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The 1980s and the introduction of the National Curriculum and the TGAT model of assessment: the case of history and the 45 boxes

It was suddenly discovered that all subjects could be broken down into several discrete 'profile components', and (miraculously) there were 10 levels of attainment in all these components- in every subject. This was an important discovery because it meant that it would be possible to make comparisons between schools, LEAs, teachers, departments, and even different curriculum subjects, by looking at what levels pupils were achieving. Assessment became a powerful method of ensuring accountability in education. It meant that there was a basis for comparison between schools and LEAs other than those based on examination results at 16 and 18, because these comparisons could be made on pupils aged 7, 11 and 14. Paul Black has made the point that the main reason that the TGAT Report on Assessment was accepted by the government of the day was that it provided a tool for accountability in education. In the unlikely event of you wanting to find out more about 'the 45 boxes' model, see T. Haydn (1994) 'The case of history and the 45 boxes: a case study of the impact of the TGAT testing model', Curriculum Journal, Summer, pp. 215-233.

Breaking the subjects down into lots of 'bits', or 'attainment objectives' meant that teachers could address pupils' learning needs much more precisely and specifically. In the case of history, there were 3 'profile components' (major strands of the subject to try and get better in); knowledge and understanding of history, Interpretations of History, and Use of sources. Each strand had 10 levels of attainment, and the idea was that pupils would gradually work their way up the ladders of attainment in the 3 'areas' of history by achieving each of the objectives. There were 45 'boxes' altogether in history. Interestingly, there were about 180 boxes in Geography- (is Geography 3 times as big as history?). for primary teachers who were attempting to assess pupils to a level in all subjects, there were hundreds of boxes to think about.

This was not the first attempt to chart out a model of progression in history, (see, for instance, HMI, 1885, History in the primary and secondary years, London, HMSO), but it was a very influential one because it was the one that was put in place at the time of the inception of the National Curriculum in 1991.

It is difficult to fit in all 45 of the boxes from the 'Mark 1' National Curriculum for History assessment model on a web page, so I have just taken 2 of the 3 attainment targets to show the model of progression for history in the 1991 version of the N/C for history.

  Attainment target 2: 
Interpretations of History
Attainment Target 3: 
Use of sources
Level 1 Understand that stories may be about real people or fictional characters Communicate information from a historical source
Level 2 Show an awareness that different stories about the past can give different versions of what happened Recognise that historical sources can stimulate and help answer questions about the past
Level 3 Distinguish between a fact and a point of view Make deductions from historical sources
Level 4 Show an understanding that deficiencies in evidence may lead to different interpretations of the past Put together information from different historical sources
Level 5 Recognise that accounts of the past may differ from what is known to have happened Comment on the utility of an historical source by reference to its content, as evidence for a particular enquiry
Level 6 Demonstrate how historical interpretations depend on the selection of sources Copmare the value of sources for a particular task
Level 7 Describe stengths and weaknesses of interpretations of an historical event or development Judge the reliability or value of sources with reference to the corcumstances in which they were produced
Level 8 Show hw attitudes and circumstances can influence an individual's interpretation of historical events/developments Show how a source which is unreliable can nevertheless be useful
Level 9 Explain why different groups or societies interpret and use the past in different ways Understand that value of source depends on questions asked
Level 10 Show an understanding of the issues involved in trying to make history as objective as possible Explain the problematic nature of historical evidence showing that jusgements using historical sources are often provisional

What happened to the '45 boxes' model? Assessment in history in the 1990s

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