Assessment reform: students' and teachers' responses to the introduction of stretch and challenge at A-level

This paper describes an exploration into a reform of the A-level qualification in England in 2008; namely, the introduction of the ‘stretch and challenge’ policy. This policy was initiated by the exams regulator and determined that exam papers should be redesigned to encourage the application of higher order thinking skills, both in the classroom and in examinations. The present study comprised two strands that explored the perceptions of students (n = 39) and teachers (n = 27) regarding the degree to which the incorporation of opportunities for stretch and challenge in the new examination papers had been achieved, and the likely effects on teaching, learning and exam preparation. On the whole, students and teachers welcomed the stretch and challenge policy and there were some indications that changes to the design of question papers could have some positive backwash effects.

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