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Project overview

The Assessment Reform Group was a voluntary group of researchers brought together as the Policy Task Group on Assessment by the British Educational Research Association (BERA) in 1989. In 1996, when BERA ceased to support policy task groups, the Group adopted the name ARG and its meetings were funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The ARG was dissolved in 2010.

The aim of the Assessment Reform Group (ARG) was to ensure that assessment policy and practice at all levels takes account of relevant research evidence. In pursuit of this aim the main targets for the Group’s activity were policy-makers in government and its agencies. It also worked closely with teachers, teacher organisations and local education authority staff to advance understanding of the roles, purposes and impacts of assessment.

The activities of the Group included study of the implications of assessment policy and practice, as well as reviewing research and disseminating findings through conferences, seminars and publications.

Inside the Black Box

In 1996 the Foundation funded Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam, part of the ARG, to undertake a literature review on the use of assessment to help with learning. They found decisive evidence that ‘formative assessment’ could improve learning, and published a booklet for practitioners called Inside the Black Box.

Additional funding from the Foundation enabled the ARG to publish a further booklet, ‘Assessment for Learning: Beyond the Black Box’, which is available to download as a PDF from the publications section on this page.

After the publication of this review, a programme of work with teachers led to the identification by Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall and Wiliam of advice for improving classroom assessment. This was published in 2002 as Working inside the Black Box.

Assessment systems for the future

In 2003, the Foundation awarded the ARG a grant to explore the role that assessment by teachers could take for summative purposes. More information is available on the project page.

Analysis and review of Innovations in Assessment (ARIA)

The Foundation also funded the ARG’s Analysis and Review of Innovations in Assessment (ARIA) project, which was designed to help develop understanding of assessment involving teachers. More information is available on the project page.

Members of the ARG

Members of the ARG between 1989 and 2010 were:

Professor Jo-Anne Baird
Professor Paul Black
Professor Patricia Broadfoot
Professor Richard Daugherty
Professor Bryan Dockrell
Professor Kathryn Ecclestone
Professor John Gardner
Professor Caroline Gipps
Professor Wynne Harlen
Professor Louise Hayward
Professor Mary James
Dr Paul Newton
Professor Desmond Nuttall
Professor Judy Sebba
Professor Gordon Stobart
Professor Dylan Wiliam


Black Box series

Black P and Wiliam D (1998) Inside the Black Box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Originally published by King’s College, now by GL Assessment.

Inside the Black Box was published in amended form in a US journal as: Black P and Wiliam D (1998) ‘Inside the Black Box: Raising standards through classroom assessment’, PhiDelta Kappan 80 (2.139-148 October 1998). Reprinted in 2010 as ‘Kappan Classic’ in PhiDeltaKappan 92(1) 81-90.

The Assessment Reform Group, Assement for learning: Beyond the Black Box (1999), University of Cambridge School of Education (PDF)

The Assessment Reform Group, The role of teachers in the assessment of learning (PDF)


Black P, Harrison C, Lee C, Marshall B and Wiliam D, (2003) Assessment for Learning– putting it into practice, Buckingham, Open University Press. 

Journal articles

Black P and Wiliam D (1998) ‘Assessment and Classroom Learning’ Assessment in Education 5(1) 7-74. 

Black P and Wiliam D (2003) ‘In Praise of Educational Research’: formative assessment, British Educational Research Journal 29(5) 623-37. 

Wiliam D, Lee C, Harrison C and Black P (2004) ‘Teachers developing assessment for learning: impact on student achievement.’ Assessment in Education 11(1) 49-65.

Harrison C (2005) ‘Teachers Developing Assessment for Learning: Mapping Teacher Change’ Teacher Development 9 (2), pp. 255-264.

Lee C. and Wiliam D (2005) ‘Studying changes in the practice of two teachers developing assessment for learning’ Teacher Development 9 265–283.

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.