Assessment OF learning ?

Assessment of / or rather for learning ? A discussion of the issues including that of a pupil’s subject knowledge. Self then peer assessment are pointless where a class isn’t 150% behind the process.


One of the major theories that has become steadily more popular over the last few years has been assessment for learning tasks. The principal dichotomy of this theory is this:

Granted, a pupil is better informed if they know exactly how to get from one level to the next. This is going to make self assessment more effective – if we are sure of level requirements. This initiative has already been frustrated by “life after levels” – which at least were nationally agreed criteria so there was consistency in assessment of those levels. Life after levels has however meant that every school has “rethought” levels so that they could be seen to be following good current practice which meant that the consistency between what makes a level six at one school as opposed to another has been completely eroded.

At least whilst levels were nationally agreed, there was a point to this assessment, but when there is no consistency between schools anywhere regarding the new National Curriculum, there is no real point in rating any kind of comparison between schools.

Self assessment is all well and good, however peer assessment complicates the issue further. If pupil A has to assess pupil B on their knowledge of the past tense in Italian, the time spent doing so is totally pointless if pupil A does not understand the subject matter in itself. Pupil A is incapable of creating a meaningful input into the whole process because (S)he doesn’t have the knowledge to tick the box. Consequently because of this lack of ability, pupils are attributing less and less importance to self and peer assessed tasks, and filling them in for class is becoming pointless.

We are consequently producing generations of children that learn facts to tick boxes, but who have very little enthusiasm to self motivate into study, and lack the incentive to find opportunities to apply the little knowledge that they do manage to accumulate. One example of this would have to be in foreign languages:


A pupil arrived one morning to see their teacher and said “Sir, I want to do German A Level, and I got an A* at GCSE”. The teacher replied “So, tell me a bit about last year and the Summer holidays” – knowing full well that this was one topic that was examined for the speaking. The pupil then proceeded to spout forth ad nauseum as per their script – learned dilligently for their spoken exam. The teacher then said to them “Ok, very good. Now write half a page of German about yourself and your family” at which the pupil looked worried and indignant. “That wasn’t on the exam” they blustered…

This story is absolutely true, and testament to the fact that performance indicators for teachers are solely there to be taught to in order to make sure that the teacher continues up the pay spine. This is at the expense of the education of the children in their care. They remain convinced (this is my generalisation) that they are still doing the job that they signed up to do – like the performance indicators or not. The blunt fact remains that the profession has been de-skilled to the point where education theory takes very little role in deciding the results of a school and the creation of a desire to explore the wider world and expand one’s own mind.

Many serving teachers would argue that this is simply not true, however a failure to follow the process through from the point of view of a pupil would in my mind indicate practice that wasn’t totally thought through and therefore not as effective as it could be. As I said in the “about” – people are perfectly at will to disagree however there will I am sure come a point where I am proven correct.



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