Cromwell Consulting Ltd.
Cromwell Consulting Ltd.

Publications and Presentations

Goodman, J. (2011). Assessment Practices in an Independent School: The Spirit versus the Letter. London: King’s College London. Available online:

Goodman, J. (2011). Improving progress through AfL. Make the Grade. ICEA, Autumn 2011: 32. Available online:

Goodman, J. (2011). Improving progress through assessment for learning: Dr Joanna Goodman reflects on the role of assessment for learning. Headteacher Update, 15 Dec 2011: 3-5. Available online:;type_uid=79;section=Features

Goodman, J. (2012). Improving progress through AfL. Dr Joanna Goodman reflects on the role and application of Assessment for Learning. SecEd, 304:13.

Goodman, J. (2012). Improving progress through AfL. Dr Joanna Goodman reflects on the role and application of Assessment for Learning. SecEd digital edition: Available online:;section=Features";type_uid=2

Goodman, J. (2012). Improving progress through AfL. Long Island Education Review: A Research Publication of SCOPE. Long Island’s Peer-reviewed Research Journal for Educational Professionals, 11 (1): 6 – 7. Available online:

Goodman, J. (2012). Assessment and Learning within the Framework of Self-regulation. In Z.M. Charlesworth, E.Cools and C. Evans (Eds.). ELSIN XVII. Individual Differences. Brno: Tribun EU.

Goodman, J. (2012). Assessment and Learning within the Framework of Self-regulation. International Researcher, 1 (3): 139 - 149. Available online:

Goodman, J. (2013). The importance of qualified teachers. SecEd, 365:6.

Goodman, J. (2013). The importance of qualified teachers. SecEd digital edition : Available online:

Goodman, J. (2013). A learning capacity for life. SecEd, 366:6.

Goodman, J. (2013). Developing a learning capacity for life. SecEd digital edition: Available online:


Goodman, J. (2014). We must support teachers to apply evidence in practice. SecEd digital edition: Available online:


Goodman, J. (2014). Assessing Teacher Assessment. Make the Grade. CIEA, Spring 2014. Available online:




AfL article goes global. Make the Grade, Spring 2012, p. 34. CIEA. Available online:

Conference presentations

ELSIN 2012, Cardiff, 26 – 28 June 2012. The 17th International Annual Conference of the Education, Learning, Styles, Individual Differences Network: Joanna Goodman, EdD, Assessment and Learning within the Framework of Self-regulation.

ELSIN 2013, Billund, Denmark, 18 – 20 June 2013. Building Learning Capacity for Life. Symposium: Joanna Goodman, Effective Use of Assessment for Learning (AfL) for Improved Learning and Progress: Challenges for Educational Institutions.


Goodman, J. Assessment for Learning – Testing That Actually Improves Learning. South Carolina: Applied Educational Systems. Broadcasted on 29.03.2013. Available online:


Building Learning Capacity for Life


In asserting that it is the aim of all educational systems around the world to maximise the learning of every individual, I am probably not much wrong. In the UK, many schools articulate their commitment to developing every individual through making mission statements that promise to “fulfil every individual’s potential”. But how do we know what is this “individual potential” and how can we measure if, indeed, it has been fulfilled? Does “fulfilling potential” equate to an assumption that ‘potential’ is a finite phenomenon which is fixed or predetermined? By making such statements, do we, unintentionally, put a ceiling to learning and achievement?

I have a great deal of admiration for Carol Dweck’s[1] important research findings regarding motivation to learn and her thinking relating to the effects of person-praise on future learning, and her idea of “fixed”[i] and “growth”[ii] mindsets. However, when following the ‘growth mindset’ theory, which undoubtedly explains why some students are more successful in learning than others, I struggle to reconcile the references to “fulfilling potential”, as in the title of C. Dweck’s book: Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential, and can only assume that the notion of “potential” in this context is only used anecdotally.

My thinking is that there is no ceiling to learning (growth mindset) because there is always that next step to aim for on any learning ladder. When working with students, I like to concentrate on building their learning capacity for life, rather than thinking about ‘fulfilling their potential’ – a notion that can sound like a cliché and, more importantly, can seem more like a ‘fixed mindset’, where the fulfilment of one’s potential is projected as something that can be ‘arrived at’ in the sense of a final destination. And to my mind, this is not how we should see learning because there is no final destination regarding learning and achievement, where attitude to learning (growth mindset) is a key ingredient to success.

In developing new framework for the national curriculum, it has been reported that ranking of 11-year old pupils in ability bands may be one way of reporting and monitoring progress. This is not a novel idea; schools already have their pupils’ baseline data, which puts them into different ability bands thus giving schools valuable information regarding their pupils’ different starting points. There is nothing wrong with that, to the contrary, this provides a springboard for monitoring personal improvement or setbacks, and is a useful tool for informing intervention where needed. As with any assessment data, it is the purpose for which it is used that is crucial, not its existence, or the fact that pupils are categorised in ‘bands’ according to their ability levels as informed by standardised assessments. Indeed, University of Durham (CEM) assessments can assess attitudes to learning – a key piece of information regarding whether a student’s mind tends to be of a ‘fixed’ or ‘growth’ persuasion.

Where educational systems in some countries put greater emphases on effort rather than on ability, for example Singapore, China, Korea, Honk Kong, this works in synergy with the idea of a ‘growth mindset’, where individuals (learners and employees) believe that effort can bring the desired results, and this belief motivates them to succeed in problem solving and building learning capacity for life. However, the British system has always been driven by the notion of ‘ability’ rather than ‘effort’ and this, based on Dweck’s research, I would argue can lead to a ‘fixed’ mindset, which is not in tune with effective personal development or conducive to developing learning sustainability.

As the debate about the new national curriculum framework continues, we have heard much about the content and little in terms of aims, purpose and assessment – an integral element of learning – that in the long run, I believe, will determine the success of the new curriculum in terms of improving standards and building students’ learning capacity for life. Research-informed, I contend that, ultimately, success is determined by effective teaching, whatever the content, and therefore effective classroom practices focused on involving learners in their learning processes through, for example, sharing explicit learning intentions and success criteria, peer and self-assessment, are absolutely crucial for developing growth mindsets and self-regulated, autonomous learners with learning capability for life.

As the curriculum debate dominates educational news, making comparisons with educational systems abroad, and there are cultural differences, for example regarding preferences for learning, where in some cultures students learn best individually and in others co-operatively (team-work is valued), it is worth considering the impact of these differences on particular educational achievement and how it manifests itself. Some of the successful educational systems are characterized by high degree of autonomy and independence regarding decision making, for example in Finland, New Zealand, Hong Kong or Singapore; there are also differences in teacher training and selection as well as the value placed on educational achievement by different societies. Therefore making direct comparisons can be difficult and it can be flowed, unless numerous variables are explored. We should also remember that ‘curriculum’ is not suspended in a vacuum as it is a part of a bigger picture, which could be best described as ‘learning and teaching’ in any setting. Therefore the success in raising standards of learning of any proposed new curriculum will be unpacked in practice, however, we should be concerned with the proposed programmes of learning and how they are informed and supported by effective assessment for moving learning forward. Ultimately, the evidence of progress will be reflected in assessment outcomes and this is why there is now a great opportunity to develop an effective assessment system for feeding forward that would blend high-stake testing with classroom (formative) assessment for improved progress.

Thus whether we talk anecdotally about ‘fulfilling one’s potential’ or as I prefer, we refer to ‘building learning capacity for life’, we are all concerned with learning, and learning is exactly what we should be concerned with because it signifies growth, advancement, improvement and development in every sense. We should also be concerned with developing ‘growth mindsets’ for future success.


[1]Dweck, C. (2012). Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Learning Potential. London: Constable & Robinson ltd.


[i]Fixed mindset is defined as a strong belief in one’s ability (intelligence) as basis for success, rather than effort, where individuals tend to hide their mistakes and deficiencies, and react negatively to setbacks.

[ii] Growth mindset is based on effort and is focused on learning and achievement.




Assessment without Levels


 ‘Assessment without levels’, the most liberating opportunity for schools and education to reclaim teacher assessment for the benefit of improving their students’ learning, seems to be misunderstood by the teaching profession brought up on levels and preoccupied with measuring, rather than focus on building a learning culture.


The new national curriculum, based on knowledge and understanding, and learning mastery, creates not only challenges but also exciting opportunities for schools from September 2014 and beyond, and is signalling the most radical changes in education for decades. However, its effectiveness will be judged by the school leaders’ ability and innovative attitudes to embrace the opportunity open to them with regard to developing their own ‘broad and balanced’ school curriculum well matched to their own particular settings and situations. So far, many assumptions have been made, in particular by the press, about the concept of a curriculum based on ‘knowledge and understanding’ with references to rote learning and facts regurgitating. This is not what the new curriculum appears to be about.


Knowledge in the wider, Confucian, sense is about developing expertise needed for competency in any area. According to Confucius,


Only when things are investigated is knowledge extended; only when knowledge is extended are thoughts sincere; only when thoughts are sincere are minds rectified; when minds are rectified are the characters of persons cultivated…”


Instant access to information has never been easier. With this, follows the need for well-developed critical thinking skills to eliminate bias, and the knowledge required to progress one’s understanding onto new and higher order thinking levels is exactly what is meant by the ‘knowledge and understanding’ in the new curriculum as I see it.


However, the most thrilling feature of this new national curriculum is the departure from ‘levels’ that for about a quarter of a century, and a generation of teachers, attached an abstract numerical value, and a label, to a learning standard attained that has been, quite frankly, meaningless, and did little to improving educational standards. Since measuring cannot bring improvement, just the same as weighing a pig cannot fatten it, a different focus is needed now.


Assessing without levels, for the first time in generation, gives schools the freedom to focus on building their learning cultures suited to their circumstances that can be separate from managerial / accountability cultures, which serve a different purpose and are not aimed at improving learning. Through re-claiming teacher assessment, schools have been freed from the constraints of having to link teacher assessment to levels (measuring / accountability purpose) and, instead, are now free to develop their own teacher assessment focused on formative processes during production (learning process). This, however, requires a shift in thinking for a generation of teachers brought up on national curriculum levels and APP.


As assessment is central to learning, and since there is now greater freedom to develop assessment to guide learning between key stages, schools now have a chance to define what type of institution do they really aspire to be by defining what skills and competencies they value and aim to develop in their pupils. The deliberate removal of levels from the new national curriculum is aimed at developing learning cultures and requires a fresh look at teacher assessment – the type of assessment that is aimed at developing pupil engagement, feeding-forward and leading to building learning independence and, during the process, is not linked to any measures.


It seems that putting teacher assessment at the heart of learning has its own challenges as schools struggle to understand the concept of assessing without levels, looking towards ‘one size fits all’ solutions and ready ‘toolkits’. Having the autonomy to develop their own assessment, many now struggle with the new prospect of life without levels. The pre-occupation with HOW has obliterated the need for WHAT. And it is WHAT that needs to be answered first before moving on to HOW and WHY.


For improved outcomes at accountability stages, schools must concentrate first on identifying what they want to assess and develop teachers’ confidence in the formative aspect of assessment, without the reference to levels to describe progress in numbers (or grades). The quality of formative assessment and how it is embedded within the teaching and learning process is crucial to improving learning standards and this is why schools have been given the freedom to develop their own approaches to assessing without levels.


There is over-whelming evidence (Black and Wiliam) which shows that summative purpose of assessment (giving every piece of work a level or a grade) can distract from the formative aim of improving learning and focus on the next steps, which is what leads to pupils’ progress and learning success.


Within the changing assessment climate, this shift in attention from accountability measures (progress and attainment at the end of the learning process) needs to occur so schools can develop high quality assessment for learning strategies to guide and scaffold pupils’ learning, perhaps starting with high quality initial assessment to inform future teaching.





“Dr Goodman is passionate about education and as an expert on AfL [Assessment for
learning] is keen to share her knowledge of the subject with others.”

The Chartered Institute of EducationalAssessors

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