Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Assessment future

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After many months of debate by ASCL's Education Committee on what we want for the future of assessment, the association's policy on assessment has been published in April. There is no doubt in our minds that assessment in England, Northern Ireland and Wales requires a radical review. In England especially, the system is bordering upon breaking point, as more and more tests are added.

The problems with the assessment system have been well documented but where do we go from here?

We argue in our paper The Future of Assessment that Assessment for Learning (AfL) has improved the quality and the extent of formative assessment to the benefit of students. It has helped them to think more about their own learning, and provides students with a structure to feed back to their teachers. AfL is, therefore, a major contributor to personalised learning.

On the other hand, rigidly timed age-related tests are antagonistic to the government's personalisation agenda and the 'test when ready' philosophy that underpins its recent publication Making Good Progress.

In some respects we are optimistic. New technology will make testing when ready more practical and help inject objectivity to teachers' day-to-day assessments. There is a caveat, though: e-testing should be a part, but only a part, of a much wider view of the students' achievement.

We would like to see the development of student portfolios of work in which objective, when-ready e-testing is a component. Student portfolios would need to be moderated and accredited - hence, ASCL's chartered assessors scheme. This involves a corps of experienced teachers, externally accredited to carry out in-course assessment to external standards and to moderate other institutions.

Precedents already exist for this - most notably in the BTEC model. The new diplomas will expect practical elements to be assessed in practical ways across the whole course - so things are moving in the right direction.

John Fairhurst, Chair, Education Committee

  • ASCL's policy paper on assessment is available at www.ascl.org.uk under publications.

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