Since launch, Rethinking Assessment has gathered a broad coalition of teachers, school leaders, professionals, thinkers and decision makers, all committed to building a system that reflects the strengths of each of our young people. We started by undertaking a design thinking research inquiry and explored a range of issues, potential ideas and solutions.
We have been looking at a range of options, informed by best practices around the world and from across different settings
OUR VIEW OF THE PROBLEM
What we assess
Exams are a limited way of assessing learning, with an emphasis on factual recall over deep thinking. We rely on written timebound exams which don’t give the full picture and are biased towards linguistic skills and those good at working under timed conditions. We need a more balanced, holistic and “multi modal” approach to assessment which supports ongoing learning and enables young people to demonstrate what they know and can do.
How we assess
Exams are a limited way of assessing learning, with an emphasis on factual recall over deep thinking. We rely on written timebound exams which don’t give the full picture and are biased towards linguistic skills and those good at working under timed conditions.
A PATHWAY TO CHANGE
Assess a broader range of areas. When crucial skills and competencies are not recognised in the assessment system, schools are disincentivised to teach them. A broader range of assessments will help all young people demonstrate what they know and can do.
Introduce broader, multimodal methods of assessment. The current emphasis on high-stakes exams as the sole measure of achievement is outdated and unfair. A greater range of digital, practical and creative assessments will help build a more rounded picture of progress, talent and achievement.
Evidence the skills employers are looking for. Businesses are increasingly dependent on the “three Cs” – creative thinking, collaboration and communication (oracy). These are sometimes called the 4Cs with creativity and critical thinking separated out. If the assessment system is to remain relevant, it must evidence these competencies.
Ensure all students take courses in subject-based, technical, applied and interdisciplinary learning. This enables young people to demonstrate a well-rounded mastery of skills and subjects. These kinds of assessments better reflect what will be required of young people in the workplace.
All students able to conduct their own personal extended projects which can be achieved and evidenced by taking an Extended Qualification Project (EPQ), Higher Qualification Project (HPQ) or equivalent.
Students to take exams when ready, not at a fixed age. In adult and workplace learning, people take important qualifications when they have acquired and can evidence sufficient skill and knowledge. There are good reasons to apply the same thinking to school-aged learners. Students can be entered for a fewer number of GCSEs to allow for greater depth.
OVER THE NEXT 5 YEARS WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE...
Schools and colleges developing learner profiles.
We see a national framework for digital learner profiles as a powerful way of capturing and evidencing breadth of learning, evidencing skills (3/4Cs), showcasing achievements inside and outside of school, and enabling all learners to reflect regularly on their learning and progress. Learner profiles would be introduced in primary schools and learners would take them through school and into adult and workplace learning. They would also, crucially, connect to UCAS/FE and HE admissions.
Schools reducing the number of GCSEs they offer, and introducing alternative options that enable breadth and depth of learning, and connect academic learning with interdisciplinary, applied learning or a personal project.
This could be done by offering a validated project qualification, such as the existing and well known EPQ and HPQ. This would bring additional breadth at KS4 and 5 and would be interdisciplinary, multimodal, and assess learner’s skills, alongside knowledge content. Working with partners, we are developing a project award for primary schools and have established the Schools Directed Courses Consortium to develop new formats for accredited and non accredited learning at KS4.
Teaching and evidencing critical skills and dispositions not currently recognised.
The 3Cs are becoming increasingly embedded in national curricula assessments around the world, and the PISA 2022 Creative Thinking assessment will for the first time measure students’ capacity for creative thinking. Explicitly teaching and assessing skills within core subjects and across other curriculum areas will support teachers to build their assessment literacy, build the repertoire of pedagogies they deploy, and enable the inclusion of multiple modes of assessment (formative and summative) within subjects and courses. It would also encourage the growth of interdisciplinary learning, to better reflect the skills and needs of key growth areas of the economy.
Developing a national standard or framework for learner profiles, endorsed by a range of stakeholders, and a number of tech tools, guides and resources for schools to use. Building on learner profile/e-portfolio platforms that schools and colleges are already using, we will initially be working on three pilots to develop a national learner profile specification framework using Google Sites. Partners for this work include Big Education Big 10 Network, Herts for Learning, Doncaster Borough Council.
Evidencing Creative Thinking action research, led by Professor Bill Lucas in partnership with the Australian Council for Education Research UK. We are working with 20 schools nationwide to embed creative thinking in core subjects across KS2 and KS3, and developing progression rubrics, assessment methods and curriculum designs to support the teaching and assessment of creative thinking.
Interdisciplinary Learning and Assessment. We are continuing our work with the London Interdisciplinary School and Bohunt Education Trust to understand more about how best to design interdisciplinary schemes of work that impact positively on students’ development, students’ motivation and the wider community. We are also looking to develop a new credential for interdisciplinary learning at KS4.
Development of the Primary Extended Project Award (PEPA), led by the Centre for Education & Youth, which aims to create a rigorous, flexible and scalable assessment instrument for ten and eleven year-olds, that any primary school could use to support the development and recognition of a wide set of learning dispositions which extend beyond what the national curriculum and SATs currently value.
Launched the School Directed Courses Consortium (SDCC). Led by King Alfred School, the SDCC is a peer support network of state and independent schools seeking to offer alternative curriculum pathways to the usual suite of 9+ GCSEs. It consists of those schools who are already offering alternative courses (Bedales Assessed Courses, St Paul's School Directed Courses, for example) and others who are actively considering this.
Future Baccalaureate working group. A collaboration between Rethinking Assessment and the Edge Foundation, bringing together leading voices and organisations looking at the development of a future qualification system for England. The group will be looking in detail at Baccalaureate and school leaving certificate models from around the world, developing a shared understanding around principles and components, and looking at the implementation requirements needed. The group will also gather inputs from a range of external stakeholders such as politicians, employers and Higher Education providers.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Schools, Learning and Assessment, Co-Chaired by Flick Drummond MP and Emma Hardy MP, will promote and support school level education and the quality of learning and assessment for all pupils.The purpose will be for parliamentarians on the APPG to hear from experts about the effects assessment, particularly exam-only assessment, has on the curriculum, student/teacher wellbeing or any other aspects of the education system. The group will produce a report with all of the evidence that has been heard to present to the Secretary of State.
OUR PREVIOUS ACTION RESEARCH
Interdisciplinary Learning in Schools & Colleges
Delivered by Bohunt Education Trust, London Interdisciplinary School, King Alfred School
This pilot aims to understand more about how best (a) to design truly interdisciplinary schemes of work that impact positively on students’ development, students’ motivation and the wider community and (b) to help schools with the practical challenge of assessing the development of interdisciplinary learning both formatively and summatively. Furthermore, it aims to understand the impact interdisciplinary learning has, not only on students’ depth of understanding, but also on their engagement with school, motivation and metacognition.
Assessing Creative Thinking in Schools & Colleges
Delivered by Professor Bill Lucas, University of Winchester/Comino Foundation
This pilot intervention aims to understand more about how best (a) to evidence the development of pupils’ creative thinking (creativity and critical thinking) and (b) to help schools deal with the practical challenges of assessing the development of creative thinking. This important research will suggest robust ways of valuing the kinds of dispositions young people need today and, ultimately, contribute to the evidence base for our vision of a new learner profile.
Delivered by Voice 21
There is currently no measure of students’ oracy suitable for use for schools to reliably & regularly understand their students’ progress as compared to the national picture. The aim of ‘Comparing Talk’ is to develop an oracy assessment that enables schools to understand the impact of their provision on students’ oracy skills, and to monitor progress.
This project will trial a ‘comparative judgement’ approach to the assessment of oracy to find out:
- What does this approach enable schools and teachers to learn about students’ oracy?
- What does “good” oracy look like in EYFS & Yrs5-8? (Providing a scale of exemplar videos.)
- What are the limitations of a comparative judgement approach, and how can these be mitigated?