Assessment around the world

Scanning the UK and the world for the best assessment practices to learn from

Across the world schools, districts, states, countries, consortia, NGOs and international bodies are rethinking assessment. 

There is a growing sense that most public examinations, especially in secondary education, don’t examine the right things.

The wider capabilities and dispositions wanted by employers such as creativity and collaborative problem solving are largely absent.

Important aspects of the development of character, resilience and social and emotional learning are missing.

Important aspects of practical and applied learning are almost entirely overlooked.

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Where is it from?

Who created it?

How is it administered?

What makes it credible?

What does it assess?

Digital badges

A global movement to enable ‘micro-credentialing’ of aspects of any capability or competence. Open Badges claim to be the world’s leading format for digital badges – verifiable and shareable, containing detailed information about the achievement and what the recipient did to earn the badge.

The Mastery Transcript Consortium

A growing network of public and private schools who are introducing a digital high school transcript that opens up opportunity for every student – from all backgrounds, locations, and schools – to have their unique strengths, abilities, interests, and histories fostered, understood and celebrated.

Digital portfolios

Widespread variety of approaches in using web pages to curate a wide range of student achievements including external testimony and validation and with reflective comments from students. It reflects their individual career and college goals and showcases examples of their academic work.

Collaborative problem-solving (PISA 2015)

PISA at the OECD is moving away from just assessing how 15 year olds perform across the world in single subjects like English, Maths and Science but are now looking at assessing a variety of learning skills and dispositions in a serious way. This is their framework for assessing how young people do in the vital skill of collaborative problem-solving.

Creative Thinking (PISA 2022)

PISA has also developed a way of measuring creative thinking which will be introduced in 2022 and will include a definition of creativity as well as skilled ways in which young people can be compared in terms of their ability to think creatively. The assessment spans written and visual, social and scientific to get a holistic picture of creativity.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profile

The IB is an assessment framework, used widely across the world, that is already going beyond judging a student by narrow academics alone. The learner profile describes a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond academic success. The profile focuses on developing learners who are inquirers, knowledgeable thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.

New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning (NPDL)

Canadian based NPDL works with 1300+ schools and clusters in 8 countries. Detailed learning progressions allow students and teachers to track the development of their capabilities across a range of domains that combine knowledge and skills. More and more countries across the world are attempting to measure competencies as well as knowledge.

The New York Performance Standards Consortium

A group of schools that have come together to move beyond standardised tests. ‘The Consortium’s system is based on in-depth literacy, mathematical problem-solving, application of the scientific method, social studies research, a span of mediums for exhibiting learning, and a chance for students to have a voice and proud ownership of their work.’

Assessment reform in New Zealand

Much of the energy for national reform of assessment is currently coming from not for profit organisations rather than national governments though countries like New Zealand are actively engaged in thinking about the future of assessment. And many other countries in the Far East like China and Singapore are looking to add capabilities and skills such as creativity to their current focus on academic subjects.

KIPP Character Scorecard

KIPP is a network of 240+ public charter schools in the USA. From the outset they focused on academics and tough behaviour codes but realised that when students went to college they were dropping out because they did not have the independence or resilience to persevere. So KIPP has developed a bigger focus on character development.

Character Lab

Developed by Angela Duckworth and others this came out of the work of Kipp and schools that now believe that social emotional learning has an important place alongside academics and should be developed and measured in every child. CharacterLab has provided evidence and resources including ‘playbooks’ for each of the character elements.

Critical and creative thinking: Validated online tests

Developed initially by the Australian Council for Educational Research and now by the National Foundation for Educational Research. Victoria, Australia, was the first state to test 15 year olds annually for their progress in critical and creative thinking. There are detailed scope and sequence documents for showing what the development of capabilities looks like in four key areas.

Assessment Reform in British Columbia

The Core Competencies are sets of intellectual, personal, and social and emotional proficiencies that all students need in order to engage in deep, lifelong learning. Along with literacy and numeracy foundations, they are central to British Columbia’s K-12 curriculum and assessment system and directly support students in their growth as educated citizens.

NAHT Commission on Assessment

The NAHT set up a commission on the future of assessment in 2014. This covered both formative and summative assessment and had a series of recommendations. The report also includes a set of principles for good assessment and an assessment design checklist for schools to use.

Comparative Judgement

A process where assessors compare two responses and decide which is better. Following repeated comparisons, the resulting data is statistically modelled and responses placed on a scale of relative quality. For English, for example, this might mean ranking all the pieces of writing in order of quality. This method often leads to detailed and thoughtful professional conversations and gets away from the tick box, checklist method of grading.

Seven principles for a fair and relevant exam system

An excellent blog from the IoE on key principles for making our exam system fairer and giving every child the chance to have their achievements recognised. It asks the question: what would a sensible exam system look like if we started from scratch.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

Equivalent to 50% of an A level, EPQ takes the form of either a dissertation or a musical or dramatic composition, or a report or artefact, backed up with an essay as well as a project record where you get assessed on the quality of your thinking and planning. This gives young people the chance to explore and get credit for a passion. Many believe the EPQ can be used as the basis for a more expansive curriculum.

Music grade exams

‘ABRSM is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams’. Practical performance exams taken by students whenever they are ready between grade 1 and grade 8. Music is an example of a different type of exam where performance is graded, students take it when ready and everyone can pass if they meet the grade.

National Baccalaureate

A ‘universal framework for students in all educational contexts that gives recognition to the full range of their achievements and learning experiences including academic qualifications and personal development’. Assessment involves Core learning + Personal project + personal development programme.

Skills Builders framework

A consortium of organisations in the UK which have defined essential skills and developed progression frameworks for them. Great potential here for every school to use this framework to judge the wider skills of young people and to give credit for the skills that employers are looking for.

Voice 21 assessing oracy toolkit

Schools measure literacy and numeracy but not the vital speaking skills. Voice 21 and School 21 have developed methods for showing progression in oracy and giving increasing weight to this. Employers put good oral communication in their top 3 skills required of employees and students could graduate high school with a way of reflecting their proficiency in this area.

How assessing deeper learning needs different approaches

Linda Darling-Hammond helpfully describes the different kinds of assessment needed as we try and assess higher order skills. This draws attention to the way in which skills can be assessed within subjects, through portfolios and assignments or through discrete assessments. It is important to get the blend and rigour right for this to be effective.

Bedales Assessed Courses

Courses developed by the school and assessed by them assessed by with a ‘mixture of formal examinations and coursework’. Now accepted by UCAS as equivalent to GCSE.

Victoria Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) assessments

Validated on-line tests developed initially by the Australian Council for Educational Research and now by the National Foundation for Educational Research. Victoria, Australia, was the first state to test 15 year olds annually for their progress in critical and creative thinking. There are detailed scope and sequence documents for showing what the development of capabilities looks like in four key areas.