Ernest Spencer

Ernest Spencer

Honorary Senior Research Fellow
School of Education
University of Glasgow

Ernest Spencer is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the School of Education, University of Glasgow. He has extensive expertise in all aspects of assessment and has actively promoted, conducted research on and written about “assessment as part of teaching” and assessment for learning throughout a long career from the early 1970s.
Led major assessment research projects at the Scottish Council for Research in Education (1970s-80s) and assessment policy and CPD as the National Specialist for Assessment for Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Education (HMIE) Scotland during the development over some 20 years (1980s-2002) of assessment for learning, national monitoring and national qualifications – extensive engagement with policy makers and practitioners in building research-informed policy and practice. After retiring from HMIE in 2002, active involvement (often in collaboration with Louise Hayward) in promoting and evaluating assessment for learning with Education Scotland, local authorities and Scottish Government, most recently in the government-funded University of Glasgow Assessment at Transition project, designed to improve the alignment of policy aspirations and classroom practice.
Also participated in and published material on international assessment developments, including the planning and implementation of IEA and IAEA monitoring surveys (1980s), an ESRC-funded series of seminars on new assessment paradeigms (1990s), the OECD study of formative assessment in secondary schools (2005), its follow-up seminar in Budapest to promote assessment for learning more widely (2006), the Conference of the Primary Education Programme of the Republic of Macedonia, “From Results of External Assessments and Exams to Policies” (2010), and the Conference “Evaluating Schools, Assessing Pupils” at the University of Tartu, Estonia (2010).


Experience, as indicated above. Can contribute particular knowledge and commentary from the Scottish angle.



Teachers, Leaders and Local Authorities
Learning together about Assessment-for-Learning (AfL)


The challenge of staying true to an assessment vision in policy and practice that is research-informed has proven to be a major international challenge. The presentation at this conference will report on a Scottish Government-funded project, Assessment at Transition, which sought to promote better alignment of research, policy and practice in assessment in schools. The design of the project took account of key factors associated with sustainable change. The researchers worked with policy makers and practitioners to identify a number of emerging features likely to put effective implementation of assessment policy at risk. The report identified these issues and proposed relevant research-informed options for a range of communities, including government policy-makers, local authorities and schools. A key feature of these proposals is the need to think, plan and act in an integrated way about curriculum, learning/teaching activities and assessment as a coherent whole.


Hayward, L., Simpson, M. and Spencer, E., 2006: Understanding Success in Formative Assessment. Edinburgh, Scottish Executive Education Department. Archived at:

Spencer, E. 2006. Features of Excellent Schools: Some Research Background (paper to support How Good Is Our School: The Journey to Excellence. Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Education (HMIE). Can be found at:

Hayward, L. and Spencer, E. 2013:
Learning and Assessment for Learning – Ideas, Thinking and Dialogue for Growth and Attainment: Scottish Experience.
Published in Estonian as:
“Lapse kasmavist ja arengut toetavad ideed, mõtteviisid ja dialog. Šoti kogemus” in Väärtuspõhine kool: Eesti ja maailma kogemus (The Values-based School: Practices in Estonia and the World), compiled by Margit Sutrop, edited by Gea Kangilasti, Mari-Liisa Parder and Triin Pisuke-Roos. Centre for Ethics, University of Tartu, 2013.

See Delegates’ Pre-reading page, UK section