Does assessing project work enhance the validity of qualifications? The case of GCSE coursework

Victoria Crisp


This paper begins by describing current views on validity and how certain assessment forms, such as school-based project work, may enhance validity. It then touches on debates about the dependability of assessment by teachers. GCSEs and
GCSE coursework are then described along with the reasons for the inclusion of coursework in many GCSEs. Crooks, Kane and Cohen’s (1996) chain model of eight linked stages of validity enquiry is then used as a structure within which to consider the validity of project work assessments, and specifically GCSE coursework assessment, drawing on the available literature. Strengths for validity include the ability to assess objectives that are difficult to test in written examinations, promoting additional skills such as critical thinking, creativity and independent thinking, and improving motivation. Possible threats to validity include the potential for internet and other types of plagiarism, tasks becoming overly structured and formulaic thus reducing the positive impact on
learning, and the potentially heavy workload for teachers and students. The paper concludes by describing current policy changes in the UK with regard to GCSE coursework and relates this to strong and weak validity links for project work as a mode
of assessment.


Assessment; validity; project work; coursework; GCSE

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