Blog of the Week: 17 July 2020 – Assessing learning in the new academic year (Part 2 of 2)

Having explored the different purposes for school assessment in the academic year ahead in part 1, here EEF senior associate Prof. Rob Coe looks at the role of quality assessment in helping teachers understand how best to help your pupils regain any learning lost during Covid-19 school closures.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the most high-profile topics in English education proved to be the content and aims of the school curriculum. Too often, curriculum was the subject of debate, but assessment received too little attention.

Any consideration of curriculum should be inextricably bound to understanding quality diagnostic learning assessments. If you want to use assessments to tell you whether students have learnt something, you need to be clear what it is you wanted them to learn in the first place. Clarity about the intended learning (ie, the curriculum) is crucial if we want to create or select questions for an assessment that will tell us what has been learnt.

Ideally, this includes thinking about the sequencing and anatomy of that learning. When a learning aim or task is complex, clarifying the curriculum includes identifying …

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Blog of the Week: 10 July 2020 – Assessing learning in the new academic year

Assessment – to help identify pupils’ learning gaps following Covid-19 school closures – has emerged as one of the top priorities for schools preparing for the new school year. In the first of this two-part blog, Prof. Rob Coe, senior associate at the EEF, looks at the different purposes of assessment to help teachers and school leaders think through what you want to put in place for the autumn.

Since the Covid-19 closure of schools in England to most children, there has been a lot of concern about learning loss and widening gaps. The EEF’s own rapid evidence assessment has suggested that school closures are likely to at the very least reverse progress made to close the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers since 2011.

Many teachers have suggested that when children return to ‘normal’ schooling, assessment will be crucial to identify gaps and target catch-up strategies, while others have argued that cancellation of Key Stage 2 and GCSE exams proves we can live without them and perhaps should downplay these kinds of assessments in the future. 

Assessment can certainly help to identify what students have, or have not, learnt and …

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Blog of the Week: 26 June 2020 – What does the research say about designing video lessons?

Education technology is really powerful. The problem is that it is just as easy to use that power badly as to use it well.

You can see this with video lessons – clearly video allows you to do all kinds of cool things, but how many of these cool things will help students to learn better?

The best guide I have come across is the work of Richard Mayer, in particular The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. It is truly exhaustive – it details hundreds of studies, establishes a couple of dozen principles, and makes it clear where the research is limited or in flux, and where the boundary of each principle lies. In chapter 3 of my book Teachers vs Tech I write about quite a few of Mayer’s principles. I also say that given just how complex …

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Blog of the week: 19 June 2020 – Rebooting behaviour after the lockdown

No one would have believed in the last term of 2019 that a microscopic enemy was gathering speed against us. ‘With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter,’ as H G Wells said. Suddenly, a meteor landed in our schools and abruptly playground sounds – almost – ceased. 

All schools suddenly became special schools, serving the children of key workers, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. Almost every student in the UK was sent home on what was effectively a fixed-term exclusion. Even the default model of the physical classroom experience was replaced by emergency remote learning. The effects of this earthquake will be impossible to understand fully for years. 

And now, or at some point in the future, schools will be thinking about opening their gates wider to more groups of pupils. Whenever that is, and in what sequence, is for others to decide. But whatever the shape and timing of this awakening, schools …

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‘Fingertip Knowledge’: building a system to bridge the knowledge gap.

Mr W-M History

After nearly three months only open to the children of key workers, the coming weeks will see secondary schools across the country begin to very slowly try to adjust to a ‘new normal’ as students return to socially distanced classrooms.

Whilst students and teachers alike will face innumerable challenges with a return to education, one of the most important will no doubt be the vast knowledge gaps that will inevitably have emerged between students during the time they have had out of the classroom.

Some students will have been able to continue learning at home through the efforts of their teachers to provide resources online. Others, through no fault of their own, will have really struggled to access any work at home at all. Clearly, when we do eventually return to teaching something even remotely like the classes that we had before schools were partially closed, students will be in…

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Blog of the Week: 5 June 2020 – Why I’m no longer talking to white people about racism

Reni Eddo-Lodge

I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms. I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates our experiences. You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals like they can no longer hear us.

This emotional disconnect is the conclusion of living a life oblivious to the fact that their skin colour is norm and all others deviate from it. At best, white people have been taught not to mention that people of colour are ‘different’ in case it offends us. They truly believe that the experiences of their life as a result of their skin colour can and should be universalised. I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences …

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Blog of the Week: 5 June 2020 – Business as usual? Race, white privilege and COVID-19

By Professor Kalwant Bhopal, Professor of Education and Social Justice & Director of the Centre for Research on Race and Education, University of Birmingham

“If we are serious about addressing such inequalities and how white privilege works, we must look to improving the lives of BME communities…”

Recent figures released from the ONS suggest that the number of COVID-19 deaths amongst members of the BME community is much higher compared to those from white and other backgrounds. A report published by Public Health England yesterday confirms this. The unsurprising consequence of the global pandemic seemingly accentuating inequalities that are already present in society. Marginalised and poor communities from BME groups are being further disadvantaged, as government responses to COVID-19 mirror the same inequalities that inform all aspects of social policy.

I argue this is no accident but rather, an extension of the perpetuation of structural and institutional racism in a neo-liberal society. Some commentators have appeared bewildered by evidence the virus is having a greater affect on BME groups. Frankly this suggests they are unaware of many aspects of daily life in the UK. Unaware for example that BME groups are more likely to be employed by the NHS …

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Blog of the Week: 22 May 2020 – Standing in awe.


What incredible times these are.  Against a backdrop of ignorant media commentary and unwarranted pressure from overly powerful people who don’t teach or run schools,   shouting from the sidelines, teachers and school leaders are doing such a phenomenal job.  It’s an immense task – reframing how schools and colleges operate, wrestling with a new raft of safety and learning challenges, external demands, parental expectations, technological and resource constraints- to provide what their students and their communities need as best they can.   And I’m in awe.  Pure and simple.

I’ve had this feeling many times before that, given what someone has achieved, you just have to stand back in awe; to marvel at what has been done; to express some gratitude and applaud.  This has been magnified since I left the frontline myself.  I know how hard it can be,  how difficult it is to get right; I know…

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Blog of the Week: Low stakes Quizzing and Retrieval Practice 4


You can find the first three posts about retrieval practice here: one, two, three.

Everyone seems to be doing retrieval practice now and there is an abundance of research  in support of the effectiveness of self-testing as a learning strategy, particularly with regards to increasing long term retention. Ever since retrieval practice has become popular amongst teachers, there has been a notable concern about how it is being approached and whether or not it really is as effective as its proponents would claim. One line of criticism is that the questions-often closed, recall questions-are nothing like the final performance that students encounter when they take an exam. Merely asking students something along the lines of ‘What word means excessive pride or ambition?’  is, on its own, not going to help students with their understanding of Macbeth. However, understanding the meaning of ‘hubris’ (even in this most restrictive…

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Blog of the Week: 1 May 2020 – Curriculum is for ever – but not how you think

Thinking about curriculum as a priority is relatively new for most of us, having lived through the poundland pedagogy years, and so it’s easy to view it as an important job to be started and finished. But this is wrong. Curriculum isn’t a task or a project. It’s not like a house you build and then move into, no further work needed. Sure you can have, and many schools and departments need, a project of “curriculum reform”. But once it’s done, it’s not done. Once you have thought hard about your curriculum, sequenced it, and codified it through booklets or whatever- you are not finished. You have plugged the gap and made significant progress- but really, you are just beginning.

The strongest departments are those with not only a well-thought out and codified plan for curriculum, but a continuous culture of discussion, debate, disagreement and exploration in the field of…

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