A systematic review of the impact of summative assessment and tests on students’ motivation for learning.
What did we find?
- After the introduction of the National Curriculum tests in England, low-achieving pupils had lower self-esteem than higher-achieving students; before the tests, there had been no correlation between self-esteem and achievement. Low self-esteem reduces the chance of future effort and success.
- High-stakes tests can result in transmission teaching and highly-structured activities. This favours only students with certain learning styles. These tests can become the rationale for all that is done in the classroom.
- A strong emphasis on testing produces students with a strong extrinsic orientation towards grades and social status, i.e. a motivation towards performance rather than learning goals. Students dislike high-stakes tests, showing high levels of test anxiety, and are aware that they give only a narrow view of what they can do.
- Interest and effort are increased in classrooms which encourage self-regulated learning by providing students with an element of choice, control over challenge and opportunities to work collaboratively.
- Feedback that is ego-involving rather than task-involving is associated with an orientation to performance goals.
What are the implications?
- There should be an emphasis on learning rather than performance goals by teachers and in professional development. Teachers should avoid comparisons between students based on test results.
- Teachers should develop students’ understanding of the goals of their learning, the criteria by which they are assessed and their ability to assess their own work, and encourage self-regulation in learning.
- There should be a move towards testing individual students when teachers judge them to be ready.
- Schools should develop assessment policies that include both formative and summative assessment and ensure that the purpose of all assessment is clear to those involved.
- Policies for school evaluation should ensure that it: covers a full range of subjects; includes moral, spiritual and cultural as well as cognitive aims; and includes a variety of teaching methods and learning outcomes.
- For tracking national standards, only a sample of students needs to be tested.
- Comparisons among schools in terms of test results should be avoided and the practice of basing targets only on test results should be ended.