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M. Kuvalja, S. Shaw

Cambridge Assessment - Cambridge International Examinations (UNITED KINGDOM)
This paper aims to discuss ways of encouraging and evaluating reflective thinking in primary and secondary school students, as demonstrated by the Cambridge International Examinations’ (Cambridge) Global Perspectives (GP) qualifications.

Cambridge is an international awarding body which aims to develop not only subject-specific knowledge, but also encourages students to acquire vital skills important for further study, professional development and life in general. For example, Cambridge has developed primary and secondary programmes which are specifically created to prepare students to think critically and to develop reflective thinking.

In Cambridge GP programmes, the skills of critical thinking, collaboration and reflection are acquired through researching topics which are relevant on global and local level. In this process teachers have the important role of nurturing and encouraging students to develop these skills, while providing guidance on the researched topic. Teachers act as facilitators, negotiators, motivators and managers, rather than communicators of information. This involves prompting students to think for themselves, setting up and organising projects, responding to students’ interests, and guiding them to frame questions in areas that interest them.

Students are encouraged to use reflective journals and e-portfolios through all the stages of both team work and individual activities, in order to capture and record authentic experiences. In terms of assessment, reflective thinking is externally assessed through reflective papers and research reports produced by individual students. E-portfolios and reflective journals have been identified as a valuable learning and assessment tool, which, amongst other things, are successfully used for encouraging personal reflections. However, it could be argued that the assessment of reflective thinking through language is insufficient. For example, students could be penalised for reporting on their reflection by not using the required specialised “codified language” (Ixer, 2016, p.812). Another issue is related to the accuracy of self-reporting (as part of the reflective paper), which could lead to self-reporting of students’ desired reflective thinking and experiences, rather than their authentic reflection.

Despite these difficulties, there are two main reasons why assessing reflection remains desirable. The first is related to the function of assessment to improve learning and make appropriate decisions about future learning goals – such decisions are taken by the student, teacher, administrator, and other stakeholders. A second related function of assessment is to make student learning visible. To use assessment to support student learning, we need to design tasks that allow this information to be disentangled, decoded and interpreted in a valid and reliable way.

Advantages and challenges in using this assessment model will be presented and discussed.