Session 53 – Is it possible to measure successful learning without an exam-driven approach?

Session Title:

Is it possible to measure successful learning without an exam-driven approach?

Summary of Discussion:

[pullquote]Well they (exams) might have a (small) role. But mustn’t let tail wag dog.[/pullquote]At a time when the government is bringing a different point of view to assessment, the question triggered a lively discussion and raised quite a few points, some of which reminded me of the #purposed campaign and all the blog posts that were written as part of that! Accountability and being able to show what students have learnt is obviously very important, as is deciding how well schools are doing their job.

A range of approaches to assessment is really important.  It’s not always easy to measure learning as it is often a messy process and AfL was obviously valued by many as it gave a clearer picture of how to move learning forward with students. There was a debate (that went on into Friday!) about whether APP was an efficient or effective way of providing information about learning. Some had more positive experiences, some felt it had the right principles but the implementation had been too paperwork-heavy, some had developed their own school approaches to AfL.

The introduction of distinction grades, A** and A*** was also discussed and it was pointed out that publishers and exam bodies have a vested financial interest in continuing the use of exams. The use of portfolios and e-portfolios was suggested as a way forward by some; it was also noted that the emphasis on exams in Wales, Finland and Denmark is slightly different. There’s no easy answers to the question of measuring learning, but there was a strong feeling that exams were not the only way forward.

Notable Tweets from the Session:
Dunfordjames : @janwebb21 I think a start would be a profession led from the top by teachers. If we weren’t a political football it would be great!

@ukedchat @janwebb21 No need for exams if AFL is used properly and well.

RT @ICTmagic: Don’t think there is one blanket method to accurately assess progress which covers all subjects – including written tests. #ukedchat

What is successful learning?? Passing tests or being all you can be (and more) #ukedchat

RT @CreativeEdu: Don’t exams primarily test how good you are at exams? #ukedchat

@barton1875 Yes I agree. Self-assessment and self-target setting can massively increase motivation. #ukedchat

RT @ICTmagic: My class have just been and got back their SATs and I can say that they do not reflect the ability of the children. #ukedchat
Ton of ways to measure success – also a ton of diff ways to measure what success is – we need to know what we’re measuring first #ukedchat

Inspections? RT @astirrup34 #ukedchat if there were no exams how would schools be judged? Just asking?!

#ukedchat in Higher Ed reasons for exams were (1) difficult to plagiarize (2) good test of ability to work under pressure (3) quick to mark

#ukedchat also, how can exams possibly assess attitudes or values? They can’t surely…But exams skew the learning woefully

@nellmog: @janwebb21 none of the subjects I teach at A’level/BTEC have exam driven approach. Its impossible to teach to test>there isn’t 1 #ukedchat

@CreativeEdu 8 times for me. It was a good lesson in failure #ukedchat

Wondering what ‘successful’ learning looks like? Identify that and we can say whether exams are needed or not #ukedchat

@janwebb21 @thomascutts #ukedchat Yes that is a very good point. “Levelness” is quite a hard thing to grasp sometimes

#ukedchat change the factory model of education, treat children like individuals. Wide range of testing. Holistic view.

#ukedchat the prob is simply that tests are not REALLY used to assess pupils progress, they are used to assess teachers. This is wrong.

tim7168: RT @natachakennedy: #ukedchat Consistenmtly the best ed system in the world, Finland, has NO tests/exams until you get to college.

PivotalEllie: RT @john_at_muuua: @mattbuxton10 @janwebb21 LOL. Data as a weapon is precisely what OfSTED ninjas use. #ukedchat

Tweet of the Week:
SusanElkinJourn: @CreativeEdu @john_at_muuua Well they (exams) might have a (small) role. But must’t let tail wag dog. #ukedchat

CreativeEdu: I think it’s important to have an open mind @john_at_muuua probably not a skill you learnt by sitting exams…. #ukedchat

Web Links Highlighted During the Session:,index&res=&kw=&el=&sc=1,2,19,20,21,22&start=81

About your Host:

Teacher and learner from Cheshire– secondary trained and experienced, now teaching primary; ICT coordinator; recently e-learning lead teacher then Primary ICT Consultant with local authority; Currently seconded to Microsoft – managing the Innovative Teacher programme as part of the Partners in Learning network. Interests include online collaboration tools – wikis, learning platforms, web 2.0 tools; using technology to enhance teaching and learning; trying out new ideas; studying for Masters in Education and researching Digital Learning Dialogue. Blogs at and

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

1 Comment

  1. I think we need to ask ourselves whether we can afford to continue in this way with high stakes testing as the only method of assessment . How can the ability to pass exams be anything more than a tenuous,inaccurate indicator of a person’s potential?
    Speaking and listening assessments and controlled assessments of course work plus the use of personal teacher statements would go some way to describing more of the whole child. Exams wouldn’t be so bad if they were just part of the way we measure performance.

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