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What is student-centred assessment?

As we work through the student-centred assessment approaches provided over the next 4 weeks, we will reflect on how our own learning was measured.
Four adult students working around a whiteboard

Principles and practices

Although we will be looking at a range of assessments, the components of good assessment practice do not vary. To provide a robust assessment, all assessments should:

  • Align across the sector (i.e. not too different in other organisations)
  • Align with programme demands (i.e. not too hard/easy)
  • Align with the learning outcomes
  • Assess only what was taught (i.e. doesn’t assess for additional knowledge)
  • Be fit for purpose (i.e. does what it says it does: e.g. screening assessment that screens; diagnostic assessment that diagnoses)
  • Be clear and specific with visible and up-front requirements and conditions
  • Have no hidden surprises (i.e. no trick questions, prizes, or penalties)

Other aspects of good assessment practice include:


Authenticity in assessment applies in two different ways. First, it relates to ensuring a learner’s written and online assessment submissions are their own. Strategies to ensure this include previewing drafts or exemplars, or the provision of verbal summaries of assessment outcomes, prior to assessment.

Authenticity also applies to what and where an assessment is occurring. For example, an assessment that occurs in the workplace and/or community, using assessment tools and techniques to measure outcomes that relate to these “real-life” contexts are examples of authentic assessment.

Consistency and reliability

Both students and assessors need assurance that:

  • Assessor judgements are applied equitably across all learners for the same or similar assessments
  • Fair and valid assessment practices and procedures are applied equitably across all learners
  • The possibility of unfair or variable assessor judgements is mitigated by marking matrices and judgement statements
  • Marking matrices and judgement statements are visible and available to all learners


Fair assessment should not advantage or disadvantage any student. Examples of unfair assessment include:

  • Unclear assessment instructions
  • Confused or ambiguous language in the body of the assessment
  • Any form of bias (e.g. gender, age, ethnicity, impairment)
  • An assessment approach and/or materials that excludes a learner or limit a learner’s ability to succeed
  • Insufficient preparation and study time for an assessment
  • Rescheduling an assessment during a teaching period without consulting students


Sufficiency usually sits within a judgement statement to guide assessor decisions and applies to the amount and standard of evidence provided by a learner, for example:

  • Has the learner provided enough evidence to verify the achievement of the required outcomes?
  • Is the evidence provided to the required standard or level?
  • Is a sufficient number of examples given to fully demonstrate the achievement of the required outcomes?


Prior to an assessment, are the following visible and the learners informed of and understand:

  • What is to be assessed
  • How they are to be assessed
  • The assessment and marking criteria
  • Where to seek clarification
  • Opportunities for concessions
  • The timeframe for results
  • The feedback, reassessment, and complaints procedures

Image of a clear glass ball on a beach

The English word ‘transparent’ describes something than is clear and can be seen through, like clear glass or water. Interestingly, the traditional te reo Māori word for assessment: ‘aromatawai’ means ‘clear like water’, reminding us that assessment should always be clear, and transparent.


Validity refers to the extent that which a test measures what it is supposed to measure.

Aspects of validity in assessment include, providing (a):

  • Clear statement of what is being assessed
  • Clear measure of success (i.e. percentages, grades, marks, or criteria) and an indication of how these measures are applied
  • Method of assessment that matches what is being measured (e.g. setting a written assignment for a skills-based assessment) and
  • Assessment tools that match the assessment method
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Adult Education Essentials: Assessment for Learning Principles and Practices

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