Ben Newmark

Ark teacher training tutor

Speaking at


Why target grades miss their mark

Over the last decade target grades have become so embedded in English schools that many teachers are unable to imagine life without them. This is deeply unfortunate because they are far more likely to do harm than good.

In my session I will go through their confused and unplanned origins, why the data on which they are based is likely to be unsafe, and the role played by inspection regimes and politicians in embedding them. The session will also cover, with reference to the work of JL Austin, why these targets are likely to be performative and the worrying implications of this.

I will contend, by using the work of Locke, Latham and Seijts that target grades are Performance Goals and that these are inappropriate for motivating novices.

The session will move on a detailed explanation of why target grades are examples of extrinsic motivation and why this is unlikely to be effective in the context in which we use them, before concluding with some suggested replacements.


Ben works for Ark. Before this he has been a Head of Humanities, Deputy Headmaster of a school in Ethiopia and a VSO volunteer. He has been a teacher of one sort of another for thirteen years.