Nothing is as good as a good question

Child wearing red jumper putting hand up in class

Cambridge Assessment’s Tim Oates CBE has given a keynote speech at a conference examining the next steps for primary assessment in England.

Tim, who chaired the expert panel that reviewed the National Curriculum in England, appeared at a Westminster Education Forumtoday on Primary assessment in England - baseline rollout, and developing assessment beyond reception and for children below the national curriculum standard.

The event was held ahead of the rollout across England of the new teacher mediated baseline assessment, which originally was going to be introduced in autumn 2020, but has been postponed until the following autumn due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In his speech, Tim focused on what makes good primary assessment. He said high quality assessment enables us to determine what is happening at system level, but also at school level.

He argued that assessment is about asking good questions, and about doing so continuously. He referenced Jeffrey Karpicke and Paul Kirschner’s work which argued that questions immediately after a period of learning - addressing misconceptions, confirming understanding – consolidate and make permanent learning in a way in which learning, then re-learning, does not. 

“Nothing is as good as a good question,” Tim said. “They stimulate thought, they excite curiosity, and they tell us about the mental life of each child. “If we use these criteria for good assessment in primary and the criteria which underpin the National Curriculum [such as the study of fewer things, but in greater depth] we will see continued improvement in attainment and improved equity not only in primary but everywhere else in our system.”

The conference was chaired by Conservative peer and Good Schools Guide editor Lord Lucas and Lord Storey, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education. It also heard keynotes from Alison Ley, Lead, Engagement Model Delivery, Department for Education; Louise Ling, Teaching School Director, SEND Teaching School and Carole Willis, Chief Executive, NFER.

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