Findings from focus groups: is controlled assessment working?

This paper reports on the findings of a focus group study designed to explore how teachers have responded to the introduction of controlled assessment. A total of three focus groups were convened. The focus groups took place at three schools, with each school represented by six or seven teachers from a variety of subject areas. Analysis of the discussions suggested a number of different themes relating to controlled assessment. These were: support, fairness and validity of the assessment, impact on teaching and learning, logistics, workload and pressure, and change. Overall, the findings suggested that, although there are some issues specific to controlled assessment, the broader problem is that teachers feel they have not been adequately supported in the changes that have been made. In addition, it seems that while controlled conditions are not problematic for individual subjects, significant logistical issues arise when several subjects are required to work under these controls. Although these findings provide an insight into teachers’ experiences of controlled assessment, due to the limited representativeness of the participants and the small scale nature of the study, it is recommended that further research, encompassing a broader range and a larger number of teachers, is conducted. In particular, research to inform the development of appropriate support materials would be of use.

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