Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Education systems around the world have adopted standards-referencing in a move to provide meaningful information about students’ knowledge and skills on the completion of their secondary schooling. Standards-referencing systems report student achievement against predetermined descriptions of performance from which the learning outcomes of a syllabus are derived. However, the whole credibility of using a standards-referencing system is built upon teachers being able to determine the correct “image” of what students know and can do as they create internal school-based assessment tasks. If the wrong image is produced, then the validity of decisions regarding student performance is reduced and calls into question the credentialling process. As such, when teachers create assessments, they must ensure that there is alignment between the cognitive demands of the learning outcomes, assessment question, marking rubric(s), and performance band descriptors for the course as they operationalise the theoretical tenets of standards-referencing to maximise the reliability and validity of students’ results. Evidence suggests this is not occurring, and teachers use an amalgamation of norm-, criterion-, and standards-referencing assessment practices.

Given these potential differences between current practice and assessment-system requirements, and the lack of clarity around what exactly the requirements are for teachers’ assessment practices, this thesis first explicates a theoretical assessment process model for effective assessment in a standards-referencing system, which serves as a blueprint for the practical support of teachers by clarifying how teachers could effectively create assessments aligned with the principles of standards-referencing using the New South Wales Higher School Certificate English course as an example. The thesis also determines the extent to which teachers’ practices and beliefs adhered to this idealised process. By contrasting current practice and teacher assessment skills against this process, recommendations are made to identify a clearer path towards effective assessment and marking practices within the current standards-referencing system.

FoR codes (2008)

130303 Education Assessment and Evaluation



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.