Making Good Progress?: The future of Assessment for Learning

In February, my second book is going to be published by Oxford University Press. It’s called Making Good Progress?: The future of Assessment for Learning. 

It is the assessment follow-up to my first book, Seven Myths about Education, which was about education more generally. In Seven Myths about Education, I argued that a set of flawed ideas had become dominant in education even though there was little evidence to back them up. Broadly speaking, I argued that knowledge and teacher-led instruction had been given an undeserved bad reputation, and that the research evidence showed that knowledge, practice and direct instruction were more likely to lead to success than discovery and project-based learning.

The hardest questions I had to answer about the book were from people who really liked these ideas, and wanted to know how they could create an assessment system which supported them.  Certain kinds of activities, lessons and assessment tasks simply didn’t work with national curriculum levels. For example, discrete grammar lessons, vocabulary quizzes, multiple choice questions, and historical narratives were hard, if not impossible, to assess using national curriculum levels. Many schools required every lesson, or every few lessons, to end with an activity which gave pupils a level: e.g., at the end of this lesson, to be a level 4a, you need to have done x, to be a 5c, you need to have done y, to be a 5b, you need to have done z. This type of lesson structure had become so dominant as to feel completely natural and inevitable. But actually, it was the product of a specific set of questionable beliefs about assessment, and it imposed huge restrictions on what you could teach. In short, the assessment system was exerting a damaging influence on the curriculum, and that influence was all the more damaging for being practically invisible.

Over the last four years, in my work at Ark Schools, I have been lucky enough to have the time to think about these issues in depth, and to work on them with some great colleagues. Making Good Progress is a summary of what I have learnt in that time. It isn’t a manual about one particular assessment system. But it does contain all the research and ideas I wish I had known about when I first started thinking about this. In the next seven blog posts, I will outline a few brief summaries of some of the ideas it contains. Here they are.

  1. Why didn’t AfL transform our schools?
  2. Teaching knowledge or teaching to the test?
  3. Is all practice good?
  4. How can we close the knowing-doing gap?
  5. What makes a good formative assessment?
  6. How can we measure progress in individual lessons?
  7. How do bad ideas about assessment lead to workload problems?
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4 thoughts on “Making Good Progress?: The future of Assessment for Learning

  1. Pingback: Why didn’t Assessment for Learning transform our schools? | The Wing to Heaven

  2. Pingback: Is all practice good? | The Wing to Heaven

  3. Olivia Sparkhall

    Dear Daisy,

    I found ‘Making Good Progress?’ to be an inspiring read. Please may I ask a question about ‘model of progression’? You say that exam specs and past papers are not specific or detailed enough to communicate models of progression but that textbooks are (144-5). You go on to advocate the use of a textbook. I remember reading other research (years ago!) which concurs. My question for you is do you believe that the textbook should get progressively harder as it goes on? My problem is that the only textbook that the exam board endorses (in this case, for GCSE) has the same level of complexity throughout and I wanted to glean your opinion on this.

    Thank you very much, in advance, for your reply.

    Best wishes,

    Yours sincerely,

    Olivia

    Reply

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