Help us... solve the problems of assessment

This is your chance to change the education system. Get involved with Rethinking Assessment and help us provide workable alternatives to our current failing exam system.

We are embarking on an intense six month process to find ideas and develop solutions to change our current assessment system. We want to create new approaches to assessment which recognise the full breadth of a young person’s strengths to test out in our schools.

We are looking for a range of solutions that can work at:

System level - international and national

Across groups of schools

In individual schools

Classroom level

To do this we have set up a creative working process, built on design thinking, to get under the skin of the fundamental problems with the current exam system; to find and learn from the best ideas and solutions that others have developed in the UK and around the world; and develop workable alternatives which can be trialled and tested.

The process brings together educators, parents, learners, business leaders, academics, policy makers – all those with an interest and stake in our education system – to solve problems and find solutions together. We have a unique opportunity to do this, and want to take our time to get it right.

The process: Design Thinking workflow

PHASE 1 Design the right thing

January, February, March, April, May

PHASE 2 Design things right

May, June, July

The Challenges 

Throughout the process there will be a number of different ways that you can get involved in Rethinking Assessment.
One of those is through community challenges!

Challenge 1

Launched: 29th January
Ended: 8th February

We want you to help us decide the problems that Rethinking Assessment will focus on.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our first community challenge, where we asked you to identify the most important problems with the current exam system.

The top five most important problems identified by our community were: 

The content, tasks and methods of current exams and its distorting effects on the curriculum – curriculum and experience narrowing as a result. Early perception forming of what you are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ at

We don’t measure the full range of a student’s capabilities

Factual recall prioritised over problem-solving and deeper thinking

The forgotten third who leave with nothing

We don’t value creation and making

We received over 200 suggestions and comments from the community with insights into the problems, and have presented these back to our working groups. Together, we have developed a series of problem statements to shape the issues we want to look more closely at.

Challenge 2

Launch: 15th February
Ending: 28th February

We want you to help us find solutions to these problems.

Time remaining to get involved: 


Help us... find solutions to these problems

Problem statement 1

The problem is that the conception of knowledge in our education and assessment systems is too narrow.

  • There is an emphasis on quantity of factual knowledge over quality, and a lack of deep thinking, problem solving and understanding as a result
  • There is a narrowing of options early eg limited breadth post 16
  • There is too little interdisciplinary learning
  • There is a lack of applied knowledge – knowing how as well as knowing what
  • There is a lack of diversity and range of voices across the curriculum, reflective of the breadth of diversity of society. 
  • Knowledge is defined in terms of the head (embodied cognition)

Problem statement 2

The problem with how we assess knowledge is that it neither recognises the depth and breadth of knowledge young people need, nor assesses students in ways that allow them to demonstrate the range of their knowledge. The problem is because:

  • Written exams are one dimensional – we rely on written exams which don’t paint the whole picture and are biased towards linguistic skills and those good at working under timed conditions 
  • GCSE assessment, although criterion-referenced, is effectively norm referenced which builds in unnecessary competition and forces a third to fail 
  • Exams are timebound meaning that students can’t necessarily demonstrate all that they know and/or the depth of their thoughts in the hour or so they are given to do so
  • Fixed age single point assessment assumes uniform pace of acquisition of knowledge and understanding. One approach fits all – the system artificially selects lengths of courses and points of assessment. 
  • No agency for students. Assessment does not clearly benefit the learner or acknowledge their interests or passions and potential, or enable them to access different progression pathways/explore identities. It does not have the flexibility to be adaptive to students’ interests / preference / strengths.

Problem statement 3

The problem is that our education system does not recognise or evidence the key dispositions which, alongside academic strengths, help young people to succeed at school and in life.

  • Some key dispositions for learning are not developed systematically in all schools because they are not mandatory and not assessed
  • There is a lack of national agreement on which skills/dispositions are important and valuable despite broad consensus internationally and among employers, FE, HE, schools
  • Most exams are written and these do not enable learners to demonstrate their wider skills and dispositions
  • There is a lack of knowledge and understanding about credible methods of assessment
  • The current Ofsted framework privileges curricula ‘coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment’ with character/dispositions seen only as an aspect of personal development. As a consequence dispositions have low currency when it comes to accountability.
  • Schools have largely failed to learn from (and adapt to) strength-based assessment approaches increasingly used in other settings including workplaces, HE and FE.

Submit your solutions

To find solutions to these problems, we are looking for examples (of schools, colleges, higher education, school districts, regional/national jurisdictions, Countries)  anywhere in the world where:

  • The curriculum has breadth and depth, and includes interdisciplinary and applied learning
  • Key dispositions are taught and assessed 
  • Assessment is multi modal/multi dimensional and cumulative, enabling learners to demonstrate the full range of their strengths and what they know and can do

Please share or signpost research evidence, examples, case studies, ideas etc with us below. We are looking to learn from the best ideas and solutions out there, and will share back what we find with the community. Thank you!

Please use this field to make suggestions.
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