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Problems with formative and summative assessment: can a theory of pedagogy help?

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Assessment for Learning has been prominent in education debates for the last twelve years. Whilst its advocates could see this as a success story, implementation has been uneven. One problem is that the changes in classroom practice have often been superficial. A second problem is that the label has been applied to practices which amount to no more than frequent summative testing. A third problem is the tension that teachers feel between the pressures of accountability and their desire to improve the quality of learning in their classrooms. I shall argue that these problems call for a fundamental reflection on the role of Formative Assessment within the context of a theory of Pedagogy. Moreover there is a need to undertake a similar re-think of the role of Summative Assessment within that same context, and thereby work for ways to re-align the two. Such a re-alignment will call for harder, and realistic, thinking about teachers’ summative assessment skills, both in their use year-on-year within schools and in their role in the terminal stages of primary and secondary schooling.

This talk is part of the 5th Cambridge Assessment Conference: Challenges of assessment reform series.

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