Building a Learner Profile

Giving full recognition to the strengths of every young person.

The mission of Rethinking Assessment is to recognise the strengths of every young person so that no one leaves school with just a set of exam numbers and letters. 

After much deliberation we believe that the best way of doing this is for every young person to be supported to create a learner profile while at school and be able to take it with them in life, topping it up as they go along. The creation of a digital profile by every student is national policy in Australia and there are regional and international prototypes being tested now.

This profile will be most useful if it has real currency – first with the students and their teachers, and then with universities, colleges and employers. 

We are now in the process of testing our first draft of a profile with these key stakeholder groups and the response so far has been really exciting. Some universities and employers are going to start trialling it alongside their normal recruitment and admissions practices.

In the coming months we will start to turn this profile into an interactive resource so that schools can start to use this model to create profiles for their students. 

We would love your input too.

We will be trialling the learner profile for a range of young people from different backgrounds to test whether it works at all ages and for all needs. Harriet will be one of many case studies.

Each profile will be backed by a student portfolio of their work inside and outside of school.

The profile will be multimedia with the expectation that every young person does a small video to introduce themselves.

There will be space for every student to curate sections of the profile to show the full range of skills and interests. They can then alter the content and layout for  different audiences. 

Young people will accumulate testimonials as they go along as supporting evidence.

Young people will put in the shop window those pieces of best work that they think really stand out. 

There will space for young people to record their achievements outside of school as well as in school e.g. sporting, musical, voluntary activities..

Every student should have the chance to do a personal project -such as the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) to develop a passion and interest. 

There is a big prize here if we can bridge the academic/vocational divide by showcasing a variety of courses, some compulsory, some elective, some majors some minors.

As well as literacy and numeracy  we think there is a strong case for oracy and digital skills to be placed here and will be consulting stakeholders for their views. 

This is a dispositions wheel increasingly used by employers to assess key life skills. The 3 Cs are recognised in curricula across the world as centrally important and this is a place to provide evidence of them.

It is important that this profile allows young people to describe their learning journey at regular points during their schooling. These prompt questions will ultimately help students to write a better personal statement for UCAS or more an informative CV.

Valuing the strengths of every young person 

We have always believed this is a two stage process.

Stage One – Launching the learner profile

This can begin now even with our existing system. Students can upload formal GCSE, A level, BTEC or other qualifications to this profile. They can add music grades, coaching, DofE and other awards.

They can evidence achievements outside school using testimonials and photographs.

They can describe ways in which they have shown creativity and worked collaboratively with others. It will be up to individual schools, colleges and Multi Academy Trusts to decide.

And in certain locations, local authorities are going to trial something like this for all the schools, colleges and employers in their area

Stage Two – Rebalancing assessment to recognise knowledge, skills and dispositions

In order to rebalance assessment away from relying solely on high-stakes exams that just measure specific areas of subject knowledge, we will need to find a variety of ways to give value to the different components of the profile.

  1. The building blocks 
  2. Courses (single subjects, applied learning, interdisciplinary)
  3. An Extended Project Qualification or equivalent project
  4. The Dispositions Wheel (creative thinking, communication, collaboration)

This is a difficult process which will take time to get right and we will be consulting widely particularly with universities, colleges, employers and others. 

We want to hear your views. Please click on the button above to join the debate.

questions and challenges 

Why do we need a profile?

The current exam-based system does not capture the full range of young people’s strengths and is a crude measure of 14 years of compulsory schooling.

Haven’t we tried this before?

Yes. The National Record of Achievement. It was paper-based, too wordy, unfocused and employers were wanting more information about literacy and numeracy. Today employers actively want to know about wider skills and dispositions and the technology is in place to make this happen in a profile.

Who will own the profile?

The student, just as they ‘own’ the certificates they achieve in public examinations. But in this case ownership will be part of an explicit focus on encouraging students to become more powerful learners, able to reflect on progress made, able to decide on which aspects of their profile to show to others depending on the context.

What else will be included in a profile other than academic work?

Evidence of strengths in creative thinking, collaboration, oracy. Examples of beautiful work. Testimonials from a range of sources. The student’s own reflective comments.

Will everything be validated externally?

No. Many exams will continue to be assessed externally. But just as other qualifications and awards today carry UCAS tariff points when students apply to university,  in a profile there will be a wider range of evidence of success. This might include examples of best work, testimonials, videos of collaborative endeavours and evidence of oral demonstration of learning…

Will a learner profile undermine existing exams such as GCSEs, A levels and BTECs?

No. Profiles will complement these, giving a much fuller picture. They will also create an opportunity for students to gain credit for other non-examined courses they have taken.

Do we actually know how to assess dispositions like creativity and collaboration?

Yes! Don’t take our word for it. Look at the tests of Creative Thinking and Collaborative Problem-solving developed by the international testing body PISA. Rethinking Assessment has recently undertaken some pilot work on assessing creative thinking.

What will employers think?

Most employers want the kinds of skills and personal qualities a profile will evidence and they are closely involved with us in developing the profile. It will be important for them to be able to get what they need to know relatively quickly from any profile without reducing the profile’s strength, breadth and depth.

Will universities use it?

We believe so. At present all they have to go on to give a bigger picture of a learner is the UCAS personal statement. A profile would give them context and other useful information. We are working with admissions tutors on the profile.

Will the technology work?

Yes! The Mastery Transcript Consortium and a number of other prototypes are in use across the world now.

Will it be a lot of extra work for teachers?

No. But it will require a shift in thinking and support for professional development. All Rethinking Assessment tools are being co-developed with headteachers and teachers.

When will there be time to compile them?

Schools will create time either in form/tutor time or woven into subjects or in preparation for key points in the school calendar such as parents’ evenings where some schools are now ‘flipping’ parents’ evenings so it is the student presenting their work and being critiqued on it and not just listening to feedback from the teacher. 

At what age would children start to compile them?

They could start from Reception class in primary – obviously they would need more support the younger they are.

Does this benefit middle class children who have more opportunities?

No, the aim is that this profile is about a young person’s learning and their reflections on it. Schools can enable equity by providing an adult champion to support those learners who would benefit from assistance in completing their learner profile. Universities and employers tell us that this is a better way of understanding the context of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.