The shape of assessment

2021-12-31T18:47:44+00:00December 31st, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

As we should all now be aware, there are no external audiences interested in schools' internal data. If we're going to go to the trouble of getting students to sit formal assessments on which we will collect data, we should be very clear about the purpose both of the assessments and the data they produce. On the whole, the purpose of assessment data appears to be discriminating between students. The purpose of GCSEs, SATs, A levels and other national exams is to discriminate between students - to determine each individual's performance into a normally distributed rank order and then assign grades [...]

Specifying a concept-led KS3 English curriculum

2021-11-27T10:57:53+00:00October 23rd, 2021|assessment, curriculum, English|

If we accept that we are using the curriculum as a progression model - if making progress means that children know more, remember more and can do more of the curriculum they've been taught - then that paves the way for us to move away from using unhelpful approaches like flight paths and age related expectations to make judgements about whether children are making progress. But what happens if it's not clear that knowing more, remembering more and being able to do more of the curriculum don't feel like progress? This, I think, is a big issue with the way English [...]

Why using the curriculum as your progression model is incompatible with ‘measuring progress’

2021-09-11T15:10:11+01:00September 11th, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

Our capacity to misunderstand complex ideas leads, inexorably, to the lethal mutation of those ides. In my last post I set out why the apparently simple and obvious notion of 'using the curriculum as a progression model' often goes wrong but I underplayed some key points about the use of numbers. Tucked away in that post are two ideas that need some amplification and explanation. Firstly, in relation to the way in which summative assessments are scored: I should note that the key assumption underpinning this assessment model is not that tests should discriminate between students so we can place them [...]

Why ‘using the curriculum as a progression model’ is harder than you think

2021-09-11T07:46:16+01:00September 8th, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

Since first hearing the idea that the curriculum should be the model of progression on Michael Fordham's blog, I immediately and instinctively felt that this was right. Of course, I said to myself, we will know whether students are making progress if they are learning more of the curriculum. Voila! And, like many others, I left the notion as a self-evident truth that required no further explanation. Once it is understood to be true, the scales will fall from the eyes of those espousing flightpaths, Age Related Expectations and incoherent statements of progress and all will be well. (See here and [...]

Curriculum related expectations: the specificity problem

2020-11-22T09:44:54+00:00November 21st, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

If we are going to use the curriculum as a progression model, it's useful to build in checkpoints to ensure students are meeting curriculum related expectations. So far I written about replacing age related expectations with curriculum related expectations, and another on replacing grades more generally with curriculum related expectations. But how specific do these expectations have to be in order to be useful? If they're too specific we risk generating endless tick box checklists, but if they're too broad there's the risk they become meaninglessly bland and tell us nothing about how students are progressing. It seems tempting to suggest [...]

High jump vs hurdles: Replacing grades with curriculum related expectations

2021-05-17T21:19:58+01:00November 18th, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

I've recently argued that one way to ensure schools are explicitly using the curriculum as a progression model is to assess children against curriculum related expectations. Briefly, this means that if your curriculum specifies that students have been taught x, they are then assessed as to whether they have met a minimum threshold in their understanding of x. So, for instance, if I've taught you about, say, the differents of metrical feet and their effects, are you now able to demonstrate this knowledge? If you can then you have met a curriculum related expectation; if you cannot then you haven't. In [...]

Curriculum related expectations: using the curriculum as a progression model

2020-10-27T11:08:23+00:00October 27th, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

One of the barriers to using the curriculum as a progression model is that there is too little understanding of what this might mean. It sounds great but a bit mysterious. I've spoken to a number of people who are happy to agree that the curriculum provides a map of the quality of education a school provides and even approvingly use the phrase 'curriculum as a a progression model' who never the less continue to attempt measuring progress using 'age related expectations' or some other meaningless confection. Let's first deal with why age related expectations are unhelpful. First, they are guesswork. [...]

GCSE reform: a modest proposal

2020-05-30T12:17:30+01:00May 30th, 2020|assessment|

The pandemic has cast many assumptions about how education could or should unfold into sharp relief. Like many others, I've been wondering about the positives we might find in our current situation and how - or whether - we can salvage anything when schools eventually return to normal. One area that seems to beg for reform is the way the exam season currently plays out. Here are some of the factors to consider: Accountability creates huge pressures on teachers which are, inevitably, passed on to students. Is there a way to break this chain? Along with these pressures, the quantity of [...]

Should we scrap SATs? Cautiously, yes

2020-12-03T12:10:56+00:00April 20th, 2019|assessment|

Earlier this week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned up at the NEU annual conference with some crowd pleasing ideas. The most eye-catching of these was that he would, if elected, scrap SATs, saying, "We need to prepare children for life, not just exams". Cue rapturous applause from the assembled trade unionists. None of this is particularly surprising, but what does intrigue me is why Corbyn and the NEU want to get rid of SATs. For Corbyn's part, he says, "SATs and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears." Of course, [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 4: Instruction

2019-04-07T20:13:21+01:00April 7th, 2019|assessment|

This is the final post in a series looking at how we can be sure that students are making progress through the curriculum. The whole purpose of knowing whether students are making progress is to be able to design appropriate instructional sequences. We may believe children are motoring through our wonderfully constructed curriculum but if empirical data reveals this not to be the case, we need to know. If my last post I discussed the importance of being able to glean meaningful data on item difficulty by seeing how well students do on particular assessment tasks. If all students are getting [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 3: Assessment

2021-09-11T08:41:38+01:00March 26th, 2019|assessment|

In Part 1 of this series I set out the problems with making predictions about students’ progress by drawing a ‘flight path’ between KS2 and KS4, then, in Part 2, I explained how thinking about the curriculum as a progression model is essential in making judgments about whether students are making progress. In this post we will turn our attention to issues of assessment. NB. This might feel a bit technical at times, but please know that I'm trying hard to explain complex ideas as simply as I'm able.  It's important to note that assessment can have a range of purposes. You [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 1: The madness of flight paths

2019-04-07T20:14:38+01:00March 23rd, 2019|assessment, curriculum|

Schools are desperate to find ways to predict students' progress from year to year and between key stages. Seemingly, the most common approach to solving this problem is to produce some sort of 'flight path'. The internet is full of such misguided attempts to do the impossible. Predicting a students' progress is a mug's game. It can't be done. At the level of nationally representative population sample we can estimate the likelihood of someone who is measured at performing at one level attaining another level, but this is meaningless at the level of individuals. It should therefore be obvious that using [...]

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