No need to fear detailed exam feedback

24th August 2007 at 01:00
I applaud Edexcel's move towards question- by-question feedback ("Exam details get personal", TES, August 10), but am amazed that such a system has taken so long to reach the English education scene. For many years, this feedback has been available for professional exams in industries from financial services to construction, where hundreds of thousands of exams take place.

I couldn't agree more that detailed information on students' exam performance is "damn important". And if such data is available, then I see no earthly reason why the candidates shouldn't have access to it. The threat of ambulance-chasing lawyers is hardly a reason not to adopt such an approach when it has been proven to give the best picture of the candidate's abilities. Surely that is paramount?

Rather than teachers seeing feedback as a threat, they should take the positive from the argument of Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, that good diagnostic assessment will demonstrate recurring areas of strength and weakness. The challenge for schools and teachers is to use diagnostic assessment to address those areas in time for the summative exam.

When the summativefinal results data are known, then students should be able to see their development over time. If there are areas of weakness common to all students in the same areas throughout the assessment process, then other factors need to be considered: for example, the teaching did not address the issues early enough or the summative exam was not a fair reflection of the curriculum or what was actually taught. It will be very difficult in practice, therefore, to lay blame squarely on individual teachers when armed with feedback.

Diagnostic assessment with question-by- question feedback allows the opportunity to pinpoint and address weaknesses through the trusted knowledge and experience of the teacher.

Geoff Chapman

Head of Communications

(Europe and the Middle East),

Prometric,

Manchester

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