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What is Point of Learning (PoL) – moving beyond standardised testing

PoL book coverPoint of Learning (PoL) is both a reflective learning tool and a means of collecting evidence about performance against agreed targets.

PoL is an alternative approach to assessment that should make it possible to capture evidence about aspects of learning which traditional forms of assessment (e.g. exams) cannot capture. PoL uses mobile devices to make it quick and easy to capture evidence in a much less intrusive and more practical way than traditional portfolios.

Overview PoL

Granules are aspirational targets that the users of the system have agreed should be their main focus over the coming period.

The users of the system discuss 'what you would see' (practices) if the associated granule had been achieved. These practices are exemplars to illustrate how you would know that a granule had been achieved.

The process of identifying these practices helps to ensure that the group have a shared understanding of what they would have to do to achieve the granules. It also helps to make explicit what might other wise be tacit knowledge by getting users to talk about what they do that relates to the granules.

Once the granules and associated practices have been agreed the users then use software called Lengo to make claims about the granules that have been achieved. There are three different levels of claim:

  • self claims that the learner makes about herself
  • peer claims that a peer of the learner's makes about the learner
  • assessor claims that are made by an assessor

3 levels of claimOne would expect there to be more self than peer than assessor claims.

Claims are made of an agreed period of time, such as three months or a school term.

Users can review their own and other group members' claims using the web version of Lengo.

At the end of the agreed period of time over which they have been making claims the users have a review meeting to discuss their progress. This involves discussing the claims that have been made, and may lead to a change in the granules that are being focussed on and/or the practices associated with each granule.

Comparing PoL with other forms of assessment

Traditional 'terminal' assessment is not able to capture evidence about many aspects of learning that are important - particularly where these relate to processes rather than academic outcomes.

PoL is based on the premise that if you have a range of individuals (self, several peers, an assessor) making claims that they have observed the learner achieving the granules over a period of several months then that is more compelling than other forms of assessment such as a terminal exam or assessment of a portfolio (as illustrated in the figure below).

PoL compared with exams and portfoliosBy using the software to make claims the system repeatedly reminds the learners what aspects of their practice they are trying to enhance. It acts as a reflective tool.

Where has PoL been used?

Imagine Education have successfully used PoL with teachers in Egypt as a professional development tool.

I (along with a range of collaborators) am currently piloted PoL with:

  • home educators who are focussed on the attributes and dispositions that they wish their children to develop
  • staff in early years settings (e.g. a day nursery) who wish to enhance their professional practice
  • sports science undergraduates with a focus on the extent to which they are being scientists

Work is also underway on developing a framework of 21st century attributes for use with secondary school students.  The ambition is that by providing practical and credible ways of assessing things which cannot be captured by traditional forms of assessment PoL will help to bring about changes in what schools focus on - it will help extend the focus so that it not only includes the things that have traditionally been easy to test but also the things which are recognised as being important in the world today (such as collaboration, real problem solving, communication, creativity and learning to learn).

Further info & acknowledgements

A paper setting out the theoretical justification for PoL as well as an explanation of its different elements is available to download from Research Gate.

PoL was originally conceived of by Jim Wynn at Imagine Education. Imagine Education have created Lengo.  I am grateful to Imagine Education for supporting my investigations of PoL's use in different contexts.

7 thoughts on “What is Point of Learning (PoL) – moving beyond standardised testing

  1. jim wynn

    The crucial thing about Point of Sale (PoS) systems is that the data capture elements do not get in the way of the transaction. But data is captured to help both the retailer and the shopper. So with Point of Learning systems the claiming and recording of credits should not get in the way of the learning. Just like in retail the fact that data is captured means conversations can happen. Shifting one off summative tests to PoL systems not only provides a way to make learning deeper it has to be the only way to encourage learners to recognise and discuss their learning.

  2. mrzamin

    Superb blog! Do you have any tips and hints
    for aspiring writers? I'm hoping to start my own blog soon but I'm a little
    lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for
    a paid option? There are so many options out there that I'm totally overwhelmed ..
    Any recommendations? Kudos!

    1. PeterT

      The key is to start ... doing a little bit every day soon results in quite a lot of stuff.
      It helps if you have something you are passionate about - write about that.

      Re platform - I have wasted lots of money on domain names which I then don't use!
      I have always paid for my own site - using WordPress, but on a domain I own and paying for hosting. That gives me full control and allows me to be sure that it will continue (so long as I can afford to pay the annual fees!) and have the will to keep writing. You do have to learn how to set up your site - but there are lots of really good templates (themes) out there that you can use really easily.
      I like being able to develop my online presence - so feel having my own domain name is important.

      Sustaining the writing is a challenge - it is easy for it to fall off the bottom of your will do list!

      Hope that helps.


      1. Elizabeth Anne Johnston

        Hello Peter, my name is Elizabeth Johnston, and I am developing some materials for doctoral students at my university. I am working with a colleague and we would like to cite your article (Some guidance on conducting and reporting qualitative studies) as an esteemed resource. We would also like to include table 2 from the article, which we would of course, cite, but we would like your permission also. I have been reading that you have a new job in Australia and I am not sure how to reach you other than here. Any information would be greatly valued.

  3. Elizabeth Anne Johnston

    Hello Peter and all,
    I have been reading all through the Blog where I found many wonderful resources and discussions. I am sharing the site with my doctoral students as a prime source for developing understanding.

    I am encouraging them to read and engage by sharing insights and asking questions. Thank you for your work Peter and thanks to all who contribute.

      1. Elizabeth Anne Johnston

        Hello Peter, Thank you! I am encouraging some faculty to visit and engage also...


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