Frequently asked questions
Benefits of the initiative
National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions
Definitions of learning progressions vary, as do the purposes for which they are used and the ways in which they can be developed and structured.
In December 2019, the Education Council agreed to a common definition of ‘national learning progressions’, i.e. the learning progressions developed by ACARA, aligned to the Australian Curriculum and used as a foundation for the Online Formative Assessment Initiative.
National learning progressions describe the skills, understandings and capabilities that students typically acquire as their proficiency increases in a particular aspect of the curriculum over time. They describe the learning pathway(s) along which students typically progress in particular aspects of the curriculum, regardless of age or year level. Learning progressions are designed to help teachers ascertain the stage of learning reached, identify any gaps in skills and knowledge, and plan for the next step to progress learning.
You can view an animation about learning progressions on our website.
National learning progressions sit within the broader framework of the Australian Curriculum. They supplement and underpin the Australian Curriculum; they do not replace the Australian Curriculum. The content descriptions and achievement standards of the curriculum continue to be the focus for planning, programming, teaching and assessment in relation to the Australian Curriculum.
The Australian Curriculum identifies what students need to learn; national learning progressions describe the learning pathway(s) along which students typically progress in particular aspects of the curriculum regardless of age or year level.
Formative assessment is used to identify where learners are to inform teaching practice. Formative assessment can help teachers understand students’ knowledge, skills, understandings and what they have and haven’t learned. Once teachers have identified where learners are, they can decide to continue or adjust their teaching to meet the learners' needs. Formative assessment is most effective at improving student learning outcomes when it involves regular, targeted and embedded feedback.
Once teachers have used formative assessment to identify where the students are, NLNLPs can be used as a framework to provide feedback to students on current achievement and trajectories of learning using a common language. NLNLPs also help teachers map out a clear path forward for that student and talk about the next steps in their learning.
The primary purpose of national learning progressions is to support improvements in student learning of an aspect of the Australian Curriculum by enabling teachers to more accurately locate a student’s current achievement level and identify the learning that should follow. Teachers can use them in day-to-day classroom practice to inform and support their professional judgements about students’ learning progress and their conversations with students learning and next steps.
Teachers can use national learning progressions in their classrooms to help plan instruct, interpret evidence and make informed judgements about how students are progressing. Teachers can use them in the process of assessing a student’s current level of learning and inform scaffolding of next learning steps.
National learning progressions are also an important resource for teacher learning. They help deepen teacher understanding of student learning in a particular aspect of the Australian Curriculum by providing a shared common language. Teachers can find the learning progressions help to improve their skills in setting learning goals, interpreting student responses and responding with specific interventions that serve to move learning forward.
In the discovery phase of the Online Formative Assessment Initiative, ACARA identified the following defining features of national learning progressions to guide the development of future progressions.
National learning progressions:
- are primarily developed from empirical evidence about how learning progress is typically demonstrated by students; empirical evidence is also supported by theoretical understandings of the nature of progress and informed by the practices of teachers
- describe observable student behaviours at increasing levels of sophistication or proficiency; and they include as many progression indicators at each level as can be supported by the empirical evidence
- have a qualitative aspect (the description of observable student behaviours) and a quantitative aspect (the numerical scale that empirically positions assessments and student responses to them)
- have a horizontal structure that identifies the different elements, threads or strands of learning, and a vertical structure that divides learning into the levels of increasing proficiency
- are independent of a student’s year or age, but should show alignment of expected typical progress against the Australian Curriculum.
Currently ACARA has developed national learning progressions in literacy and numeracy and these have been mapped to the English and Mathematics Australian Curriculum.
The question of whether national learning progressions are developed for other aspects of the Australian Curriculum beyond Literacy and Numeracy is dependent on policy intent and the availability of empirical evidence to describe the learning pathway along which students typically progress in an area of the curriculum.
ACARA, in partnership with the NSW Department of Education, developed the first NLNLPs in 2016–17. These were published as Version 2 on the Resources section of the Australian Curriculum website in January 2018.
During the discovery phase for the Online Formative Assessment Initiative in 2019, ACARA mapped and compared Version 2 of the NLNLPs with other existing progressions and assessments in Literacy and Numeracy, and analysed available empirical data from current assessments to identify any areas for refinement. As a result of this work, ACARA revised the NLNLPs by the end of the discovery phase to produce an improved Version 3 of the NLNLPs.
Version 3 of the NLNLPs is currently published on the NLNLPs V3 page of the Online Formative Assessment Initiative website.
ACARA, in partnership with NSW Department of Education, led the collaborative development of the progressions from mid-2016 to the end of 2017. Version 1 of the National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions (NLNLPs) was developed during 2016, and trialled in 600 schools across the country. ACARA mapped NAPLAN test items to the progressions to support their validation. This resulted in improvements to Version 1. During mid-2017, further improvements were made after consultation with all state and territory school and curriculum authorities, key ACARA advisory groups and a selection of Literacy and Numeracy researchers and experts.
As a result of this work, Version 2 of the NLNLPs was approved for publication by education ministers in December 2017, and published on the Resources section of the Australian Curriculum website in January 2018.
In 2019, as part of the discovery phase for the online formative assessment initiative, ACARA mapped and compared Version 2 of the NLNLPs with other existing progressions and assessments in Literacy and Numeracy, and analysed available empirical data from current assessments to identify the level of alignment and any areas for refinement.
The mapping process during the discovery phase included five separate activities:
- comparing the NLNLPs with the Reading and Mathematics learning progressions developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
- cross-validating the NLNLPs with ACER’s Progressive Achievement Test (PAT) items for Reading and Mathematics
- mapping and validating an additional 400 NAPLAN Numeracy test items and a similar number of items from the NAPLAN Reading domain test sourced from NAPLAN paper tests in 2012–16 to the NLNLPs
- comparing Brightpath writing performance data and descriptors to the Writing element of the NLNLP
- mapping jurisdictional assessment resources to the NLNLPs.
The mapping process confirmed that the NLNLPs were fit for purpose and robust in their current form and structure. It also provided evidence to support the need for some refinements to improve the content of Version 2.
As a result of these findings, Version 3 of the NLNLPs was finalised at the start of 2020 and is currently published is currently published on the NLNLPs V3 page of the Online Formative Assessment Initiative website.
The overall improvements made as a result of the evidence collated during the discovery phase resulted in:
- better clarity of progression
- consistent use of terminology within and across levels
- improved level of specificity and clarity of indicators and examples
- new content to cover identified gaps.
Fewer changes were made to the National Literacy Learning Progression than to the National Numeracy Learning Progression.
The main changes from Version 2 to Version 3 of the National Literacy Learning Progression were:
- systematic representation of skill development across levels, particularly in the upper levels of Understanding texts and Creating texts
- consistent use of terminology within and across sub-elements, particularly relating to text features
- specificity and clarity of indicators and revised examples to ensure that they were not elaborations to the indicator
- initial refinements, including early communication levels, to be more inclusive of a diversity of learners
- another level added to the Text Complexity document
- sub-element definitions refined in the introductory text for each sub-element
- some indicators were moved to a more appropriate level based on available evidence
- some indicators were moved within the level to provide a consistent sequence of indicators across levels.
The main changes from version 2 to version 3 of the National Numeracy Learning Progression were:
- the sub-element Quantifying numbers was separated into two new sub-elements Number and Place value (to capture the structural aspects essential to building number sense) and Counting processes (adding in ordinality and cardinality)
- the sub-elements Working with percentages and Comparing units were amalgamated into one sub-element called Proportional thinking, emphasising the core understanding of proportionality
- Working with decimals was incorporated into Number and Place value, Additive strategies and Multiplicative strategies, where appropriate, and empirically supported
- systematic representation of skill development across levels, particularly in the upper levels of each sub-element
- review of sub-element content and amendments made to indicators in specific skill areas to eliminate gaps and ensure a complete and consistent developmental pathway
- consistent use of terminology within and across sub-elements, particularly relating to the use of correct mathematical terms consistent with the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics
- specificity and clarity of indicators and examples including rationalising groups of indicators within levels, such as in Additive strategies and Multiplicative strategies
- inclusion of the practical application of knowledge and understanding to authentic problems, to identify the numeracy development within the progressions such as solving multifaceted problems.
The National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions (NLNLPs) are intended for teachers to use as a supplement to the curriculum. They do not replace the curriculum; rather, they provide more detail about the Literacy and Numeracy knowledge and skills that are contained in the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum, particularly English and Mathematics.
The NLNLPs contain many indicators that describe what students do or produce as they acquire more knowledge and skills. They help teachers ‘drill down’ into specific areas of Literacy or Numeracy knowledge, to inform their planning and teaching. For example, a teacher could use the NLNLPs to help identify what students misunderstand or do not know, or to determine next steps in learning, or to group students for instruction.
The NLNLPs are not intended for use as a checklist or an assessment tool. They are a robust, evidence-based, empirically supported resource for teachers that help to break down the expectations of Literacy and Numeracy learning that are implied in the curriculum into small, sequenced indicators of student learning. For teachers, the NLNLPs represent a consistent shared understanding of the knowledge and skills students will need to learn as they progress through increasingly complex curriculum areas.
There are many ways the NLNLPs may be used effectively in classrooms. For example, a teacher may decide to administer a screening test for a new cohort of students, to gain some insight into areas of relative strength or weakness in their knowledge. The test would be aligned to the NLNLPs and provide insight into areas requiring attention, so that teaching can be well-targeted from the outset. Or a teacher may want to pinpoint a particular aspect that is impeding learning progress for a student or group. In most sub-elements, the NLNLPs provide a level of detail that is unavailable in the high-level curriculum documents.
The National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions (NLNLPs) are intended for teachers to use as a supplement to the curriculum. They do not replace the curriculum, rather, they provide more detail about the literacy and numeracy knowledge and skills that are contained in the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum, particularly English and Mathematics.
There are many ways the NLNLPs can be used by schools. Schools may use the learning progressions to inform teacher professional learning. Where school teams have identified a particular focus on Literacy or Numeracy development, the learning progressions can inform teachers’ understanding of learning development. Collaborative work sample annotation and teacher moderation activities, informed by the learning progressions, can support a more fine-grained understanding of these focus aspects of Literacy or Numeracy.
Schools may use information gathered from teacher assessments and observations using the learning progressions to identify patterns of students’ strengths and needs. This information may be included as part of a suite of data that informs targeting of student support and monitoring student progress.
The National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions (NLNLPs) have been designed to represent Literacy and Numeracy learning for the diversity of learners. The structure of the learning progressions recognises that students do not progress evenly across all elements or sub-elements. Teachers are able to identify the varied strengths and needs of each student. A student can be at any level on any sub-element independent of that student’s year or age. At the same time the progressions will also show alignment of expected typical progress against the Australian Curriculum.
Version 3 of the NLNLPs also incorporate the ‘pre-Foundation level’ indicators from ACARA’s existing Literacy and Numeracy continua to represent the early literacy and numeracy skills of students prior to Foundation level of the curriculum. ACARA has developed learning continua for each of the seven general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum, including Literacy and Numeracy, available on the general capabilities section of the Australian Curriculum website. For the Literacy continuum, levels 1a–1d represent the development of early literacy skills with a particular emphasis on communication. For the Numeracy continuum, levels 1a and 1b represent the progression from early numeracy to numeracy skills. Indicators from these early levels have now been incorporated into Version 3 of the NLNLPs to assist teachers of students needing extra support.
Why hasn’t ACARA replaced Version 2 with Version 3 on the Australian Curriculum website? When will Version 3 be published on the Australian Curriculum website?
Consistent with Education Council agreement in December 2019 that Version 3 of the National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions (NLNLPs) is used in the initiative, Version 3 has been initially made available on the NLNLPs V3 page of the Online Formative Assessment Initiative website.
This enables interested schools and jurisdictions to access Version 3, if they wish, and allows other schools and jurisdictions that are currently using Version 2 of the NLNLPs time to transition to Version 3 and update the nature of their implementation support.
How do the NLNLPs relate to other areas of the Australian Curriculum other than English and Mathematics?
Literacy skills are explicit in the Australian Curriculum: English, and the skills and understandings required to be numerate are explicit in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. The National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions (NLNLPs) can help teachers to develop fine-grained understandings of student literacy and numeracy development in the English and Mathematics curriculum, especially in the early years.
The NLNLPs can also assist schools and teachers in all learning areas to support their students to successfully engage with the Literacy and Numeracy demands of the F–10 Australian Curriculum. The sub-elements of Listening, Interacting, Speaking, Understanding texts and Creating texts in the Literacy progression, for example, have specific relevance for learning areas other than English. Students also need opportunities to recognise that mathematics is constantly used outside the Mathematics classroom and that numerate people apply mathematical skills in a wide range of familiar and unfamiliar situations.
Advice on the literacy and numeracy demands of learning areas other than English and Mathematics is provided for Version 2 of the NLNLPs and can be found on the Resources section of the Australian Curriculum website.
Formative assessment is any form of purposeful classroom interaction that assists teachers to adjust teaching and learning.
Formative assessment assists teachers to use their professional judgement to understand how well students have learnt what has been taught, the progress they have made and the progress they need to make.
Teachers currently use a range of tasks, from routine observations to structured assessments, to undertake formative assessment.
The alpha phase will identify assessments schools currently use for measuring students’ Literacy and Numeracy that align with the NLNLPs and also explore current work being undertaken across the country to assess Critical and Creative Thinking.
Australian education ministers have agreed on a definition of formative assessment that is being used to support consistency of understanding about the Online Formative Assessment Initiative:
Formative assessment is an adaptive process where assessment evidence of student learning is used by teachers to modify their instructional practices or by students to adjust their learning strategies. An assessment functions formatively to the extent that evidence gathered during learning is interpreted and used, by teachers and students, to make better teaching and learning decisions.
You can view an animation about formative assessment on our website.
Formative assessment practices range from informal, routine observation and questioning to formal, structured assessments. The design, delivery and analysis of structured formative assessment tasks takes significant time and skill, as does the analysis of results to make informed decisions.
Online and on-demand formative assessment resources will assist teachers to administer quality assessment quickly and easily to identify student learning and inform their professional judgement of the next learning steps. It will also help teachers to record a student’s learning progress in a form that can be shared with students, parents and other teachers.