Edfest: Bristow

Rod Bristow is the head of Pearson and is talking about their new approach to developing assessment, which they have dubbed “The Path to Efficacy”.

How can we have a measurable, positive impact on learner lives? The importance of measurement is talked about more and more these days, so Pearson have pledged to report on its impact on learning as well as its financial state. They will cease to invest in anything they feel isn’t on the path to efficacy, even if it provides a financial return. This is causing much consternation within the organisation, but it is a path – milestones, plans, an ongoing process. The learner is at the centre of everything they do. Previous engagement with a wide range of stakeholders has shifted this focus, but this is going to change.

Why now? There are greater demands about education than there have ever been before – closer connections between education and success in later life, and more tools at our disposal, with a better understanding of pedagogy and cognitive science which helps us address the issues. There’s more data, thanks to international benchmarking. Advances in technology mean the generation of data on learning which is “just mind blowing”.

Rod shares the Pearson approach to planning for efficacy.


Rod explains how Pearson applied this framework when considering the development of their new “world class qualifications”. There were four key principles: Rigour. Inclusivity. Empowering – transferable skills, or maybe cultural capital. (I missed the first one, sorry).

Lessons learned? You won’t improve learner outcome if you can’t define clearly. You can demo your impact on learner outcomes if you’re not measuring them. Appropriate learner outcomes vary wildly according to CONTEXT! And, to improve learner outcomes, stakeholders must be aligned to the same goal.

It is comforting that they have spent so much time considering the wider implications of the qualifications they are offering.

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