Rethinking Assessment and Achievement- An interview with Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes

A widely-recognised speaker and writer with over 20 years of experience as a teacher, Mark Barnes is the proponent of revolutionary concepts in modern education, including the no-grades classroom and SE2R feedback model. He is also the publisher of the award-winning blog Brilliant or Insane: Education on the Edge, which boasts more than 100,000 monthly readers, and has created a popular how-to video website for educators, Learnitin5.com. Through his award-winning books and articles published in leading magazines, Mark has helped educators around the world rethink their teaching practices.

On March 11 at 10am UTC, Mark will deliver a free webinar on WizIQ entitled Assessment 3.0: Rethinking How We Evaluate Achievement. This webinar is part of the Featured Teachers series, hosted by Fluency MC. To sign up, click here.

In an interview with WizIQ, Mark discusses how his assessment strategy is helping learners and educators to promote learning in its true spirit.

  1. Your approach is causing educators rethink traditional assessment. Could you please tell us more about it?

At the foundation of Assessment 3.0 is a conversation about learning. Traditional grades disregard the student. In other words, grades are a one-way proposition–teacher judges students without their input. When teachers see the power of the SE2R feedback model (summarize, explain, redirect, resubmit), they see an opportunity for mastery learning. Most teachers know that this is what we all want, so they’re willing to reconsider their assessment strategies.

  1. How is it a better way to measure students’ learning?

First, and foremost, learning can’t be measured. It is impossible. I can measure a thing–a board, a floor, a chair or how tall I am. Learning is not a tangible thing that can be measured by a number or any other label. The way to assess (a much better word than measure) is to create an ongoing conversation. Explain to students what you observe in their work and how it aligns to guidelines and lessons. Ask them simple questions like, “What did you do? What if you did this instead? What else do you need to do to indicate mastery?” This leads to iteration, which traditional grades omit. When students revisit prior learning and rework activities, they learn from mistakes, instead of being punished for them–another byproduct of grades.

  1. How have students, parents, and administrators responded to your approach? Has there been any resistance?

There is resistance with most things that encourage major change from the way we’ve always done things. I have found that when parents understand Assessment 3.0 and SE2R feedback, they typically love it. Many parents have said, “I can’t believe the amount of detailed feedback you provide. I really understand how she’s learning” and other similar comments. Administrators I’ve worked with love Assessment 3.0, too. Like teachers, they struggle with figuring out how to eliminate report cards and GPAs, but they are interested in learning more.

  1. What are you doing to introduce this approach into mainstream education?

I write about Assessment 3.0 daily. The book was published recently and hit Amazon’s #1 ranking in Education Assessment in just three weeks, so the word is definitely spreading. The Teachers Throwing Out Grades Facebook group and #TTOG Twitter chat are powerful forces behind the no-grades classroom movement. These groups have thousands of educators, parents and students from around the world, talking about Assessment 3.0 daily. Many people are reaching out to me to do interviews like this one, so this certainly helps spread the word. Plus, I present at many major education conferences. Assessment strategy is changing daily. This is a real thing that will reform teaching and learning like nothing we’ve ever seen.

We hope to see you in this Featured Teachers webinar with Mark Barnes. Click here for more information and to sign up for free. If you cannot be there for the live session, be sure to sign up anyway to have lifelong access to the recording.


A marketer by profession and an explorer by nature. I love to read, learn, travel, experiment with new music and food, and have a good laugh.

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