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Rethinking Assessment

Colin Johnson – I listened recently to an online talk: “Assessment – the silent killer of learning”.  This clever title sums up a fundamental problem.  In striving for objectivity we use only simple ways of checking a student’s knowledge and understanding, so we drive our teachers into ‘teaching to the test’.  Yet we claim that an education is about much more than memorising facts and ideas; it’s also about citizenship, teamwork, creativity, personal fulfilment and so on.  Profiling and giving credit for these attributes is a much more complicated challenge.

The move to ‘context-based’ questions in exams is a worthy attempt to set school learning within an everyday setting, but what happens in practice?  In order to explain the context, the questions themselves are much longer.  Candidates are presented with a new barrier: the need to wade through a lengthy preamble. So the assessment is no longer a test of what they have learned about the topic, but a test of their success in navigating the contextual information.

These and many other issues are longstanding challenges to reliable and valid assessment of what is learned in school, to say nothing of that wider range of personal skills and qualities that – in the words of one wag – are “what remains when you have forgotten everything that you were ever taught”.   

This mini-blog is by way of a trailer for our free event on 22 February which is ‘selling’ fast.  Join us if you can!

Employability
Gerald Puttock – Just one of the adverse effects of the pandemic is the situation of so many people who, very often through no fault of their own, are unemployed and looking for a new job. More …

Circle of Education
Gerald Puttock – There is a need for the separate stages of education (pre-school, primary, secondary, etc.) to work more closely together with their neighbours in order for it to become one seamless learning journey – a Circle of Education®. More …

Do we really need exams?
Colin Johnson – Covid has thrown many educational challenges at us – not least in questioning the sanctity of school examinations.   As I write, there is a serious suggestion from some university vice-chancellors and a major teaching union that in 2021 A-level results should again be based on teacher assessment.  More …

Tertiary education
Prof. Dan Davies – The news over the summer that the UK government is planning to re-vamp higher technical education along German lines – together with the muddle over A-level grades and the scrapping of the 50% university participation rate target – might lead us to believe that we are at the dawn of a new era of valuing skills on a par with academic qualifications. More …

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
Dr Alison Shaw – At the Society for Total Education we believe in the development and recognition of the full range of a person’s potential. ACEs are damaging that potential and are preventing children from thriving into adulthood. More …