The foundations of assessment: Myths & challenges


This is the second post in a mini series on how we’ve been working on key stage 3 assessment in my school. The first post in the series outlines when levels look like levels they’re probably levels. This post will look at what I considered before I started to design anything.

The myths & challenges of assessment

1.Myth: Learning is linear

Students don’t start as an empty vessel in year 7 and aren’t gradually ‘filled’ with learning over key stage 3 & 4 at a steady, consistent rate.


2. Challenge: We cannot accurately assess learning from one piece of work….or two…or three.

Using one piece of work to assess where a student is at with their learning is inaccurate and not reflective of what they have learnt. Who wants to be judged by one lesson observation?

Professional judgement is key, however there’s not always a piece of evidence to back this up. Some leaders don’t like this.


3. Challenge: GCSE Religious Studies is  easier than the challenges at key stage 3

Sad but true. The new GCSEs have gone some way to address this. Should we just use key stage 3 to prepare to succeed at GCSE or as a foundation for learning how to study religion/a subject?

4. Myth: Everything needs to be measured

Schools love spreadsheets and MISs. Recording, tracking, monitoring; the stuff of a data leader’s dreams. I love a good spreadsheet. Levels could do this nicely. The benefit of levels for leaders was that without knowing a subject, without knowing the student they can tell if a child is working at the ‘required’ level; their little box will automatically turn red/yellow/green. Levels attempted to measure ‘learning’ or at best performance. If we need to monitor what might be better to track?


5. Myth: A piece of work shows the limit of what a student has learnt (know, understand, can do)

If we mark a piece of student work against criteria, you cannot accurately say that just because they’ve done X they will always be able to do X, including in a different context. Equally just because you cannot see Y in their work, doesn’t mean they can’t do Y.

6. Challenge: RE teachers usually teach more students than most other subjects and have the least time

If you teach 600 students, see them once a fortnight you’ll barely know all their names by the end of the year. So for the first data entry point, what will you enter? Copy and paste? Put enough to keep anyone off your back? Keep the boxes green? Who cares?

7. Challenge: Teachers feel compelled/are made to spend more time creating evidence and entering data than focusing on the students themselves.

Six data collections a year, 20 teaching groups, that’s a LOT of wasted time.



3 thoughts on “The foundations of assessment: Myths & challenges

  1. Pingback: A model for whole school life without levels | missdcoxblog

  2. Pingback: Life without levels in RE: what do we want to assess? | missdcoxblog

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