AfL critics vindicated by research

Warwick Mansell

Leading educationists this week criticised the way the Government introduced Assessment for Learning, a criticism that is born out by Professor Hattie's research.

The approach, which involves pupils being given good feedback on what they need to do to improve, bears strong relation to approaches praised in Professor Hattie's work.

Recently, ministers announced a Pounds 150 million programme to make Assessment for Learning (AfL) a feature of classrooms across England. But the House of Commons schools committee was told this week that the Government version was not in line with the research that led to its adoption.

Professors Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam, of King's College London, developed the approach from 1998 in schools in Oxfordshire and Medway. One of their key findings was that pupils should be told only what they needed to do to improve, rather than being given grades.

Critics of the Government's version say it is too linked to the need to generate levels and numerical targets for each pupil.

Professor David Hargreaves, a former head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said: "Unfortunately, what the Government has put in place is a debased version of the Black and Wiliam model. All the radical stuff about how teachers teach was removed and it began to focus on targets."

Tim Oates, group director of research at Cambridge Assessment, said a key to AfL was for pupils to set their own learning goals in non-statistical terms: "This self-referential aspect was completely absent from the way in which it was rolled out institutionally from the centre."

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Warwick Mansell

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