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Assessment without levels; our plan

Why is it happening?

This video from Tim Oates summarises nicely why we are where we are:

Our rationale:


We wanted to create a system that allows:

  • Students to follow sequential steps to success.
  • Students and teachers working together to allow students to keep making progression steps throughout their KS3 and KS4 school career.
  • Sufficient challenge that allows all students to work at learning, based on stage not age.
  • A learning journey designed so that students get stuck and have to work hard to become unstuck with the help of the teacher resulting in knowledge development.

In essence we are trying to support students to move as quickly as possible towards a sustained and secure developed state of learning that is retained in the long term.


Our model; a 10 point scale with assessment objectives locally defined at subject level and broadly linked to what we are starting to understand about the requirements of revised GCSE specifications.

Subject specific threshold concepts ( Meyer & Land 2003) defined; these ideas being front loaded in the curriculum to provide a solid foundation upon which students can base more complex learning.

The creation of subject specific literacy descriptors to ensure that students are able to write like an expert in each field.

Differentiator descriptors created to allow teachers to easily identify and address knowledge gaps.

Assessments focused on particular assessment objectives. What are we assessing? Why? How? This blog from CEM is really useful in helping challenge thinking about assessments and their purpose.


For this to become a reality these are the steps that we currently think we will have to take:

  • Discussions that define threshold concepts.
  • Agreement of subject specific literacy requirements.
  • Definition of subject specific assessment objectives: knowledge / skills / understanding.
  • Creation of qualititative assessment objective descriptors that define the learning steps to success.
  • Creating the differentiators between steps
  • Training teachers to understand the differentiators between steps and ensuring consistency of application.
  • Creation of appropriate assessments.
  • Review the whole thing to see if it is working for our students!

Arising issues:

  • How will we report? Is it time for a change?
  • Parental information; how will we help our parents understand the dramatic changes that their children are facing?
  • The dichotomy between learning and performance; they are linked but in many ways requiring different things from our students.  I’m not sure that you can have exam performance without learning although the temptation is to focus on the performance before the learning…!
  • Learning not mimicry! We need students to be able to apply knowledge themselves and not parrot answers and content.

Where next?

Should we design an interleaved curriculum with distributed practice?

Can we train staff to be diagnostic in the identification of the aspects of learning that students are struggling with and effectively address this in a diverse class group?

How might the incorporation of SOLO taxonomy help in all of this?



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