Gove’s changed examinations tactic and his rhetoric of rigour

What does Michael Gove’s change of tactic on public examinations tell us? From a political perspective it demonstrates that he has listened to those who critiqued his initial policy proposal. If he hadn’t changed he could be accused of not listening to affected stakeholders.

From a pedagogical perspective, it reveals the Secretary of State for Education’s cause-effect confusion.  He assumes that education can be improved simply by ensuring that all pupils be made to take ‘rigorous’ examinations at the end of their schooling.

In doing so, Gove commits the  tail-wagging-dog mistake; believing that by constructing ‘better’ examinations he can induce ‘better’ educational performance.

But more tellingly he uses the amorphous criterion ‘rigour’, instead of the classical assessment tools -validity and reliability. What does this tell us? Either he must be intentionally rejecting their appropriateness or he is ignorant of their relevance.

As a consequence of not using the terms valid and reliable he is forced to re-invent a many-spoked wheel; for both validity and reliability have a number of aspects.

Validity: construct, content, predictive, concurrent. Reliability: test – re-test, inter-scorer, parallel form

At the very least Gove’s use of the term ‘rigorous’ indicates that he he has no knowledge of the history of assessment tools in educational contexts.  This is somewhat surprising given his enthusiasm for ‘history’ in the curriculum. It’s pity he doesn’t display knowledge of the tools used to assess such knowledge or their history.

About petermathews

Member of the Royal Society of Medicine
This entry was posted in Education, Labelling, Pedagogy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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