Tagged: Assessment

Presentations from The 3rd International Workshop on Curriculum Innovation and Reform

Members of the International Bureau of Education recently participated in the 3rd International Workshop on Curriculum Innovation and Reform: Changing Assessment to Improve Learning Outcomes, organised by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop). The International Workshop drew on lessons from current work conducted by Cedefop and other research and international organisations on the implications of approaches to the design and implementation of curriculum and assessment policies and practices.

I have attached links to some of the event presentations which I found particularly interesting.

UNESCO-IBE Community of Practice – Week 3 – Assessment

As the third and final week of the annual e-forum draws to a close, members of the Community of Practice on Curriculum Development are discussing the following questions:

1.      What are the potential learning outcomes of a curriculum that addresses socio-cultural diversity? What kinds of knowledge, skills and core competencies should be assessed?

2.      What kinds of assessment tools could be used? What should be the criteria used for assessment?

3.      How can assessment support the learning process and improve the well-being of all students?

I’ll be writing a post next week to draw the concluding issues together.

Reporting Curriculum for Excellence Outcomes

Now that Curriculum for Excellence is under implementation, our First Year pupils are being assessed based on their experiences and their outcomes gained from the broad general education. If the terminology – Developing, Consolidating and Secure is new to you, then this video will help. It was produced by my school, for the benefit of the young people and their parents and carers.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Curriculum change in Scotland

A special thanks to Jayne Brady, a colleague from UNESCO-IBE based in Geneva (and Aberdeen) for this contribution, recently uploaded to the CoP Curriculum Development eForum. It provides a really useful outline of curriculum change in Scotland, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me sharing it with you! It sits nicely beside my recent paper on Assessment in Scotland.

“Some of the most important characteristics of the CfE reform are: (i) The total curriculum from 3-18 is being revised around four capacities: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors (ii) The Scottish government has commissioned four national partners – Learning and Teaching Scotland, The Scottish Government, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and The Scottish Qualifications Authority – to come up with a joint approach (iii) the involvement and ‘engagement’ of the schools in an innovative interactive way, using ICTs. The reform was motivated by a desire for the inclusion of all students, an increase in student motivation, and the need to develop “21st century learners” . It aims (amongst other things) to better address student’s expectations, and reduce the disproportionate importance attached to national examination results. 

In fact, a report by the OECD  in 2007 applauded the Scottish high levels of attainment, the well-designed system of comprehensive schooling, the commitment of stakeholders to high- quality education, and the breadth and depth of reform. However, it also showed serious  achievement gaps between rich and poor. E.g. attainment of the lowest 20 percent is flat , though increases are being seen at the top-end of the spectrum.


In the CfE, the aim is to move towards a more formative assessment system. The key idea behind Assessment is for Learning in the CfE is that assessment is used to improve the outcomes of learning and the learning processes. The three principles of the Assessment is for Learning are (1) assessment as a subject of learning (Assessment as learning) for example by together deciding what knowledge should be acquired. (2) assessment in order to learn (Assessment for learning) – for example: pupils reflect and give feedback on the knowledge acquired and carry out a self evaluation. (3) the actual assessment of the knowledge acquired (Assessment of learning).


Although the CoE has started to be implement this year, there has been little precise information available on the required assessment (scheduled introduction is in 2013/2014). This is a major cause for concern, as teachers appear to feel they have no idea about the exams that they should be preparing children for. Teachers are calling for more guidance on a definition of standards, relevant evidence, criteria and teaching activites etc.

Aside from more precisions, it will be quite a challenge to integrate the principles of formative assessment into the curriculum, especially at the secondary level where the dominant culture  is summative and teaching is mostly geared towards external testing. In the words of the SLO, “the exams of the Scottish Qualifications Authority have an almost sacred status in the last three years of secondary education”. It is interesting that qualifications in the last three years will remain the same but “reviewed to ensure that they reflect the ideas behind Curriculum for Excellence.” In the long-term, this might risk creating a double standard of qualifications for those who do not make it to the last three years of schooling… but perhaps this concern will be seen to be non-justified as more concrete details are published.


In any case, it is interesting that no official league tables exist in Scotland, until the higher education level. However, parents and the media have created unofficial lists e.g.


While the CfE is an ambitious and exciting proposal, it seems we still have a long way to go in changing mindsets and attitudes around assessment.”

How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better

I’ve just had a read through the McKinsey & Company report on How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better. What an  interesting read! There are two versions; an executive summary and the full report – the former is also available in Arabic, Portugese and Spanish.

 How does a school system with poor performance become good?

And how does one with good performance become excellent?

This latest education report is the follow-up to the 2007 publication “How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top,” in which the authors examined the common attributes of high-performing school systems. This report identifies the reform elements that are replicable for school systems everywhere as well as what it really takes to achieve significant, sustained, and widespread gains in student outcomes.

Who is it for? I’d say anyone in education from teachers to Government policy makers. The report is packed full of insightful contributions and I’m sure that there is something for everyone.

McKinsey & Company have analysed twenty systems from around the world, all with improving but differing levels of performance, examining how each has achieved significant, sustained, and widespread gains in student outcomes, as measured by international and national assessments.

The systems studied were: Armenia, Aspire (a US charter school system), Boston (Massachusetts), Chile, England, Ghana, Hong Kong, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Long Beach (California), Madhya Pradesh (India), Minas Gerais (Brazil), Ontario (Canada), Poland, Saxony (Germany), Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, and Western Cape (South Africa).

The fundemental challenge to policy makers and to school leaders is how to focus and improve the journey that a learner makes from the early years through to Higher Education or Lifelong Learning within another setting. The path to continuous improvement is not an easy one and the report illustrates approaches to support those making the journey to excellence in order to improve outcomes.

UNESCO-IBE: CoP Paper on Assessment


Annual E-Forum 2010: The Role of Assessment in Promoting the Development of Student’s Competencies

22 November Week 1 – Reflective Paper on Assessment in Scotland

The following article is taken from my paper on Assessment which was recently submitted to the International Bureau of Education Community of Practice. This is the first of three papers which span this year’s theme as described above. It is available as a .pdf; if you want a copy please get in touch with your email address and I’ll forward it to you as soon as possible.

Discussion Paper – Theme

What are the current issues and visions relating to the improvement of assessment formats in your region, as seen from the perspectives of teachers, researchers and other educational stakeholders?

Rationale – The Scottish Context

Across Scotland, learning providers including schools, colleges, universities and third sector organisations have started to implement Curriculum for Excellence. The ambition is to help all our children and young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. These are the four capacities which sit at the heart of education in Scotland, with particular focus on numeracy, literacy and health and wellbeing.

Scotland is building upon the strength of effective approaches to assessment within the formal context of attainment and under the wider auspices of achievement. The vision aims to ensure that existing good practice is shared, reflected upon and implemented  in  order  to

raise standards of achievement for all children and young people, regardless of ability or the  young person’s learning setting. It also takes account of best practice elsewhere and the findings of international research such as those in the Analysis and Review of Innovations in Assessment (ARIA). 

In Scotland, it is recognised that learning (both formal and informal) can take place through school, further and higher education, National Training Programmes, Employment, Personal Social Development (informal learning) and Volunteering. 

An inclusive curriculum accommodates the needs of all learners and through the planning and delivery of a broad general education (3 to 15) and effective transition into a positive and sustained destination within the Senior Phase curriculum (broadly 15 to 18) it is possible to promote assessment which permits cultural and social inclusion whilst providing a rich and diverse experience based on a range of skills for learning, life and work. 

Ergo, in the Scottish context, the purposes of assessment can be defined to: 

  • support learning that develops the knowledge and understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities which contribute to the four capacities as previously described; 
  • give assurance to parents, learners and others, that children and young people are progressing in their learning and developing in line with expectations; 
  • provide a summary of what learners have achieved, including through qualifications and awards; 
  • contribute to planning the next stages of learning and to help learners progress to further education, higher education and employment; 
  • inform future improvements in learning and teaching.

Culture, Structure and Process 

Teachers and the wider school community have implicit theories and assumptions on what counts as ‘good assessment’. These mental models have developed their own history as current educators relate to their personal experiences as students, making the ideas natural and resistant to change. 

In Scotland, encouragement in innovation and curriculum design requires transformational change to the whole education system in terms of the culture and ethos within schools, the structure that supports the system and the processes and practice which drive learning and teaching. If society does not understand a new policy, even well intentioned change cannot be sustained. There is evidence in Scotland that key stakeholders have invested massive resources into the new assessment framework which underpins the new curriculum and this can be seen in the new Framework for Assessment, as part of the Building the Curriculum series. 

Through the planning and delivery of a personalised learning pathway, children and young people are recognised as individuals and as such they must be provided with the opportunity to realise their potential whilst accessing high quality teaching, information, advice and guidance. This means that the majority of young people, following a more academic route into further or higher education, will still study formal National Qualifications. It is vital that the system recognises that not all young people are able to pass formal examinations within this context and that the culture, structure and process allows those whom choose to follow a more vocational based pathway are given the opportunity to do so.

16+ Learning Choices is the Scottish Government’s policy to support all young people into positive and sustained destinations. This is a tailored programme of support which places emphasis on recognising the student as an individual and not part of a cohort and assessment of competence, risk and support is essential in this context. Every young person in Scotland aged between 15 and 18 (broadly) is entitled to this support.

Barriers and Attitudes

There is sufficient evidence that there is a consistent and joined up approach to learning, teaching and assessment. Habitual practices which exist within schools and the teaching profession in Scotland can be challenging and present significant barriers to progress. It is only natural that teachers have different levels of knowledge and expertise in planning and carrying out assessment practices that could enable them to implement more inclusive approaches when assessing the competency of their students.

As Curriculum for Excellence is implemented, there is likely to be some discrepancy in the way in which informal classroom assessment is carried out, whereas the more formal assessment through national examinations and portfolios of coursework will be more reliable, as this is verified and quality assured by The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Using formative assessment to provide deep learning and achieve competencies has questioned previous teaching pedagogy and indeed, the role of the teacher is now changing, from subject specialisms, which will remain, to broader interdisciplinary teaching based on a broad general education; Experiences and Outcomes.

Inclusive education is promoted by all major stakeholders in education; The Scottish Government, Learning and Teaching Scotland, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education, Scotland’s Colleges and the teaching unions all share a common vision. Our Universities and Higher Education institutes provide invaluable research on equality and inclusion which encompass this shared vision and this is built into teacher training, the standards for registration set out by The General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Through Assessment Is For Learning (AiFL) teachers have been provided with a multitude of assessment resources which allow both formative and summative reflection on the progress of individuals.

Through training models, student teachers have paid particular attention to the different types of assessment, the strategies they are built upon and how to maintain records – monitoring and tracking being a recognised essential component in developing student competencies. The largest proportion of training takes place during University based lectures and workshops, though student teachers are given the opportunity to practice their skills and pedagogy through direct engagement with young people whilst on a school placement.

With an arsenal of strategies to deploy, it is important that teachers know when it is appropriate to use a particular method and when it is not. It is therefore relevant to mention that part of this training, which is on-going even for the most experienced teachers through a series of in-service days and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, to hone these skills by translating research into effective practices, assess the progress of all students through the curriculum; including how to assess learners whose attainment is lower than average; use assessment as a planning tool for the class as a whole, as well as drawing up individual plans and targets for pupils. It is expected that teachers in Scotland spend an additional 35 hours of CPD activity, though this does not necessarily need to be based upon assessment.

There is evidence, supported by reports on school inspection by HMIe, to suggest that most schools have short life working groups or committees’ set-up to address assessment, usually under the auspices raising achievement and attainment.

All of the following strategies and record keeping practices for competency based-  assessment are amongst the toolkit of all teachers in Scotland, underpinned by a desire to promote the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence. Where subject specialism’s differ, the type of project work and evidence gathered could diverse significantly. The list is not exhaustive by any means and as creativity is encouraged, teachers are developing new innovative methods of collating assessment evidence. 

Glow, the schools digital network, provides opportunities for online assessment of homework and coursework. In Scotland, though significant resources have been applied to Glow, it still only scratches the tip of the ice-burg in this context. There is potential here, to develop a world class leading system of digital learning. 

Type of Assessment

Strategy Record Keeping


Group work, problem solving, learning centres, excursions, incursions, developmental play, learning stories Anecdotal notes, skills checklists, marking criteria, photography, video/audio/digital recordings

Work Samples

Individual work items: concept mapping, drawings, activity sheets, writing tasks, reflections, visual representations, surveys, position papers Portfolios (digital and hard copy), student profiles, scrap books, files


Dramatic enactments, debates, interviews, operas, raps, poetry, songs, dance, panel discussions Marking criteria, rubrics, peer and self assessment, descriptive feedback – oral and written


Models, murals, collages, written projects, community projects, presentations, design briefs, powerpoints

Marking criteria, ruberics, peer and self assessment, descriptive feedback – oral and written.

 Moss & Godinho (2005) 

The UNESCO-IBE discussion paper recognises that internationally, contextual assessment is under-developed. There is a historic culture in Scotland that when a young person struggles to attain their potential, that they themselves are to blame. This attitude, which is not unique to Scotland, has started to change in recognition that to be inclusive, the education system is responsible for allowing young people to grow and develop. New partnerships with internal and external agencies are now driving forward progress; new ways of working with a range of professionals in Health, The Police, Psychological Services and Social Workers are now accepted as normal practice by teachers, parents, carers and indeed children and young people.

Common, single assessment is now the approach which promotes the young person at the centre of any planning and delivery within the education service. Through various strategies such as Cooperative Learning and collaborative assessment; teamwork, leadership, communication, organisation and high level skills in preparing for learning, life and work are all core components of a rich and diverse curriculum. This requires, from the onset in teaching training, a sound understanding of the purpose of assessment and the role that it plays on developing competencies. Teachers must now be the facilitator and the evaluator and they need to understand where one role starts and the other stops.

There is a desirable need for schools to change their practices if they are to become 21st century learning providers. Policymakers and staff delivering frontline services need to realise that it is acceptable to promote alternative assessment practices if they are to inform the progress of an individual or a cohort. The new National Qualifications will employ a systemic and robust quality assurance process which sees the required assessment being consistent and orderly across Scotland and this will soon be made public in detail from The Scottish Qualifications Authority.

UNESCO-IBE Annual Forum on Education Assessment

United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation – International Bureau of Education Annual Forum – “The Role of Assessment in Promoting the Development of Student’s Competencies”  22 November-10 December 2010‏

The IBE Community of Practice in Curriculum Development (COP) Annual forum will be held from 22 November – 10 December 2010. The focus this year will be on The Role of Assessment in Promoting the Development of Student’s Competencies. Through a discussion paper and a series of weekly questions aimed to stimulate reflection and discussion, I’ll be sharing my thoughts with international colleagues and I’ll include some insights on my blog through a series of posts. Chances are, I may well be asking you for some advice and information so if you’re reading this, please share and encourage your networks to follow me (Twitter @leeandrewdunn); the more expertise and experience that I can tap into the better!

There will be a different topic related to assessment each week. Here’s what to expect:

  • Week 1 – What are the current issues and visions relating to the improvement of assessment formats, as seen from the perspectives of teachers, researchers and other education stakeholders.
  • Week 2 – What are the implications of assessment approaches based on testing for certification in the teaching/learning processes and outcomes.
  • Week 3 – What kind of assessment practices could play a positive role in the development of student competencies?

Apologies, I now need to add a boring but essential disclaimer; please note that any related posts, tagged UNESCO, although topical and based mostly on assessment in the Scottish education system and under the auspices of Curriculum for Excellence are directly linked to my personal and professional role as a member of the IBE Community of Practice and is not linked in anyway to The Scottish Government. All the source data is within the public domain and where expressed, opinions are my own.