Moving the System: The Contributions of Assessment
Alan Bell, Hugh Burkhardt, and Malcolm Swan
In the two previous chapters, we discussed the principles and examples that are typical of some recent efforts to design external assessment that reflects curriculum objectives in mathematical education in a balanced way. Here, we want to review the processes of implementation and the roles of assessment in the dynamics of educational change, illustrated mainly from experience in the United Kingdom.
We have already noted the heuristic observation that the implemented curriculum is strongly influenced, perhaps even dominated, by the nature of any assessment procedures whose results directly affect the students and teachers involved. This is, of course, neither surprising nor accidental. Since public assessment represents an official measure of the achievement of students and (although there are other obvious important factors) the performance of their teachers, it is a brave teacher who will devote much time to aspects of mathematical performance for which no direct "credit" accrues. Indeed, some would regard it as irresponsible to do so, although there are groups of dedicated teachers who regularly include other elements of the curriculum that are not tested because of their perception of the educational benefits that these elements offer. Politicians have long recognized, and used, assessment as a powerful lever for putting pressure on those who work in the education system.