Adding to teachers’ assessment toolboxes: multiple-choice assessments of critical literacy for Australian senior school courses

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy




School of Education




Dowsett, P., & Reinertsen, N. (2023). Adding to teachers’ assessment toolboxes: Multiple-choice assessments of critical literacy for Australian senior school courses. The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 46, 15-28.


Senior secondary Literature courses in Australia all aim, to various extents, to develop students’ critical literacy skills. These aims share emphases on reading, reflecting and responding critically to texts, on critical analysis and critical ideas, and on forming interpretations informed by critical perspectives. Critical literacy is not assessed on its own; rather, it is assessed indirectly alongside other concepts and skills. The most common form of assessment in these courses is the extended response, while multiple choice (MCQ) tests appear to be uncommon. We contend that multiple-choice assessments offer the potential to assess critical literacy at least as well as essay responses, and they do so independently of writing skills. We define critical literacy as a complex reading process involving challenging and resisting dominant representations in texts, foregrounding power relationships and acknowledging the multiple ways in which readers apply critical understandings to texts. This paper outlines the process by which two test developers researched and developed a small prototype test of critical literacy for senior school students that was aligned to senior secondary school Literature curricula. Cognitive laboratories were conducted in which these items were administered to a small number of students. The outcome suggests that the items were aligned to the construct and this assessment method shows promise in its capacity to measure students’ critical literacy.



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