How can we measure and report progress meaningfully?

Having struggled through many of these issues – but not articulating my misgivings particularly well – I found this very insightful and useful.


As we continue to develop our system-wide thinking about assessment, it’s important that teachers and leaders understand the underlying concepts we’re dealing with.  In order to motivate and challenge all students, it makes good sense to try to distinguish between attainment and progress.  This allows us to give value to students making strides with their learning regardless of their starting point.  Schools have made valiant efforts to develop assessment language and processes to measure progress and to report this to parents.  Not everyone can get the top marks but everyone can make progress.  That’s the idea.  But does it work?

The idea of progress only works if we’re clear about what it means – and only if we give it the weight the concept can sustain.

If we have something absolute like the time it takes to run a 5K race or how far we can jump in long jump…

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What Einstein didn’t say…

I remember being at school and having to wait outside the Housemaster's study.  It was the early 1990s and the hallway in which I waited contained the usual flummery of past house pictures, notes, updates and reminders.  Next to the notice board were two posters that we all mocked at every available opportunity one said:... Continue Reading →

Is there a right way to teach? Making sense of the trad-prog debate.

A sensible approach to the debate and well worth a read.


(I wrote this in February for Guardian Teacher Network but since they didn’t ever get back to me I’m posting it here instead….)

Is there a right way to teach? Making sense of the progressive-traditional debate.

Debates about the purposes of education, the influence of social and political values and the role of research evidence are increasingly found as interwoven threads in our discourse on policy and practice in schools.  This is healthy but can be tricky to navigate, especially if, like me, you have an aversion to being forced to pick sides.

After a couple of decades when student-centred personalised learning was officially all the rage, we are in a phase where traditional teacher-led instruction and a knowledge-driven curriculum are in the ascendency, promoted enthusiastically by Nick Gibb, Amanda Spielman  and plenty of school leaders and teachers. Just go along to a ResearchEd event – knowledge is…

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What if we cannot measure pupil progress?

Insightful and timely.

Becky Allen's musings on education policy

Testing and recording what students know and can do in a subject has always been part of our education system, especially in secondary schools where teachers simply cannot hold in their head accurate information about the hundreds of students they encounter each week. However, measuring progress – the change in attainment between two points in time – seems to be a rather more recent trend. The system – headteachers, inspectors, advisors – often wants to measure something quite precise: has a child learn enough in a subject this year, relative to other children who had the same starting point?

The talks I have given recently at ResearchED Durrington and Northern Rocks set out why relatively short, standardised tests that are designed to be administered in a 45-minute/one hour lesson are rarely going to be reliable enough to infer much about individual pupil progress. There is a technical paper and a

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Sharpening the Saw

I know, the title says saw and the quotation says axe.  But you see my point?  Well, niot actually my point but Stephen Covey's point.  Covey, in his self-help manual The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People states that we should all spend more time 'sharpening the saw'.  In his book, he comments on a... Continue Reading →

Can we ‘see’ learning?

I had a great conversation recently with an acquaintance who works in school leadership and has done for some time.  However, something he said has been bouncing around in my mind for the past few weeks and I just can't shake it. We were talking about graded lesson observations and we had quite polarised views. ... Continue Reading →

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