–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Learning and Professional Studies, Faculty of EducationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations