Children and young people should ‘fulfil their potential’ – this is often cited as a major goal of school teaching.  It follows that the measurement and evaluation of learning outcomes is of great importance. The aim should be to assess learning in ways that do justice to students’ full achievements, are fair and manageable, can be recorded and certified (if appropriate), and do not have undesirable consequences. 

Pupil achievements are also of great interest to many people - beginning of course with the pupils themselves, but also their parents or carers, teachers and school leaders, employers and admissions officers for the next stages of education or training, as well as politicians and the general public. Indeed, Newton (2007) identified no less than 22 different purposes of assessment, many of which concern summative assessment results. The multiple purposes for assessing of learning are also associated with the technical complexities of evaluating diverse achievements – so some complicated issues and dilemmas do arise (Broadfoot, 2007, Reading 14.1).

For an excellent overview of a wide range of issues, policies and practices in assessment, see:

•   Broadfoot, P. (2007) An Introduction to Assessment, London: Continuum.  (Reading 14.1)

A TLRP commentary provides a succinct overview of key issues:

•   Mansell, W. and James, M. with the Assessment Reform Group (2009) Assessment in schools: Fit for purpose? A commentary by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, London: TLRP.  (Reading 14.5)