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Research Shows Tests Undermine Confidence


Tests are likely to undermine learners confidence rather than motivate them according to a new report from the Learning and Skills Development Agency.

The finding follows a review of research to investigate whether summative assessment has a positive or negative effect on post-16-year-old learners.

The LSDA found:

* Many adult learners fear tests and there is evidence they can lead to drop-out and deter progression.

* Learners of all ages normally prefer coursework assessment and on-going practical tests to end-of-course exams.

* Assessment policies that actively engage tutors and learners in discussing learning goals and assessment criteria are more effective in
raising achievement and improving retention.

* The motivation to learn often relates to factors such as the need to gain qualifications, but the motivation to succeed is linked to levels of social or educational support.

Maggie Greenwood, research manager at LSDA said: “We need to find different ways of measuring achievement that motivate people rather than undermining their confidence.

"We also need to find out why some learners seem to cope far better than others with exams and tests.

"The research suggests that assessment policies and methods that encourage the active engagement of tutors and learners in feedback will be more effective in improving retention and raising achievement that those that do not."

The report concluded that involving learners in negotiating their own objectives and recording outcomes has the most positive potential and needed to be explored further.

It stressed the importance of monitoring, support and feedback on programmes as fundamental to improving retention and achievement.

The report recommended a review of assessment policies to see how they can underpin, rather than undermine, motivation and developing the skills of teachers and trainers to help with coursework assessment and portfolio completion.

It also called for more research to find out what kinds of assessment and support make a positive difference to students and in what circumstances.

* The report Do Summative Assessment and Testing Have a Positive or Negative Effect on Post-16 Learners' Motivation for Learning in the Learning and Skills Sector? is available from the LSDA, e-mail:


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