Notes on Making Good Progress – Conclusion

progressSometimes I just get carried away a bit. I managed to get an early copy of Daisy Christodoulou’s new book on assessment called Making Good Progress. I read it, and I made notes. It seems a bit of a shame to do nothing with them, so I decided to publish them as blogs (6 of them as it was about 6000 words). They are only mildly annotated. I think they are fair and balanced, but you will only think so if you aren’t expecting an incredulous ‘oh, it’s the most important book ever’ or ‘it is absolutely useless’. I’ve encountered both in Twitter discussions.


This part addresses chapter 9 and the conclusion.
Finally, chapter 9 tries to tie several things together in one ‘integrated assessment system’. There are no references in this chapter. Many elements have already been discussed. For example, the ‘progression model’ which did not seem to offer really new insights (at least to me). Lesson plans and schemes of work appear out of the blue, together with ‘curriculum’. I agree that textbooks would be most helpful here. Another element is a ‘formative item bank’. Again, very useful, and there are already plenty out there. I am not sure if the summative item bank would need to be a different bank, just the way the items are used and compiled in valid, rigorous summative assessments needs scrutiny. I felt the ‘summative item bank’ for the quality model was far too much geared towards comparative judgement, an approach that in my view has limited scope; descriptor-based assessments can still play a role, especially in relation to exemplars. What the model *does* emphasise is that an assessment system should draw from several summative and formative sources, perhaps a little bit contradicting earlier parts of the book. This is also expressed on page 206 with the benefits (coherence, pupil ownership with adaptivity and gamification, self-improving with more adaptivity). Ultimately, though, I am left with the feeling that all these elements are already readily understood and even in place. Christodoulou seems to realise and state this on page 207 “Every individual element of this system exists already”, but does not address *how* organisations could come to an ‘unprecedented collaboration’. Maybe the challenge is that so many people *have* already tried and failed. Ideally I would have wanted the author to have touched on the costs for the resources as well. Many item banks cost money, GL and CEM assessments cost money, No More Marking is not free, Textbooks and exam boards charge money. All in all, with a funding squeeze, it is unrealistic to not address the costs.

The conclusion in the book is rather meagre with three pages. There is some repetition and bold claims again ‘flawed ideas about assessment have encouraged flawed classroom practice’. I think this caricaturises the situation. Sure, there are flawed practices but one could also say -in the quest for valid and reliable assessments- there always are flaws, even in some of the solutions Christodoulou proposes. Rather than exaggerate by calling practices flawed, it is better to look how practices can be improved. Christodoulou has some suggestions that should be taken seriously, but also critically evaluated in light of the wide body of research on assessment.


By cbokhove

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