12th September 2003 at 01:00
PROMOTING ASSESSMENT AS LEARNING: improving the learning process. By Ruth Dann. RoutledgeFalmer pound;16.99

Ruth Dann presents a passionate and thorough argument for placing the learner at the heart of assessment so that, through the student's involvement, assessment becomes integral to the learning process. This is not a new idea, but Dann provides a powerful rationale for this approach.

The book begins with an exploration of the assumptions about teaching and learning implicit in the national curriculum. She argues that there is a focus on outcomes rather than processes, and teaching rather than learning.

She looks closely at Year 6 and the impact of testing on teaching and learning for this "high stakes" cohort. This section is particularly well observed. A small-scale case study offers strategies for Year 6 teachers to prepare children for the tests more meaningfully: through reminder, repetition, recontextualising, reconceptualising and reflection.

In another case study, self-assessment is given particular emphasis. Dann acknowledges the importance of children self-assessing against success criteria rather than grades, but suggests they should be encouraged to create further criteria based on their own learning priorities.

Dann is an academic who can communicate complex ideas simply and engagingly, and her book is rooted in the realities of the primary classroom. The publisher's claim that it "offers practical approaches" is not quite accurate: teachers will not be left with strategies to try out in class tomorrow, but they will be left reflecting on their practice, their hopes for their children's learning and their role as educators.

Shirley Clarke is an associate of the Institute of Education, University of London

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