Fostering student agency through mathematics assessment 

Laura Tubino (Deakin University) 

In this blog post I am going to describe the assessment model designed as part of the Lifelong Learning with Mathematics Program. This model aims to put the student at the centre, giving them ownership of their journey. The Doubtfire/OnTrack process oriented assessment software supports the delivery of this assessment model. 

The Lifelong Learning with Mathematics Team has aimed at changing the way mathematics is learnt in our university, focusing on using maths concepts as a context to improve students’ independent learning skills by providing them with a framework for their studies and their professional lives as lifelong learners.  Our approach to developing lifelong learning skills is based on a developmental view of learning which focuses on developing student agency (Bandura, 2001; Bandura, 2006). 

In this assessment model, students enact their agency by choosing their target grade, learning strategies, resources, and even content, all under the guidance and support of the teaching team. The aim is to enable and foster students’ agency, and to help them become more aware of their own goals and meta-cognitive processes so they can control them more consciously, making them more powerful and effective. 

Our assessment approach combines developmental agentic-personas (Tubino et al., 2022) and the task-oriented portfolio assessment model (TOPAM) (Cain et al., 2020), resulting in a holistic assessment model. Agentic-personas guide the task design and are presented to students so they are aware of the attitudes and behaviours that support different levels of achievement, an example is presented in Figure 1.  

Agentic personas presented in the unit Functions, Relations and Graphs (SIT190).
Figure 1: Agentic personas presented in the unit Functions, Relations and Graphs (SIT190). Visual design by Lea Piskiewicz, Deakin CloudFirst Team

TOPAM asks students to complete sets of tasks, which depend on the achievement level they are targeting. It utilises frequent formative feedback, delayed summative grading, and standards-aligned outcomes-based assessment. The Lifelong Learning with Mathematics Team has adapted the TOPAM, by enhancing the self-regulated learning and the reflective features in the model. The resulting assessment model is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Assessment model scaffolds SRL overall and within each topic. Students reflect on learning outcomes, learning strategies and resources, and engage in collaborative learning.
Figure 2: Assessment model scaffolds SRL overall and within each topic. Students reflect on learning outcomes, learning strategies and resources, and engage in collaborative learning.

Self-Regulated Learning

Through our assessment process, we guide students through setting goals for their learning, monitoring, regulating, and controlling their learning and learning strategies while engaging with learning activities, and evaluating the achievement of their learning goals.

  • The first assessment task is the goal-setting task in which each student identifies their goals and plans for achieving these.
  • After this task, the assessment design has a repeated topic structure. Pass tasks for each topic require students to follow six steps, aimed at further scaffolding SRL, as observed in Figure 2. Further assessment tasks in each topic can then be completed that present a higher complexity and lower scaffolding and are associated with higher grades. Students are prompted to monitor their learning as they engage with these tasks and modify their target grade or their behaviour accordingly.
  • The evaluation stage of the SRL takes place at the end of the teaching period. Students submit all the tasks they have completed in a learning portfolio, accompanied by a Learning Summary Report where students reflect on how their behaviour and the tasks they completed demonstrate they have met each of the unit learning outcomes to a self-assessed grade outcome (Cain et al., 2020).


This assessment model is supported by collaboration, (see step 3 in Figure 2) which allows for well-informed social comparisons and vicarious experiences. This influences students’ self-efficacy. On the higher end, this promotes the development of higher-level thinking, communication skills, and leadership skills. On the lower end, it provides role models, approachable support, and a more accurate reflection of where their mathematics skills are at. Importantly, it also allows students to meet their peers and promotes social connections, something that we have noticed has faded in the past years.

The Lifelong Learning with Mathematics Team: Andrew Cain, Simon James, Kerri Morgan, Laura Tubino and Julien Ugon.


Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual review of psychology, 52(1):1–26.

Bandura, A. (2006). Adolescent development from an agentic perspective. Self-efficacy beliefs of adolescents, 5:1–43.

Cain, A., Tubino, L., and Krishnan, S. (2020). Using technology to enable a shift from marks to outcomes-based assessment. In Re-imagining University Assessment in a Digital World, pages 229–245. Springer.

Tubino, L., Morgan, K., and Cain, A. (2022). Enhancing the transition to university by fostering student agency in mathematics. (Submitted).

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