Assessment for Learning: Research and Policy in the (Dis)United Kingdom
Developments in the United Kingdom, with respect to Assessment for Learning (AfL), need to be understood in relation to interactions between research and policy. On the one hand, AfL ideas and practices have been developed, defined, refined and disseminated by members of the educational research community, and especially by members of the UK Assessment Reform Group. On the other hand, they have been interpreted, reinterpreted and incorporated into national policy by government agencies to meet goals of educational reform. This chapter describes the policy contexts and the distinct ways in which AfL has been taken up and implemented in each of the four countries of the UK, and the extent of policy borrowing among them. Divergence between England and the other three countries is explored and attributed to differences in: understandings of ideas about “learning” and “performance”; beliefs about which practices and aspects of overall assessment policy will raise standards; and the relationships between researchers and policy-makers. Effective educational change for the benefit of learners and learning will require researchers and policy-makers to maintain a continuing dialogue in order to deepen understanding of the relationship between assessment and learning, and to tackle issues associated with “going to scale”. Researchers, especially, will need to engage in ongoing creative mediation so that AfL ideas and practices are renewed in ways congruent with defensible purposes.
The author of this paper is indebted to Richard Daugherty, Carmel Gallagher and Louise Hayward who suggested improvements with respect to the accounts of policy and practice in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, respectively. However, any faults that remain are the author’s alone.
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