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Outstanding Assessment for Learning

in the Classroom

The main feature of an outstanding lesson is that all students make progress.
Taking the structure of a lesson as the starting point, this book demonstrates
how assessment for learning can be used to enhance and support all aspects
of the learning process. Including chapters on embedding assessment during
each phase of the lesson, using assessment data to inform planning, ques-
tioning techniques and feedback, the book will help you to use assessment
effectively to produce outstanding results.
Packed full of practical strategies, this book shows you how you can make
assessment meaningful in the classroom, directly impacting on your students
and creating a more autonomous learning environment. It is written specifi-
cally with the class teacher in mind and draws on a range of different exam-
ples across many subjects to deliver ideas that can be translated with ease to
everyday teaching practices.
With a strong focus on including assessment practices in the planning
process to achieve outstanding results, this book covers:

assessment for learning and an overview of the learning cycle;

practical teaching strategies and effective techniques to use in the classroom;
marking, feedback and using data to drive learning; and
embedding assessment for learning in your classroom, department and

An effective guide for outstanding teaching and learning, this book offers an
innovative approach and is packed full of practical exercises that are easy
to apply in the classroom, proving essential reading for newly qualified and
experienced teachers alike.

Dr Jayne Bartlett has worked in education for over ten years in a range of
schools with roles at senior leadership level and is currently working freelance
as an independent teaching and learning trainer and consultant.
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Assessment for
Learning in
the Classroom

Jayne Bartlett
First published 2015
by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

and by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

2015 Jayne Bartlett

The right of Jayne Bartlett to be identified as author of this work has been asserted
by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or

utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from
the publishers.

Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or

registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation
without intent to infringe.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bartlett, Jayne.
Outstanding assessment for learning in the classroom / Jayne Bartlett. Second edition.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Educational tests and measurements. 2. Teaching. 3. Academic achievement. I. Title.
LB3051.B268 2015

ISBN: 978-1-138-82449-2 (hbk)

ISBN: 978-1-138-82450-8 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-1-315-71723-4 (ebk)

Typeset in Melior
by Cenveo Publisher Services
To Oliver and Olivia
This page intentionally left blank

List of figures and tables x

Acknowledgements xii
Introduction xiii

1 What do we mean by assessment for learning? 1

Learning to learn and the learning environment 4

2 Sequencing and planning for learning 8

The learning cycle 9

3 Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson 18

Bell work 19

Learning outcomes 27

The Big Question 31

The first learning cycle: the starter activity 35

Benchmarking learning 36

Review 55

Start of the lesson: summary 56


4 Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson 58

Sequencing the learning 60

Mini-assessments 66

The main assessment activity 70

Assessment opportunities when pupils work together 87

Assessment opportunities in independent learning 91

Individual learning preferences: supporting the

assessment process 91

Linking with other departments: creating a meaningful

assessment opportunity 95

5 The final challenge: the final assessment 98

The Big Question 98

Plenary activities 101

Reflection 108

Reverse bell work 109

Home learning 110

6 Assessment through questioning 112

Wait time and hands down 113

Misconceptions 116

Open and closed questions in assessment for learning 116

Blooms taxonomy 118

Think, pair, share 122

Probing questions to develop a concept 123

Teacher input 125


7 Marking and feedback 128

Assessment criteria 128

Learning outcomes and success criteria 131

Verbal feedback 132

Target setting 134

The quality of assessments 137

Marking and feedback 138

Self-assessment and peer-assessment 149

Reflection 153

Mini-assessment points 154

The final assessment activity 155

The learning environment 155

8 Using data to drive learning 159

Statistical models 160

Targets 161

School tracking systems 163

Evaluation processes 164

9 Embedding assessment for learning 168

Introducing new techniques 169

Quality assurance 171

Marking audit 173

Lesson study 174

Conclusion 176

Bibliography 180
Index 183
List of figures
and tables

List of figures
2.1 The learning cycle 9
2.2 The learning journey 10
2.3 The sequence of learning 11
2.4 The learning line 12
2.5 A famous perceptual illusion in which the brain switches
between seeing an old lady or a young woman 14
2.6 A perceptual illusion showing two faces from one
perspective or a vase from another 15
2.7 A perceptual illusion showing columns from one perspective
or two women talking from another 15
2.8 The learning cycle 16
3.1 An example of a template for the odd one out 23
3.2 An example of a pair-matching exercise for design technology 40
3.3 Match the name of the muscle to its function,
give an example in sport and then place these in the
correct location on the diagram of the human body 52
3.4 Place the following arguments under columns headed
for or against women getting the right to vote 52

List of figures and tables

3.5 Pair-matching activity Christianity: drugs 53

4.1 Pair-matching exercise based on the electromagnetic spectrum 68
4.2 Pair-matching exercise based on the electromagnetic
spectrum, with further differentiation from Figure 4.1 69
4.3 Find the area of the triangle 71
4.4 What is the area of the rectangle? 72
4.5 Find the area of the triangle 72
4.6 An applied question with no scaffolding 73
4.7 An applied question with structured support 73
4.8 What is the area of each rectangle? 74
4.9 The learning cycle and possible sequence of learning cycles
within the main part of the lesson 97
6.1 Finding the value of x to one decimal place 124
7.1 An example of a tracking grid 136
7.2 Examples of marked work 142
7.3 An example of active marking 147
8.1 A hypothetical pupils partial data extract 162

List of tables
3.1 Target board grid 48
5.1 Ideas for prompts 109


I would like to thank Shutterstock for the use of images.

I would also very much like to thank the team at Routledge who have given
me this wonderful opportunity (once again!) and who have supported me in
developing and creating this book. They are a fantastic team and I cant thank
them enough.
Most of all I must thank my parents, Pauline and George, who as always have
provided incredible support and helped tremendously by looking after Oliver
and Olivia while I was writing this book. Last but by no means least Ithank
my husband Darren who has provided great encouragement and supported me
throughout. I have been fortunate to have such wonderful support around me
and I thank you all.
Finally, I dedicate this book to my two wonderful children Oliver and Olivia
who have been so patient whilst I was writing. They are amazing and I am very
proud of them both.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this book and I hope that you enjoy reading it.


Assessment for learning is integral to outstanding teaching and integral to

developing outstanding learning. It is not a bolt-on technique and in many
ways we need to change our mind-set to gain a real understanding of its
value. Having spent several years working with teachers and senior leaders
translating current research into the classroom, I decided to write a book that
approaches assessment for learning from a different perspective: integrating
assessment practices during the planning process to ensure outstanding learn-
ing rather than as an afterthought (or, indeed, something that is never really
planned for in the first place).
This book is written specifically with the class teacher in mind and I use lots
of different examples across a range of subjects giving teachers ideas which
can be translated with ease to everyday practices. It is important to remember
that there is not a formula for achieving outstanding teaching (although there
are techniques one can employ) and, indeed, one teacher able to support out-
standing learning in their classroom may teach very differently to another. It is
more important, therefore, that we find strategies that enable us to develop our
own practices as outstanding practitioners. As such, this book is not meant to
be prescriptive but to be used as a resource to support you on your journey to
implementing outstanding assessment for learning in your classroom.
In Chapter 1 we review current literature and research including assessment
for, as and of learning, focusing on the need for all types of assessment and the
respective role in developing outstanding learning and supporting outstanding
progress. We consider the link between learning to learn and assessment for learn-
ing and discuss the learning environment, concluding with the idea that assess-
ment for learning bridges the gap between teachers teaching and learners learning.
Chapter 2 introduces the next stage of the book where we focus on the lesson
itself, introducing the active learning cycle and how we sequence learning within
a lesson. This is linked to the terminology most teachers are comfortable with
of starter, main and plenary; however, it is emphasised that I do not advocate a
specific lesson structure: more that different activities and different approaches to
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

assessment for learning may be taken at different phases of the lesson; reference
to starter, main and plenary simply helps teachers to relate to different stages in
the learning process. The different approaches we can take to structuring a lesson
using the learning cycle as a frame are discussed. There is an emphasis on the
importance of assessment opportunities during the cycle to direct learning, enable
reflection and to ensure progress is made between successive cycles, all of which
involve pupils in shaping their own learning. Based loosely on the different phas-
es of learning (starter, main and plenary) Chapters 3, 4 and 5 develop assessment
strategies within each, and each chapter offers a wealth of practical examples from
a range of different subjects which can be employed with ease across all subjects.
The start of the lesson is discussed in detail in Chapter 3, from the moment
pupils arrive in the classroom. The concept of bell work, a Big Question (used
as a comparative tool in assessment for learning) and the starter activity itself
(knowing where pupils are starting from) are developed. We discuss the im-
portance of learning outcomes and success criteria and how these can be used
during the lesson to support pupil progress. The importance of assessment for
learning and the different strategies are discussed in depth and this chapter is
packed with lots of practical examples.
Learning in the main part of the lesson is addressed in Chapter 4. The impor-
tant thing is to build on what pupils already know (from the starter) to develop
learning. This part of the lesson may be a single learning cycle, several learning
cycles or, indeed, a mixture of this for different pupils (linking the importance
of assessment for learning and differentiation). We look at the importance of
review and discuss different assessment processes which can be used during
learning; there is a link to the use of success criteria. Collaborative learning
opportunities are also addressed, with lots of examples of different techniques
which can be employed in the classroom, and, most importantly, assessment for
learning during collaborative learning opportunities. One of the major shifts in
education from the past has been the change in how pupils think about learning
in their classrooms. It used to be very much driven by being right and getting
ten out of ten, with little emphasis on how we got there. Now, of course, there
is more emphasis on developing concepts as part of the learning process and in
doing so allowing pupils to make mistakes from which they learn. Pupils need
to be challenged and this shift owes itself to continual formative assessment in
the classroom. Ongoing formative assessment, almost subconsciously second-
by-second, is how teachers develop outstanding learning in their classrooms.
Lots of practical teaching strategies are offered through examples that cover dif-
ferent subject areas, ensuring that teachers can easily transfer these techniques
to their own planning and delivery. Cross-curricular learning and assessment
opportunities are discussed towards the end of the chapter.

Chapter 5 focuses on the final section of the lesson, which many teachers
refer to as the plenary. Here we emphasise the need for the plenary to chal-
lenge pupils further, allowing us to assess whether they have mastered the key
concepts. The idea is that the plenary is not just more of the same, but also
an opportunity to assess pupils understanding, avoiding the possibility for
pupils to apply a recipe to any problem, scenario or set of questions, thus
creating greater autonomy in learning. The Big Question is returned to and
used to demonstrate pupil progress, allowing pupils to measure their success
against the key success criteria for the lesson, comparing their initial and fi-
nal response. We also discuss the importance of review and address different
techniques which can be used to support this process. Home learning is also
touched on and, once again, this chapter is full of examples from different
subject areas which are easy to apply.
The chapters which follow look in more detail at different aspects of assess-
ment for learning. These include effective questioning, marking and feedback,
the data-driven school and embedding assessment for learning in the class-
room, department and whole school.
Classroom dialogue is so important, yet most revolves around recall and
lower-order thinking skills. If we are to challenge pupils and deepen learn-
ing we need to use higher-order questions. Chapter 6 looks at the importance
of questioning in the classroom, from both the teacher and pupil, and how
to use questioning to assess learning and to develop higher-order conceptu-
al and cognitive skills. Assessment through questioning is one of the most
readily available resources to teachers, yet is often under-used or poorly used;
with a greater understanding of questioning techniques teachers can facilitate
outstanding classroom discussions and generate outstanding opportunities to
assess learning, thus ensuring outstanding progress. In this chapter, Blooms
Taxonomy provides the basis for questioning techniques with a focus on appli-
cation in different subject areas and in developing higher-order thinking skills
and the importance of questioning to ensure learning has occurred beyond, for
example, the often used traffic light pupil self-assessment (used, in reality
sometimes, more for effect than impact). Indeed, it is the questioning that al-
lows us to assess the depth of understanding; questioning is, of course, a tech-
nique that is freely available to use as a resource. All we have to do is master
the art of effective questioning, leading to outstanding assessment for learning.
Marking and feedback form a significant part of the assessment for learning
agenda in any school. Gaining the right balance and ensuring that marking and
feedback are valued by pupils and teacher alike is essential, not least because
it is an extremely time-consuming aspect of the teaching profession and yet, in
reality, often has limited impact on pupil learning and progress; in some cases
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

it can act negatively. Chapter 7 reviews different marking and feedback tech-
niques and suggests ways to move forward to ensure that an effective balance
is achieved. Active marking strategies are discussed in detail and examples of
effective marking and feedback practices are used to illustrate different tech-
niques which can be easily applied in the classroom. We also discuss using the
learning environment to support assessment for learning.
School leaders and teachers are provided with a wealth of information (data)
and, in Chapter 8, we look at how to best use this data to plan for outstanding
learning in the classroom, focusing on assessment data (both summative and
formative) and how to use this to inform planning. We look at the need for data
and the importance of quality over quantity, focusing on problems that arise
with data, the effective use of data, populating data and a note of caution over
assessment data and its use, including the role of target setting. In this chapter
we aim to demystify some of the summative data that teachers are provided
with, recognising that many teachers are not confident mathematicians and
have little understanding of how whole-school targets and data are then fil-
tered to the pupils in their classrooms, impacting on their practice before they
have even begun teaching (sometimes before they have even met the pupil in
person). Examples are used to illustrate the points in an attempt to make data
more user-friendly to teachers, taking a more practical approach to the topic of
data-driven learning and the data-driven learning environment.
Chapter 9 looks at embedding assessment for learning in your classroom,
department and school and the need for reviewing current practice. It looks
at the importance of a general whole-school policy which is then translated at
department level and at classroom level to ensure that the policy has impact
on pupil learning and progress within subject areas and that it is a workable
model for all stakeholders. We review the importance of quality assurance and
suggest that focusing observations on the quality of learning and not just the
quality of teaching can be a better way of assessing the impact of any whole-
school learning policy.
In summary, Chapter 1 reviews current research and Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5
look at making assessment for learning an integral part of planning for learn-
ing. Chapters 6, 7 and 8 look at different generic pedagogy and Chapter 9 then
focuses on how to embed assessment practices. The book concludes with a
checklist summary for all chapters, acting as a quick reminder of the strategies
available to support assessment for learning during learning.
Overall, this book looks at how to ensure that assessment for learning is an in-
trinsic part of your lesson, from planning to delivery, and I hope that it supports
you in developing outstanding assessment for learning in your classrooms.

ChApter 1

What do we mean by
assessment for learning?

Assessment has always been part of educational practice and has evolved
alongside teaching pedagogies. We use assessment for different reasons, in
a variety of contexts and with multiple stakeholders. This ranges from sup-
porting the learning of an individual pupil in the classroom to monitoring
national standards against international performance. There are two key
types of assessment that schools refer to: formative assessment and summa-
tive assessment, and both contribute to our education system, although there
is, perhaps, too much emphasis on summative assessment; we need to see a
shift towards further developing effective formative assessment strategies in
the classroom.
We must recognise that formative assessment is nothing new. In 1967,
Michael Scriven first described it as the on-going improvement of the curricu-
lum (Scriven, 1967) and in 1969 Bloom (Bloom, 1969) related this to class-
room tests: by formative evaluation we mean evaluation by brief tests used
by teachers and students as aids in the learning process, continuing to we
see much more effective use of formative evaluation if it is separated from the
grading process and used primarily as an aid to teaching. He went on to state
that the purpose of formative evaluation was to provide feedback and correc-
tives at each stage in the teaching-learning process (Bloom, 1969). These defi-
nitions have naturally evolved and over recent years assessment for learning
has become the focus of much research most notably with Paul Black and
Dylan Wiliam, who defined formative assessment as encompassing all those
activities undertaken by teachers, and/or by their students, which provide
information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activi-
ties in which they are engaged (Black and Wiliam, 1998). Their publication,
Inside the Black Box, acted as a vehicle to prioritise assessment for learning,
bringing it to the forefront of the raising achievement agenda. Cowie and Bell
refined this definition to specify that formative assessment must take place
during the learning process itself, defining it as the process used by teachers

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

and students to recognise and respond to learning in order to enhance that

learning, during the learning (Cowie and Bell, 1999).
There is a multitude of research and, ultimately, however we define assess-
ment for learning, it is recognised as a powerful driver in raising pupil
achievement. If pupils understand what they are trying to achieve, where they
currently are in their own learning and how they are going to achieve learning
aims (effectively identifying the gap and closing it), then evidence suggests
they become more empowered as learners. Wiliam and Black identified in a
review of research that attention to the use of assessment to inform instruc-
tion, particularly at the classroom level, in many cases effectively doubled the
speed of students learning (Wiliam, 2011).
In 2002, the Assessment Reform Group (http://www.nuffieldfoundation.
org/assessment-reform-group) listed the following ten research-based princi-
ples to guide classroom practice.
Assessment for learning:

is part of effective planning

focuses on how students learn
is central to classroom practice
is a key professional skill
is sensitive and constructive
fosters motivation
promotes understanding of goals and criteria
helps learners know how to improve
develops the capacity for self-assessment
recognises all educational achievement.

Dylan Wiliam (Leahy et al., 2005) identifies the key elements of assessment
for learning as activities which are equally powerful to all learners in all

sharing learning intentions and success criteria

engineering effective classroom discussions
formative feedback
activating learners as resources for each other
activating learners as owners of their own learning.

While the underlying strategies are certainly formalised in many books

and research articles, it is the translation of these to practical techniques
What do we mean by assessment for learning?

in the classroom that teachers can use to improve the quality of teaching
and learning and to support pupils in making progress that will ultimately
have the impact on pupil achievement and attainment. Unfortunately, the
link between research and daily classroom practice is often lost in transla-
tion. With their busy day-to-day lives, many teachers dont have time to
review educational research, so they rely on interpretation from others; by
the time this reaches the classroom practitioner, we often have a case of
Chinese Whispers, losing the true value. Sadly, assessment for learning
can become an exercise for example, in asking pupils to traffic light work
and go little beyond them identifying red, amber or green (RAG rating)
ultimately having no impact on learning (using a bolt-on technique rather
than the process to support progress). Often these strategies are high gear,
meaning that they need only a little tweaking and more focusing to make
them high leverage in terms of the impact on pupil learning.
In this book, I hope to support teachers in this process, bringing tried and
tested techniques that they can implement with confidence, that are work-
able and that will support pupils in developing their own learning pathways.
I strongly believe assessment for learning is a continual process during learn-
ing and that there is a danger that, by over-emphasising activities such as traf-
fic lighting, we de-value the true nature of assessment for learning that, in
my opinion, is far more than RAG rating, or other such technique, but really
involves learners in the learning process and is, therefore, ongoing and not
simply an isolated bolt-on activity. To treat it as such really does mean the
power of assessment for learning is lost in translation.
Other assessment terminology you will, no doubt, have heard include
assessment as and of learning. Assessment as learning is the term commonly
used to imply assessment which involves the pupils making assessments of
themselves or their peers during the learning process and is most commonly
exemplified in classrooms through peer- and self-assessment. This is ongoing
and learners become involved in developing their own learning pathways. We
will consider assessment as learning techniques as the book develops, and
assessment for and as learning form the focus.
Assessment of learning is known as summative assessment and this typi-
cally occurs at the end of a topic or period of pupil development. It often
provides a quantitative score or measure against outcomes after the learning is
complete. Assessments can be class-based, school-based, national or interna-
tional. In 2006, the Assessment Reform Group stated that summative assess-
ment must be in harmony with the procedures of formative assessment and
should be designed to minimise the burden on teachers and pupils (Assess-
ment Reform Group, 2006).
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

It is worth noting that some researchers argue assessment for learning

and formative assessment are not synonymous (Swaffield, 2011). Stiggens
(Stiggens, 2005) states that If formative assessment is about more frequent,
assessment for learning is about continuous. If formative assessment is about
providing teachers with evidence, assessment for learning is about inform-
ing the students themselves. I often refer to assessment in learning because,
for me, this emphasises the real-time nature of assessment in informing
learning during the learning process, but it could be argued that this is just
a play on words. The research makes interesting reading and there are many
different definitions of formative assessment put forward. The purpose of
this book, however, is not to debate current research (although there is an
abundance of insightful and thought provoking reading which, if you have
time, is interesting to review), but to use assessment in our practices in
the classroom to best impact on the progress of learners, irrespective of the
formal definition.

Learning to learn and the learning environment

Formative assessment goes hand-in-hand with learning to learn (metacogni-
tion). Having the best learning environment in the world is no substitute for
pupils having the skills to be able to develop their own learning. Guy Claxton
talks about the 4Rs (resilience, resourcefulness, reflectiveness and reciprocity)
and building learning power (Claxton, 2002). These 4Rs link with assessment
for learning and we begin to see formative assessment woven into developing
all aspects of the learner. Resilience: being able to absorb, manage, observe and
persevere. Resourcefulness: being able to question, make links, spot connec-
tions, imagine and reason. Reflectiveness: to be able to plan, revise, distil and
meta-learn. Reciprocity: to be able to develop interdependence, collaborate,
listen and imitate.
Assessment for learning is, therefore, integral to best practice in teach-
ing and integral to best practice in learning. Indeed, when we attend best
practice seminars or professional development sessions we will repeatedly
hear the phrase teaching and learning although some prefer learning
and teaching, feeling that this places more emphasis on learning. At this
point, I argue, it is the quality of teaching and the quality of learning that
is important and how we think about teaching and what teaching means in
our schools that needs to change, rather than the order of words (because
I have to admit that in my experience those who changed the word order
didnt change their practices, nor did they think any more profoundly about

What do we mean by assessment for learning?

them!). The point is that teaching and learning are inextricably linked and
assessment for learning lies at the heart of best practice. You do not get one
without the other, otherwise we could have a whole school of pupils working
independently without the need for teachers (which, of course, we know is
absurd), and it really is how we teach that needs addressing. For example,
we know that lecture-style teaching has little impact on learning, yet you
will often see teachers reverting to this style of teaching (mainly for ease
and convenience). We also cant have an environment which is truly inde-
pendent because we know (if we apply a little bit of common sense) that
leaving pupils to discover everything independently wont work. I admit to
liking the phrase to facilitate learning, not simply as the latest buzz word
but to genuinely mean a situation where the teacher creates an effective
learning environment, planning and structuring their lesson to ensure that
activities support pupil development, encouraging them to think and to be
actively involved in the learning process using assessment to bridge the gap
between teaching and learning. We know from experience that meticulously
planned lessons do not necessarily mean that pupils will have learnt what
we are trying to develop; it is formative assessment that provides this link. It
tells us if pupils and teachers are on the right track during the learning pro-
cess; knowing this after the fact is not good enough (largely because we are
governed by a content-driven curriculum, which demands we move forwards
and often doesnt allow us the time to spend redoing). In classrooms that
use assessment to support learning, teachers continually adapt instruction to
meet student needs (Leahy et al., 2005).
We must recognise that we cannot make the learning happen. We can only
create opportunities that best allow that learning to take place. Assessment
for learning is pivotal to this process and occurs at the point of learning when
pupils interact with their peers or teacher or when pupils engage in personal
reflection in an attempt to think about what they have learnt. So assessment for
learning really is implicitly linked in learning to learn (then knowing what to
do with it once you have learnt it) and it must not be thought of as an isolated
practice in our classrooms. Indeed, OFSTED (OFSTED, 2014a) inspectors must
consider whether:

teaching engages and includes all pupils, with work that is challenging
enough and that meets their individual needs, including for the most able
pupils responses demonstrate sufficient gains in their knowledge, skills
and understanding, including of literacy and mathematics;

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

teachers monitor pupils progress in lessons and use the information well
to adapt their teaching;
teachers use questioning and discussion to assess the effectiveness of their
teaching and promote pupils learning;
assessment is frequent and accurate and used to set relevant work from the
Early Years Foundation Stage onwards;
pupils understand well how to improve their work;
all pupils are taught well so that they are properly prepared for the next
stage in their learning, including in the Early Years Foundation Stage
where the development of their communication, language and literacy
skills must equip them well for Key Stage 1.

When evaluating the quality of teaching (OFSTED 2014b), inspectors must

further consider the extent to which:

the teaching in all key stages and subjects promotes pupils learning and
progress across the curriculum;
teachers have consistently high expectations of pupils;
teachers improve the quality of learning by systematically and effec-
tively checking pupils understanding in lessons, and making appropriate
reading, writing, communication and mathematics are well taught;
teachers and other adults create a positive climate for learning in which
pupils are interested and engaged;
marking and constructive feedback from teachers contributes to pupils
teaching strategies, including setting appropriate homework, together with
support and intervention, match individual needs.

As we progress through this book you will see that each of these aspects
inextricably links with assessment for learning and, indeed, assessment for
learning underpins best practice and can be seen as a key component to each
of the above points.

What do we mean by assessment for learning?

I sometimes feel that, in our current educational climate, we are swimming in a sea of
new initiatives and that all these serve to do is take our focus off what really matters.
The classroom. The heart of any school. The place where learning happens. The place
where we can have a real impact on the future. Assessment for learning is integral to
creating success in our school system and should form the focus of staff and teacher
development in our schools. Without investment in training, teachers will find it an
upward challenge and we must support professional development if we are to secure
a culture where formative assessment is the norm and is effective, having a measur-
able impact on how our pupils learn.
In this book, we look at how to develop lessons which incorporate formative
assessment without adding to the workload of already busy teachers and I hope
that it provides you with confidence to openly discuss assessment for learning prac-
tices in your classroom, departments and schools. Remember, the formal definitions
are important, but they wont help learners learn. You will. So, as you read this book,
think carefully about how you can apply the techniques to your own practice. Remind
yourself that just because we plan, it doesnt mean pupils will learn; always keep
in mind that assessment for learning bridges the gap between learners learning and
teachers teaching.

ChApter 2

Sequencing and
planning for learning

When we plan for learning it is important that we sequence activities to ensure

that all pupils can make progress. This does not mean that you have to stick
to a rigid plan. Of course, in some lessons, particularly those that involve
investigations or rich tasks, an intrinsic part of the activity is to allow pupils
learning to branch in different directions based upon outcomes or assessments
made during the lesson and, most importantly, as learning takes place. When
we plan for learning we should be conscious to choose activities that ensure
learning is progressive and not static, providing pupils with the opportunity to
develop and explore. While some activities are more suited to different phases
in the lesson (we cover this content in Chapters 3, 4 and 5), it is important with
every activity to just do a quick mental check. Does the activity serve the learn-
ing purpose? Can all pupils access the activity? Is the activity differentiated
appropriately? Have you planned how you would assess an activity? Have
you (and/or pupils) used the outcomes of the assessment to progress learning?
This latter point is extremely important. It is not uncommon to observe a les-
son where the teacher has planned a really exciting and engaging activity, but
then simply moves on to the next activity without properly assessing pupil
progress or allowing pupils to assess their own progress and not truly ensur-
ing that the activity has served its learning purpose. Assessment of an activity
or for learning is critical and has the power to make any activity outstanding
rather than necessarily the activity itself. If we are to maximise the impact on
learning, the two need to work in tandem and it is important to invest time
assessing learning as it takes place. Of course, this does not have to be explicit
(where pupils put their pens down and we collectively assess the work), but
should be an integral part of the process and can be as simple as your own
implicit observations of learning as learning is taking place (during the learn-
ing process) or by pupils observations of their own or anothers work, then
subsequently checked with a few targeted questions. It must, however, allow
judgement of whether all pupils are confident to move to the next phase in the

Sequencing and planning for learning

lesson and that they have secured the learning outcomes for the activity (albeit
at differentiated levels).
At this point it is appropriate to mention that, while I talk about different
phases in the lesson, I do not advocate any particular style, such as the three-
part lesson where we have very discrete sections of learning. I do, however,
divide the book (and lesson) into the start, main body and final stages. This is
because during these phases we most likely use slightly different assessment
strategies and, indeed, many activities lend themselves best to different phases
of the lesson; I think this is something worth considering when planning for
learning. Further, many teachers are familiar with this approach and can then
easily see how to adapt their practice. Each phase consists of one or more
learning cycles and each section of the cycle can be of varying length. In some
lessons you may have some pupils, perhaps the more able, engaged with a sin-
gle learning cycle for a given period, yet those who are perhaps less able need-
ing to develop their learning through two or more sequenced learning cycles
which allow them to make progress towards the same learning outcomes over
a parallel period. Therefore, while I do split the book into the three sections
(starter, main and plenary), I could easily have talked about sequenced learn-
ing cycles underpinning a lesson that develops progress in learning.

the learning cycle

The learning cycle I keep in mind when planning for learning consists of four
sections: developing the concept, activating learning, embedding learning and


reflect activate


Figure 2.1 The learning cycle.

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

I dont feel that it is necessary to allocate specific or even relative tim-

ings to each section as this may vary according to the activity or, indeed,
when the activity is taking place within the lesson. Each section must be
weighted accordingly and by your professional judgement. Further, the dif-
ferent sections in the cycle do not have to be explicit. Cycles may then be
sequenced as shown in Figures 2.2 and 2.3, where the lesson as a whole
works towards securing the overall learning outcomes (often individual
learning cycles secure one or more success criteria). Furthermore, while
the lesson itself may be divided into several learning cycles, we can think,
perhaps, of the overall lesson as being governed by a global learning cycle
(think of the phases: concept development, activation of learning, embed-
ding learning and reflection).


reflect activate



reflect activate


reflect activate



reflect activate


Figure 2.2 The learning journey.

Sequencing and planning for learning

Bell work
Big Q
Starter Starter


Main reflect


Big Q
Plenary LOs (reflection)
Reverse Bell work

Figure 2.3 The sequence of learning.

Overall the sequence of learning in the lesson may look something like the
illustration in Figure 2.3.
Remember progress and learning are not a smooth journey (we may wish
they were), but can take different pathways (peaks and troughs) and certainly
progress at different rates. As educators, overall, we want to see progress trend
upwards during the course of a lesson, series of lessons and school years, but
we must accept that, at times, we will see dips or slower rates and it is how we
assess these dips and use this information to move forwards that is pivotal to
overall progression in learning.
The active and concept phases of the cycle promote active engagement
(often defined as cognitive engagement). This is where learners construct their
own learning through sequenced learning activities which allow pupils to de-
velop underlying concepts and demonstrate a clear ability to apply to problems
in context. Cognitive engagement encourages higher-order thinking skills. This
is distinct from quiet compliance with routine tasks (i.e. worksheets), where
pupils might be engaged with a task, but not necessarily learning and where
they may be simply following a prescribed process which relies on accessing
only lower-order thinking skills. The embedding phase will consist of a balance
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

between active engagement and compliance. Obviously, there is a need for some
tasks to be embedded through practice and there is a place for this in the class-
room. Mixed with applied questions, we move to active engagement and higher-
order thinking skills. Indeed, I encourage you to think about what happens when
teachers introduce concepts through a lecture style of teaching (where they tell
pupils) and I use this rather abstract analogy: if I were to tell you about my jour-
ney to work and how road X was closed due to road works so I had to take road
Y, and then how road A was closed due to a burst pipe so I had to take road B and
so on and then I asked you to tell me about my journey to work you would most
likely have forgotten (not least because it was boring) because there is a tendency
for us to switch off when we are being talked at for any length of time. If I gave
you a simple road map and then information on flash cards (with illustrations
etc.) and then asked you how you think each of these may have affected my jour-
ney to work and which route I would then have had to take (let us assume there
is only one suitable alternative at this stage), and then I asked you to tell me about
my journey to work, because you were much more involved in the process and
had to look yourselves at the possible choices I could make and why, then you
are more likely to be able to tell me about my journey to work and to answer any
questions I may have, using phrases like you had to take road B because . If I
then decided to embed learning, giving you a different map and flash cards with
information on but with lots of alternative routes, then you would use the skills
you have developed above to make informed choices to determine the best route
for a given scenario and so learning is secured. While this example is obviously
rather simplistic, I hope that you can see as this book develops that involving pu-
pils in the learning process is essential to developing outstanding learning, and
assessment for learning is an intrinsic part of this process.
Indeed, if we take the opportunity to examine the two extremes, I encourage
you to spend some time reflecting on your own practice at this point before
continuing to read further:

Where would you place your lessons on the line shown in Figure 2.4?
Does it depend on who you are teaching?

Where are you on the active learning

Quiet, compliant tasks Active and engaging learning
(lots of worksheet-style/individual environment
driven activities) (collaborative learning opportunities)

Figure 2.4 The learning line.

Sequencing and planning for learning

Does it depend on when you are teaching a particular group?

Do you vary from lesson to lesson?
Does it depend on which topic you are teaching?
Do you have a preferred style?

Where you most likely want to be is somewhere in the middle, achieving a

fine balance between the two approaches. After all, one extreme has the poten-
tial for a very chaotic learning environment and the other a very controlled
and rigid learning environment with no independence. I highlighted the who
in the question above because for some teachers it really does depend upon
which class they are teaching. I generalise here, but when teachers have more
challenging groups (behaviourally) they tend to force the extreme of compliant
tasks in an attempt to control the behaviour in the lesson. Unfortunately, this
often has the opposite effect as this type of learning environment is particu-
larly uninspiring and pupils with short attention spans or challenging behav-
iour will disengage and low-level disruption creeps in and then escalates.
More challenging pupils actually benefit from an active learning environment
where they are able to move and be involved in their own learning. This is
just something to think about in your planning (and, yes, to begin with it is not
easy and it may be very noisy, but in order to develop a learning environment
which works you have to accept this initially, but persevere). I recommend
starting with a short active engagement technique and then developing over
time as pupils become used to the expectations (and these need to be commu-
nicated very clearly). In other words, as soon as you say three, two, one, eyes
on me, the class focuses back on you.
Sometimes accessibility is a key component in disengagement and, conse-
quently, disruption. Being able to assess where pupils are and how you can
make work accessible is an essential tool in outstanding teaching. To inspire
we need to create a state of curiosity in learning and I often use the images
shown in Figures 2.5, 2.6 and 2.7 when working with teachers.
In each of these optical illusions the picture is, of course, the same, but how
your brain processes the image changes how you see it and, consequently,
your immediate reaction to it and, indeed, this is much the same as learn-
ing. We can be doing the same topic, but its the approach to learning that we
take that will either engage or disengage pupils and it is this approach that
determines how pupils see or perceive learning. Guiding pupils to a different
view can change how they look at learning. Its all about making learning ac-
cessible, and this is where assessment is crucial. Think about how you feel if
you just cant get something. Its frustrating, isnt it?

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Figure 2.5 A famous perceptual illusion in which the brain switches between seeing an old lady
or a young woman.
Note: This image is believed to have been adapted by W. E. Hill and published in Puck magazine
in 1915 (Hill, 1915), although the image is believed to have originated from an anonymous
German postcard in 1888.

There is a famous quote in Winnie-the-Pooh (Milne, 1926), along with a won-

derful illustration, where Winnie-the-Pooh is being bumped down the stairs
behind Christopher Robin. Winnie-the-Pooh makes reference to this being the
only way, as far as he knows, of coming down the stairs. For a split second he
considers the possibility that, perhaps, there might be another way, if he was just
given the opportunity to stop and think for a moment. Christopher Robin con-
tinues to bump Winnie-the-Pooh down the stairs (this is the repeated action or
routine), so the opportunity to stop and think is lost, leading to Winnie-the-Pooh
Figure 2.6 A perceptual illusion showing two faces from one perspective or a vase from another

Figure 2.7 A perceptual illusion showing columns from one perspective or two women talking
from another (

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

concluding that being bumped down the stairs behind Christopher Robin
must, of course, be the only way. He gives up and resigns himself to this, al-
most as if he shouldnt have been (or was silly to be) thinking in the first place
(in other words, accepting that this is the how because this is how we always
do it so, therefore, it must be right). I make reference to this as it summarises
how many pupils feel about learning in their classrooms (just like Winnie-
the-Pooh). They feel like they are being dragged down the stairs, bumping
along, never really understanding the why or the how and never questioning
or looking for an alternative. This makes learning functional and robotic. Our
job is to make learning accessible to all pupils, and assessment for learning is
an integral part of this process. Without assessment for learning we can make
no judgement in the progress of learners, nor involve them in developing their
own learning or choosing which pathway or direction their learning will take.
They become like Winnie-the-Pooh, just bumping down the stairs every lesson.

To revisit Figure 2.1, the learning cycle can be described as:


reflect activate


Figure 2.8 The learning cycle.

When planning an activity, ask yourself the following questions:

Have I allowed pupils to develop the concept, whether independently or through

a guided structure?

Sequencing and planning for learning

Whose voice is heard during this process?

Have I activated the learning and selected an appropriate activity?
Have I allowed sufficient time to embed learning?
Does this process involve individual or collaborative learning and have I ensured
a balance between the two in the lesson?
Have I allowed time for reflection and are pupils confident of the next steps in
their learning; have I allowed time for pupils to unpick any errors?
Have I involved pupils in the learning process?
Can they make informed choices to direct their own learning?
In Chapters 3, 4 and 5, we focus on the different types of activities that we can use at
different stages of the lesson and how to make assessment an integral process which
informs learning. As you read these chapters, keep in mind the learning cycle and how
we sequence activities when we plan for outstanding learning.

ChApter 3

Assessment for learning:

the start of the lesson

Assessment comes in many different forms: so when does assessment really

begin? Unfortunately, for many teachers (particularly those in highly data-
driven schools) a data-based assessment has been made before a teacher can
even put a face to a pupils name. I often refer to this as assessment before
learning. Some schools, I would argue, rely too heavily on this form of initial
assessment, often leading to a lack of flexibility. Data is only a fraction of a
pupils learning history (and certainly, in my opinion, we should be cautious
in using it to dictate a pupils future path); professional judgement should play
a significant part.
Putting the data to one side for the moment, every teacher makes an as-
sessment, consciously or not, from the moment pupils enter their classroom
and this is typically an assessment based on perceived attitudes to learning or
behaviour (the familiar what will they be like today?, Ive got them straight
after lunch, Ive got them last period on a Friday). As part of this assess-
ment before learning process not only do we make a judgement of our pupils,
but our pupils make a judgement of us and of our lesson. (Ever heard of the
expression give them an inch and theyll take a mile? Remember this when
planning the initial two minutes of your lessons: look confident, calm and in
control as you greet pupils.) What follows is the beginning of the lesson and
it is, therefore, extremely important to get this right: after all, it is the learning
hook how we get pupils wanting to be involved in their own learning. From
the beginning, we set the tone for learning and the very best teachers vary the
techniques they use from lesson to lesson, ensuring that they carefully match
any activities to learners (based on prior assessment or benchmark activities:
they know the starting point) and, most importantly, use each and every activ-
ity to provide a continuous and clear assessment in learning.
In this chapter, we focus on the importance of assessment for learning in
the beginning of the lesson (the starter) and look at how assessment can be
used to activate outstanding learning during the lesson, series of lessons and

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

curriculum as a whole. As teachers, it is important for us to have access to a

variety of different activities and techniques that we can easily adapt and use
to engage pupils. The activities we discuss can be used across all subjects,
although you may find some more transferable to your own style of teaching,
curriculum area or learning preference of your pupils. No one activity is better
than another. Indeed, it is important to remember that it is what we do with
an activity that has the potential to make it outstanding rather than the activ-
ity itself. Consider two scenarios: in scenario one the teacher takes an activity,
pupils complete it (possibly mark it, given the answers) and the teacher moves
to the next activity; in scenario two, the teacher takes the same activity, pu-
pils are actively involved in their learning and the teacher assesses learning
during the activity itself (continuous formative assessment) and/or at the end
of the activity as part of the learning process before moving to the next activ-
ity, having a very clear indication of pupil performance pupils also have an
understanding of their own performance in relation to learning outcomes.
We can see clearly that in scenario one, despite the same activity being used as
in scenario two, the teacher would not achieve outstanding learning, whereas
in scenario two the teacher would have the potential to achieve outstanding.
It is the absence of assessment in learning that removes the possibility of out-
standing achievement. In many cases, with the busy day-to-day routine and
demands of teaching (and, lets be honest, with 30 pupils in a class and often
five hours of teaching a day thats potentially 150 pupils each day pass-
ing through a teachers classroom door whose learning we have to assess! a
teachers day is very busy), many teachers adopt the approach of scenario one,
forgetting that it is the ongoing assessment that we use to determine whether
we are ready to move to the next learning activity and, ultimately, to act as
a measure of progress; we can use very simple techniques to ensure that we
assess every activity. In fact, knowing our learners in this way and pitching
activities accurately to their needs eases our workload as we create an environ-
ment of autonomy and celebrate success in learning.
In this chapter, we look at the start of the lesson: an initial occupying activ-
ity (or bell work), a challenging Big Question (ultimately used to determine
whether our learning outcomes have been met), learning outcomes or inten-
tions, the first activity in the active learning cycle or starter activity and how
to embed assessment within each phase of the learning cycle.

Bell work
Bell work bridges the gap during the period when pupils arrive to your
lesson and the lesson begins. We know that pupils dont always arrive
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

on time (arrivals are typically staggered over a period of three minutes);

rather than waste valuable learning time with pupils lining up, waiting
for everyone to arrive before they enter the classroom, have a short activ-
ity for those pupils who have already arrived to complete independently.
This keeps pupils occupied and emphasises the focus on learning from the
moment pupils enter the room. It also gives you the opportunity to set up
your lesson, which is particularly useful if you move from classroom to
classroom or if you teach lesson after lesson and as one class is leaving
another arrives; you can then start the first learning activity (the starter)
when you are ready.
Bell work is brief and is not a starter activity, so, ideally, should last no
longer than a couple of minutes. What you dont want to do is create a situa-
tion where bell work leads to an in-depth discussion, meaning that before you
know it you are twenty minutes into the lesson. If behaviour management is a
concern it is best to use a settling activity with more active bell work used as
pupils become more confident. Bell work does not have to link to the learn-
ing in the lesson; the purpose is, in fact, not to make the activity overly chal-
lenging nor a rich thinking task based on something yet to be developed it
should be an activity based upon work that pupils have already studied. A
few simple questions on the board (electronic or otherwise) as pupils arrive
works really well and helps to reinforce subject matter (and we know that
increasing exposure to topics on a regular basis helps to embed learning). My
advice is not to assess the bell work activity at the start of the lesson (as this
can actually increase the amount of time dedicated to this simple activity),
but to leave assessment until the final minute or so of the lesson and assess
the activity through reverse bell work. By ensuring that you always review the
bell work at the end of the lesson you add value to the activity and pupils soon
become aware that they cant simply avoid the bell work activity but need to
be involved as soon as they enter the classroom. Even those arriving late are
involved in the reverse bell work review, so there is no escape.
Listed below are some examples of different types of bell work across
a variety of subjects. The examples used are designed to demonstrate the
ease with which bell work activities can be generated, ensuring that incor-
porating them into a lesson is not an onerous task. Each type of bell work
activity can be easily adapted and applied to your specific subject area and
you will, no doubt, immediately think of opportunities to apply these tech-
niques (thats great because it means youre already thinking of bell work in
the context of your own lesson plans and can easily begin to integrate them
into your learning plan).

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

Recall of fact
An activity which is based upon lower-order cognitive skills such as recall
forms a good basis for bell work because it reinforces and relies, at this stage,
on little or no teacher input, making it ideal. Regular practice of these sorts of
tasks improves recall and basic skills, strengthening the foundations of learn-
ing. Examples are listed below:
Modern foreign languages (MFL): in modern foreign language lessons
(instructions given in the target language) this may perhaps involve activi-
ties, such as:
a) Completion of verb conjugations in a given tense.
b) Jumbled sentences: pupils place the jumbled words in the correct
order to produce a sentence and then translate. This can be extended
for more advanced groups to a what could be written next activity.
c) Describing an image: any image can be used and you may only ask
pupils to list adjectives (as each pupil is dismissed at the end of the
lesson they shout out the adjective) or you may ask them to write a
brief sentence. This can also work nicely as a bell work activity in Eng-
lish when working on creative writing.
d) Write a caption: similar to cartoons in newspapers. Give pupils a
cartoon image/sketch and ask them to write a caption in the target
e) Name the object: this can be used to encourage pupils to recall names
of fruits, colours, animals or any other item and is simply a series of
images which pupils have to identify.
f) Place maps around the room and ask pupils to identify where, for ex-
ample, the target language is spoken (e.g. identifying countries, in ad-
dition to Spain, where Spanish is spoken).
a) Chronological order: pupils are asked to place events in chronological
order (based on a unit studied or simply to practise the skill, given
some abstract information) or alternatively to read a brief paragraph
and construct a timeline of events. An active alternative to this is
to ask pupils to work collectively to arrange events on a washing line
in chronological order (this can be left until the end of the lesson for
b) Primary or secondary: pupils are asked to identify whether sources are
primary or secondary.
c) Top three: pupils write down three things relating to a specific topic.

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

a) Numeracy-based questions, such as those involving number bonds:
3 x 4, 5 x 7, 3 6, 8 11.
b) Simplifying terms: a x a, 3ab x a, 12/30.
c) Calculating the area of simple shapes (this can be numerical or
algebraic, dependent on ability level).
Physical education (PE): pupils choose a term from a list or those placed
around the room or open space and write down a definition. Terms could
include: speed, agility, balance, reaction time, power and coordination.
By adding an element of choice you give pupils greater access to the
bell work and greater chance of success. To make this activity more engag-
ing, ask pupils to take a pen from the pot and write their definition on a
post-it note and then place it on the wall by the word (place the terms on
the wall easy in a gym or classroom). During reverse bell work pupils go
to the word they chose and the group of pupils who chose the same word
work together to decide on which is the best definition (they may come up
with a new definition based on their combined opinions).
Design technology (DT): a similar example can be used to that in PE with
working properties of materials conductivity, strength, malleability, dura-
bility etc.
Physics: a simple picture of three sound waves, for example, with ques-
tions such as: which ones have the same pitch (why?) and which is louder
(why?)? This basic exercise reminds pupils of amplitude and frequency.
Chemistry: simple questions, such as, which solution will turn the litmus
paper red? What does this mean? Is there a sliding colour scale? Which
metal will glow pale violet when burnt in the flame? Alternatively, sim-
ple low-level recall or application questions work well: name the equip-
ment questions or whats missing in this diagram? or spot the difference,
which focuses on comparing a safe and unsafe experiment set-up.
English: choosing the correct word in a sentence for example, she (threw/
through) the ball at the wall; Katie decided she needed more (practise/
practice) at playing the piano; or exercises which ask pupils to insert the
correct apostrophe for example, identify and insert the apostrophe into
the correct word in the following sentences: I dont want to go swimming
tomorrow; thats the best thing thats happened all day; it isnt going to rain
today; or shortening the words in italics with apostrophes for example,
I said I will go to the football match tomorrow; Paul says he does not know
when the meeting is.

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

Odd one out

Activities that involve pupils identifying which item is the odd one out
involve a degree of justification and higher-order thinking skills, more so than
the basic recall activities. A simple template is shown in Figure 3.1 below.
This activity can be used at any level and can be adapted to all subjects. Once
you have the template, you can mix it up and reuse it easily as often as you
wish. Remember, the power in this activity (as with all activities) is the assess-
ment; this comes when we ask pupils to justify their decision at the end of the
lesson, during the reverse bell work process. This initial phase is simply an
exercise in thinking.
Examples from different subjects to demonstrate the breadth of this activity
are listed below:

MFL: place adjectives around an object in the centre of the odd one out
diagram, with the odd one out being either an adjective that would not be
used to describe the object or one that does not agree with the noun.
PE: list the food groups for example, carbohydrate, protein, fats, vita-
mins, minerals, fibre, water and then one other which is the odd one out
(e.g. cereals, which is obviously not a food group).
DT: natural sources of plastics to include plants, insects, trees, animals and
natural gas (natural gas being the odd one out).

Figure 3.1 An example of a template for the odd one out.

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Art: images of paintings representative of different movements where

pupils identify which image is the odd one out and why. This can draw
on prior learning for example, if you have studied impressionism or
it can be something completely new, where you want a pupils immediate

An alternative to the diagram in Figure 3.1 is a simple odd one out statement
exercise. The advantage of this is that you can mix up topics and, as the year
progresses, you will have a good selection. Examples of mixed questions in
geography are:

1) tarmac, concrete, grass, urbanisation

2) dam building, heavy rain, snowmelt
and in science:

1) gas, oil, wind

2) H2O, CO2, SO2
3) gas, coal, solar
There are lots of variations of odd one out; this type of activity simply
consolidates prior learning and allows you to assess learning through tar-
geted questioning. Without assessing the activity (at the end of the lesson
through reverse bell work) the activity itself is meaningless and loses its
power. For example, if, at the end of the lesson, you simply tell pupils the
correct answer or, indeed, ask them for it without entering into a learn-
ing dialogue, how do you know that they havent just guessed the correct
answer or, alternatively, that they havent just remembered that this is the
correct answer (i.e. not grasping the importance of why)? The power in
making an assessment which matters is to ask pupils to justify their choice.
This promotes higher-order thinking skills and can be done by two min-
utes of quick-fire basketball-style questioning. A review does not have to
be static, but can be fun; pupils can, for example, go and stand by the odd
one out if you place cards around the room. Use a random name generator
to decide who will answer the first question to keep pupils focused (when
pupils know it might be them, they tend to listen more).

If statements
If statements involve pupils identifying a connection which is then applied.
While this type of activity can be used for bell work, it is also an activity that
can be used at any point in the lesson. For example:

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

If 8 x 40 = 320, then calculate

1) 0.8 x 40
2) 8x4
3) 0.8 x 0.4
4) 320 / 8

In this example, pupils are practising a skill (manipulation of number); used

frequently (perhaps every two weeks), this helps to embed the concept and has
a significant impact on learning.
In English, an example relating to word endings is illustrated below:

If we add a suffix to words ending in y, we need to first look at the letter in

front of the y. If it is a vowel, we keep the y and if it is a consonant the y
changes to an i and if we add ing the y always stays.

Based only on this statement write the following correctly:

1) I was enjoing watching the movie and I didnt hear the telephone.
2) I am hungryer than a horse.

To extend this, you can ask pupils to determine a simple rule, If: taste >
tasting, heat > heating, place > placing, time > timing, meet > meeting.
What is the rule?
Questions which ask pupils whether they agree or disagree with a statement
are another example of this type of bell work: Oliver says 27 is greater than
7, so 0.27 is greater than 0.7. Do you agree?
If there are common misconceptions in your subject area, this style of bell
work is useful to use now and again, with statements or questions based on
these misconceptions. Highlighting common mistakes through bell work is
an effective technique to reinforce through repetition (useful because these
questions are often used in examinations where pupils are asked to argue their
case). Over time, you will see a notable improvement in the skills of pupils
in this area and, as a point of interest, try repeating the same question a few
weeks later and see if pupil responses have improved, with particular focus
on the why.
Quotations also fall into this category and can be used in all sub-
jects. For example, place a statement on the board and ask pupils to focus
on: what it means, what they think the context is, what era they think it is
from and whether they can relate it to everyday life. This may be a quota-
tion from a piece of literature previously studied or a quotation from a figure
in history.

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Other types of bell work

Other more engaging or active bell work activities include posting images
on the board for pupils to discuss with each other (rather than in isolation)
or placing images or objects around the room and asking pupils to think, as
they come in, about the subject specific connections or to place themselves by
the image or object that they think is most interesting (with reverse bell work
involving justification, which makes learning active). Often, with no right
or wrong answers, this activity serves to exemplify the skill of selection and
debate, but pupils must use subject language or context to explain their choice
in the reverse bell work.
A slide with a series of images demonstrating different aspects of antisocial
behaviour, voting, care workers etc. would be an example of a precursor to a
lesson on rights and responsibilities in citizenship. The question to pupils is
simply What do you think this lesson is about? While not a closed activity,
this allows pupils to enter into open discussion and encourages them to think
about connections between different aspects of life and learning. A further use
of this type of slide (with a series of images) is to ask pupils which impacts
most on society or on their lives, and why. The slide can be a mixture of posi-
tive and negative aspects and it often gives rise to very interesting discussions.
In geography, an example could be different samples of rock placed around
the room (it works well if these are, perhaps, collected from a field work pro-
ject to which pupils can easily relate) for discussion (you could ask pupils a
specific question or, alternatively, to expand reverse bell work, ask different
questions, with pupils moving to the best choice as an answer) or providing
pupils with a map (perhaps of your classroom), asking them to write down the
grid reference of various locations or to find the location with a specific grid
reference (if you use the classroom, masking tape along the floor is useful to
mark out the grid although this requires time to plan and you may wish this
to be a longer starter activity).
In history, a nice activity for more active bell work is to place images of
characters in history around the room. Pupils have to stand by the character
they find most interesting or who they think was most influential in history
(and, in reverse bell work, we ask the 5Ws: who, what, when, where, why);
alternatively, you could place connected images and ask pupils to determine
the connection (a specific period or event in history). This can equally be
extended to Which discovery do you think is most important to us today?,
with different historical images placed around the room pertaining to different
discoveries for example, penicillin, the telephone etc.

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

In physics, a simple example of active bell work could be circuits placed

around the room for pupils to look at (or, if you require a more settling ver-
sion as an alternative, use diagrams). Pupils need to work out on which cir-
cuit the light bulb will light (obviously, dont hand out any light bulbs until
the review). This stimulates discussion regarding a complete circuit in order
for electricity to flow and questions such as: how can we alter the circuit in
diagram A to make sure the light bulb lights? What is the difference between
circuit C and circuit D? Are there any similarities between any circuits?
Asking how to correct the circuits in the reverse bell work tests pupils
understanding. To correct an error we demonstrate higher-order cognitive
Since the aim is to make the bell work something pupils can be getting
on with while you greet pupils as they arrive (make sure you are in the
classroom greeting pupils and not outside in the corridor always remain
in control of your classroom for obvious health and safety reasons), avoid
making the content over-complicated. Regular use of bell work helps to em-
bed basic subject matter or skills; I am confident you will see an improve-
ment in pupil performance. Remember, if settling the class is a concern, use
the settling activities (ideas above) which are initially completed individu-
ally. Pupils will soon know what is expected of them when they arrive. If
your school insists on a policy where pupils line up together outside of the
classroom before being allowed to enter, then bell work may be unneces-
sary, but you may use the ideas here as a two-minute brain teaser while
pupils are organising themselves. There are lots of websites which have
simple challenges, which can be used as a source of activities for bell work,
although I would personally advise developing your own as you can tailor
any activities to particular learning needs that you think need to be rein-
forced regularly (based on previous assessments often the result of using
summative assessments in a formative way). Whether you use the activities
or not, they can be adapted and will provide you with different ideas. Re-
member, bell work is not related to learning in the lesson, but based upon
something that has been studied before and serves to keep topics fresh in
pupils minds.

Learning outcomes
Sharing learning outcomes, for a lesson or series of lessons, with pupils is an
important part of the learning process. If pupils can see the bigger picture and
are able to see how they are going to get there and achieve the next steps in their

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

learning, they will engage better with the learning process (formative assess-
ment). Specific criteria (graded or not) offer something by which pupils can
measure their success/progress and are an essential component of assessment
during learning. There are lots of different terms used: learning outcomes, learn-
ing intentions, learning objectives, learning successes; whichever your school
chooses (although there are subtle differences in the formal meaning of each),
the important point is their use as part of the formative process.
Learning outcomes and learning objectives are probably the most com-
mon terms used in schools and I do want to emphasise that in my opinion
learning outcomes are not objectives. Objectives essentially become a to do
list and, consequently, can become very task-driven. Outcomes reflect devel-
opment in learning and are more process/skill-driven. Think about the differ-
ence between the two phrases:

Today, I will learn to use the first law of indices (here the objective is to be
able to use a method).
Today, I will develop a method for multiplying two numbers in index form
(here the learning outcome is that we develop the method).

I hope that you can see that, in the first example, we imply that we are teaching
a method that pupils are using, in other words I do, you do, we do. In the
second we emphasise that we are developing a mathematical process which,
of course, relies on higher-order thinking skills than being taught a method
and then following the recipe. I advise using Blooms taxonomy when writing
learning outcomes (Bloom and Krathwohl, 1956), choosing verbs like evalu-
ate, compare, solve, construct, classify, develop, examine, predict, formulate,
justify, rather than I will know how to or I will understand how to. The UNC
Center for Teaching and Learning website (see Bibliography) has examples of
verbs and questions which use Blooms taxonomy and can help support the
writing of learning outcomes.
Alongside learning outcomes, you will often see success criteria; I think
these are important because they allow for differentiation and they act as
progress checkers for pupils. In my experience, teachers like to use three
(some teachers like to apply grades or levels to these, but I would be cau-
tious about this), although the motives for this are most likely based on
the previously advocated all, most, some (which I discuss later). Success
criteria are important because they help pupils to assess their progress to-
wards the learning outcomes during the learning process (rather than at
the end of the lesson). Please remember that there is no need for pupils
to write learning outcomes or success criteria down as this simply wastes
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

valuable learning time. If you want pupils to have a copy of the learning
outcomes or accompanying criteria, then print them off for pupils to make
reference to during the lesson. Also keep in mind that grading outcomes can
be quite controversial. Fantastic if you are working with a high-achieving
class (although beware of complacency), but perhaps not so with a low-
ability class, where seeing that they are working towards the lower end of
the grade spectrum can potentially be demotivating. So think carefully be-
fore you grade a learning outcome or success criteria. It is more important to
have criteria which allow pupils to identify progress in their own learning,
allowing them to make informed choices on their next steps. It is that sense
of achievement, understanding and ownership in learning, through pro-
gression in success criteria, that will serve to motivate students (far more
than a single grade).
Subject literacy and the correct use of terminology are also very important;
I recommend that you take the opportunity to highlight key words and sub-
ject vocabulary through the learning outcomes and/or success criteria. Very
often pupils lack the ability to use subject-specific language, often because we
have failed to stress the importance of this during explanations, either written
or verbal. As pupils progress in their subject careers, this becomes increas-
ingly important, so starting this early makes language an integral component
of development. Highlight key words or have a vocabulary list for each unit or
topic. You would expect pupils, by the end of the topic, to be able to use (and
I include spell here) the words correctly and in context. There is a tenden-
cy to use pupil speak, but dont do this to the detriment of subject literacy.
Having said that, ensure that the success criteria are accessible for pupils.
There is little point to having success criteria written in the same form as we
have in our curriculum strategies, as many pupils will struggle to decipher
them and, therefore, they will not use the success criteria as part of the learn-
ing process; of course, the whole point of success criteria is that pupils use
them during the learning so that they can measure their progress. We must,
therefore, make learning outcomes and success criteria accessible and ensure
we discuss them and their meaning.
Examples of learning outcomes, with examples of success criteria, are given
below. Note that the learning outcome is generic and offers a general theme
for the lesson; the success criteria act as progress checkers. I dont person-
ally advocate the wording all, most, some in learning outcomes (or success
criteria) as this automatically limits the progress of some pupils (those who
are expected to only ever achieve the all criteria or those pupils who simply
choose to stop at the all criteria, seeing that as having done just enough
which limits the progress we would expect them to make) the opposite of
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

what we actually want to achieve. Labelling outcomes in this way can result
in lowering pupils expected progress. Progressive success criteria are much
more open to all pupils achieving as there is no expectation for pupils to be
in a particular learning category, allowing for better assessment during the
learning process. Sometimes these are referred to as learning ladders and they
follow the natural progression of learning in the lesson in other words, the
starter may focus on the first progress marker, the following activity the next
and so on. There is the opportunity for these progression markers or success
criteria themselves to be differentiated by development at different depths.

Learning outcome: I will investigate and develop a method to expand and simplify
the product of two linear brackets and apply these skills to different problems.
Success criteria: As I work towards the learning outcome I will be able to:
multiply a single term over a bracket for example, 3(a+2)
develop a method to expand and simplify the product of two simple linear brackets
for example, (x1)(x+2) explaining how I have done this
apply this method to expand an expression such as (3x+5)(2x+3) or (ap)(2p+q)
and be confident in explaining to others how I have done this
explain which method I use, and why, when solving different problems.
Learning outcome: I will investigate how the greatest female monarchs compare,
justifying my decisions.
Success criteria: As I work towards the learning outcome I will be able to:
identify the key elements of Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth IIs reign
determine criteria or categories for a monarchs success
analyse and compare each monarchs success
justify who I think was the best monarch.
Learning outcome: I will be able to discuss how considered vocabulary choices cre-
ate a range of effects in writing about superheroes.
Success criteria: As I work towards the learning outcome I will be able to:
identify vocabulary choices and discuss how meaning is created through our choice
of words
understand how writers structure different texts and why
analyse extracts from novels and graphic novels, compare their impact and justify
and discuss different interpretations
create a short story in two different forms.

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

Instead of discussing learning outcomes and success criteria at the start of

the lesson, some teachers (often those in more creative subjects or during dis-
covery-based learning) prefer to allocate a few minutes as the lesson develops
to ask pupils to decide on what the learning outcomes for the lesson might
be/have been, what the success criteria are/would be in identifying progress and
how they can take the next steps in developing learning. This is a nice activ-
ity as it encourages pupils to really think about what they have learnt and how
they know they were successful in learning it. I encourage you to try this at some
point as mixing things up rather than adopting the same lesson structure engages
pupils more. If you do choose to do this, then have a simple title at the beginning
which gives pupils a flavour of what they will be studying in the lesson.
A further note is that some teachers like to decontextualise learning out-
comes, believing that this supports pupils in transferring the underlying skill
to different contexts. So, for example, with the muddled learning objective to
write a newspaper report about pollution pupils will focus more on pollution
(the context) rather than the skill (formative writing). If we make the learning
objective to write a newspaper article and separate the context about pol-
lution in our town, then pupils can more easily separate the skill from the
context and are, therefore, more likely to be able to transfer the skill itself to
any context (Clarke, 2008). Of course, this can be combined with the above
where the learning outcome relays the skill, the context relays the context that
the skill will be applied to and the success criteria provide the foundations for
pupils to become active learners. If we refer to the effects in writing example,
the skill is to be able to use considered vocabulary choices and the context is
superheroes, with the success criteria supporting progress in learning.
However you choose to use learning outcomes in your classroom, and
irrespective of what you actually refer to them as by name, remember that
they are not just for pupils. Setting learning outcomes is key to planning for
outstanding learning in your lessons. If you are clear on what you want pupils
to achieve over the period of a lesson or series of lessons then you can work
backwards to develop a series of activities which connect learning, planning
a learning journey that best supports your pupils in achieving the outcomes
for success. Moreover, it provides you with a clear picture of what you are
assessing during the learning process and what the corresponding success
criteria are.

the Big Question

Using a Big Question at the start of your lesson is an extremely powerful tool
in assessment for learning. This is mainly because it makes success visible
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

and allows pupils to see the progress they have made during the lesson.
It is a typically a question which asks pupils to apply their learning. Pupils are
given a couple of minutes (or longer if you choose to make this a form of starter
activity) to write down their initial response to the Big Question, which, by
its nature, encompasses the learning outcomes. You can make it quite fun by
asking pupils to keep their answer top secret, seal it in an envelope and then,
most importantly, return to it at the end of the lesson (pupils like the envelope
strategy as it highlights the importance of the activity).
The key to this activity is comparison; it provides tangible evidence of suc-
cess: the powerful nature of comparing develops metacognition and encourages
pupils to take ownership in assessing the progress made in their own learning.
There is no need to discuss the question at the start of the lesson; discussion and
assessment take place at the end of the lesson and are key to pupils assessing
their own progress. The obvious aim is to carefully select a question that pupils
cannot answer fully (if at all, perhaps) at the beginning of the lesson, but one
which they will be able to answer at the end of the lesson, following the learning
phase. This type of comparison activity, if done properly, allows pupils to really
unpick their initial thoughts and their final thoughts and think carefully about
these in relation to the success criteria and learning outcomes. Why did they ini-
tially approach the question as they did? What have they developed in the lesson
that means they now take a different approach? What misconceptions did they
have at the start of the lesson? How do they know?
This is much more powerful than pupils spending valuable learning time
writing down what have I learnt today, which, in theory, is great but, in prac-
tice, has no true learning value; in most cases pupils simply regurgitate the
learning outcome in some form without thinking or really struggle to think of
anything to write. (In all honesty, it is a waste of time and probably a directive
from an old assessment for learning policy believing this to be good practice,
which, of course, used in this way it is not. In my experience, most teachers
dont really look in detail at what is written and certainly dont enter into
a two-way dialogue based upon it; if you asked pupils why they do it they
would probably say because we have to, if you ask them the value of it they
wouldnt know and if you asked whether they ever look at it again they would
most likely answer probably not). In doing the comparison pupils are much
more likely to retain information; it shows them clearly what they have learnt
in the lesson. They are much more likely to be able to articulate this progress
in learning and explain how they know they have met the learning outcomes/
success criteria for the lesson. Their initial and final responses can be stuck
into their books as evidence of their progress and success in learning. If you
wish, you can make this activity the bell work, but you must ensure that all
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

pupils have the opportunity to answer the question initially. Once pupils have
attempted the Big Question (only a couple of minutes to be spent on this), we
move on to the first learning cycle or the starter activity.
The activities so far are short: a couple of minutes for bell work, a min-
ute or so for introducing the learning outcomes (dont spend too long going
through each success criteria with pupils they only need a flavour at the start
of the lesson because learning outcomes and success criteria are workable
statements which, by their nature, are to be returned to regularly throughout
the lesson to allow pupils to assess their own progress) and two minutes for
the Big Question, so maintaining the pace of the lesson is very important to
drive learning. We are a maximum of five or six minutes in at this stage!
Example of Big Questions:

1) Can a flame change colour? (Obviously, initially this would be a yes/no

response or pupils may attempt an answer but at the end of the lesson
you would expect pupils to explain and offer examples.)
2) How does an aeroplane stay in the sky? (Initially you will get a variety of
responses or guesses and some may be based on scientific hypotheses
but at the end of the lesson you would expect pupils to be able to explain
why, to use examples and to use key words.)
3) What is the area of a rectangle with width (a+2) and length (4a+3)?
(Responses to this Big Question are shown in Chapter 5.)
4) Do these numbers belong in the same sequence?
2, 5, 8, 11, 14,
, 299, 302, 305, 308,
5) Do plants need light? (Pupil responses to this Big Question are shown in
Chapter 5.)
6) Do polar bears like the cold?
7) When the ice melts the level of the water will stay the same/rise/fall?
(By the end of the lesson you would expect pupils to be able to justify their
choice with scientific explanation.)
8) Where would you choose to go on holiday: Australia or Belize?
(Put up pictures comparing two destinations. A good Big Question which
focuses on tourism.)
9) Why are many of my clothes made outside of the UK?
10) Why do we call some religions mythologies (ancient Greek, Norse,
Egyptian, etc.) and others religions?
11) How would we find out how much salt there is in the ocean?
12) What is true strength?
13) Is it easier to be queen in the twenty-first century?
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

14) Why does this bar of steel sink and a steel boat float? (As with the
aeroplane question, we would expect use of scientific language and a focus
on the why by the end of the lesson.)
15) If I flick the switch will the light bulb light? (A good Big Question for
lessons on circuits in physics.)
16) What happens next? (For example, mixing of two chemicals we are ask-
ing pupils to make a prediction; when they return to the question at the
end of the lesson they have to decide whether their prediction was correct,
or correct any misconceptions, and create a new prediction focusing on
the why and the why not.)
17) Can we always go back to where we started from? (In the context of revers-
ible and irreversible chemical reactions.)
18) Which came first? (Useful in lots of different contexts.)
19) How much does a cloud weigh? (A rather abstract question, but points to
scientific method and is current topical research in the UK.)
20) Is water from the Gulf of Mexico responsible for the mild climate in
21) Questions which involve a misconception and asking pupils to agree or
disagree are good Big Questions as pupils must unpick an error, thus dem-
onstrating a good understanding. For example, Kate says, It will either
rain or not rain, so the probability that it will rain tomorrow is 50 per cent;
or the advert says Eight out of ten cats prefer Whiskas. Annie says I have
five cats, so does this mean four of them would prefer to eat Whiskas cat
22) When am I ever going to use in real life? or .... is the reason
why we . or Do you think . is responsible for .? (This
always proves interesting. At the start of the lesson you will probably
get responses such as never, no idea, but at the end of the lesson pu-
pils should be able to draw from their learning and think about different
applications of the topic.)

An alternative to the Big Question (although similar in purpose) is to get pupils

in pairs or small groups to note (using diagrams or visual aids along with bul-
let point ideas on an A3 piece of sugar paper) things that they already know
about a given topic and then at the end of the lesson, as part of the plenary, to
reform and write down what they now know (in other words what they have
learnt during the lesson). This is, of course, another comparison activity and
allows pupils to see very clearly and simply what they have learnt, allowing
them to visualise their progress. You need to make this a beat the clock activ-
ity to ensure you maintain focus and pace. Using this type of activity, we are

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

immediately involving pupils in their own learning. They know their start-
ing point (because they are demonstrating this on the A3 paper at the begin-
ning of the lesson) and they will be able to clearly see the progress the have
made during the lesson. Pupils can assess their own progress against criteria.
Depending on how much time you allocate to this activity (and it is an activity
worth investing in), it may be used as the starter.

the first learning cycle: the starter activity

The first learning cycle in the lesson is often referred to as the starter activity.
It usually has a different purpose to the learning cycle or cycles in the main
part of the lesson and/or plenary, as it is commonly used to benchmark, to
know where pupils are starting from (often assessing a point of knowledge).
The structure of the learning cycle may, therefore, be different to those used
in the main body of the lesson and it is worth thinking about each key aspect
of the learning cycle as we progress. Before we begin, remember that, while
I split the lesson into activities which fall into the start, the main body or the
end of the lesson, I am not advocating a distinct starter, main and plenary
approach, but a lesson which sequences a series of learning cycles within these
phases. These may, of course, vary in length or style. (I could have chosen to
identify activities/learning cycles sequentially without referring to any phase
in the lesson, but I think it is best discussed in the context of starter, main and
plenary as most teachers can relate to this terminology and lesson structure;
we may choose a different style of activity at the start of the lesson to those in
the plenary, for example.)
Activities at the start of the lesson (as with any activity) can be individual,
paired or group; if we are using them to benchmark, based on a sixty-minute
lesson, they should be a maximum of about seven to ten minutes, includ-
ing review (open activities may be slightly longer as they do not necessarily
have a natural end point). Maintaining pace is very important as a common
problem is often that teachers allow the activity to drift; it then dominates
the lesson time and, consequently, the planned learning opportunities dont
actually take place or are rushed and lose their value. The concept of a les-
son is to develop learning (you will often hear the phrase learning journey),
so the starter should act as an activity which initiates this and links to the
learning. A good starter is not teacher-led; rather, it focuses on learning and
thinking, acting as a hook. If the starter is a more open activity, then one of
the very best ways to hook pupils is to ensure that all pupils achieve some
success and are drawn into the learning, otherwise there is the potential for
some learners to disengage at the very beginning of the lesson, which brings
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

with it obvious problems such as low-level disruptive behaviour particu-

larly if they feel this lesson is going to be one they just dont get (they switch
off). Obviously, if you are using a quantitative starter to benchmark current
knowledge then it may very well be that it tells you, for example, that the
majority of pupils only score 50 per cent; this can be used to inform the next
phase of the lesson or, perhaps, as an opportunity to recap key points before
progressing. If you teach a mixed-ability set, a good starter will offer the
opportunity for differentiation.
There are lots and lots of different styles of starter activity; whichever you
choose (and outstanding teachers draw from a variety of activities from lesson
to lesson), the most important part is what you do with it this is where the
importance of assessment and review is highlighted. So ask yourself the learn-
ing purpose of every activity:

Does it tell me (and pupils) where pupils are starting from?

Is it a useful activity on which to build?
How does it work towards achieving the learning outcomes?
How does it develop pupils skills?
How does it support development in the learning journey?
Has it started to lay the foundations?
Does it challenge pupils?
Does it start pupils along the line of thinking or investigation needed
to develop learning?
Is it differentiated?
Is it an open or closed starter activity?

Asking these questions will help to ensure that progress is made and help
you to choose the appropriate assessment technique. Position yourself in the
place of the learner and imagine the outcomes you would expect to achieve
from each activity and how they assist progress towards achieving the learning
outcomes or success criteria for the lesson; this will indicate the best assess-
ment technique to use to assess that progress. In the following section we look
at starter activities which benchmark learning in the very first learning cycle.

Benchmarking learning
The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner
already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly.
Ausubel et al., 1978
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

To remind ourselves, so far we have used bell work to engage pupils as they
enter the classroom and a Big Question, neither of which are assessed until
the end of the lesson. Both activities are relatively brief; we are, most likely,
approximately five minutes into the lesson at this stage (yes, pace is crucial,
but be sensible not to take this literally and rush through the learning to keep
to your timed lesson plan be flexible when needed and always allow for
thinking). We must now benchmark learners and the first learning cycle is an
activity which allows us to do this. It ensures that pupils have the basic skills
to build on and identifies any gaps in learning which need to be addressed
before moving on.
The initial activity should really make pupils think. Whether it is a series
of questions which assess prior knowledge or a more open-ended investi-
gative starter or a starter in a rich context, the important point is that we
engage pupils and then involve them in the review so that they can place
the activity on the progression ladder and see the learning value of the
activity, offering the opportunity to highlight and address any misconcep-
tions. Below, we discuss lots of different types of starter activities which
can be adapted and used in most subjects (although some will lend them-
selves more naturally than others). Remember, the cycle should typically
last between seven and ten minutes, including review, so keep this focus as
you develop an activity.

Quick-fire questions
Quick-fire questions (typically completed individually) are an example of a
closed starter and are probably the most common style of starter activity used
to determine pupils starting points in the classroom. Effectively, we are using
a mini-summative assessment in a formative way. Usually there is only one
correct answer to the question. For example:

Expand the following expressions and simplify where appropriate

1) 3(a + 2)
2) 4(b 7)
3) 6(2a + 1)
4) 8(7 2m)
5) 3 (5p + 4) 7(2p 1)
6) y(2y 3) + 2y(3y + 2)

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

In languages, an example would be a series of sentences where pupils write

the correct verb conjugation for example, Je (aller) au cinema ce soir, where
aller is replaced by vais. Categorising or classifying can also be used in direct
quick-fire questioning for example, classifying foods into the correct food
group (PE or DT): To which food group does pasta belong?
Other examples include short-response questions where there is the pos-
sibility of more than one answer (but not leading to lengthy debate) for ex-
ample, in English literature text is typically studied over a series of lessons;
using Macbeth as an example, one starter could be to ask pupils to write down
words and phrases (or bonus points for a quotation) describing characters in
the play for each letter of the word MACBETH. An alternative is to sequence
emotions felt by Macbeth during the play (e.g. calm, glad, fearful, terrified,
confused, determined etc.) in chronological order (this can be extended to a
series of events). Staying with the same topic, a targeted set of quick-fire ques-
tions could be asked:

1) Who arrives to talk to Macbeth?

2) How many times does the ghost appear?
3) Does the ghost speak?
4) What does Macbeth decide to do at the end of the scene?
5) What is on the murderers face?

Essentially, quick-fire questions all assess prior knowledge and ensure that we
are aware of the baseline from which pupils are working. Perhaps it is knowl-
edge from a unit studied last term or concepts developed in the previous year
of study or simply from the previous lesson. Whichever it is, the importance is
that we determine whether baseline expectations are met or whether we need
to reinforce basic facts to underpin the lesson before continuing; assessment
during the learning process should provide this information.
Quick-fire questions can be answered by pupils on mini-whiteboards (use
the word reveal when you want pupils to hold up their boards to avoid copy-
ing) or individually in their books. Ensuring that pupils have a good under-
standing of the underlying concepts is really the aim of this initial assessment
and evaluation is gained from the review process through effective question-
ing. If you use mini-whiteboards, questioning should follow each reveal; oth-
erwise, review each question at the end of the activity through basketball-style
questioning determining that any underlying concepts are secure.
When designing the quick-fire questions, try to use questions which address
different aspects of the assessment criteria. This ensures that you dont simply
ask ten questions which are all basically the same (remember if pupils can do
one or two, they can do ten progressive learning rather than static learning).
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

The mathematics example above demonstrates this: the first question is

a simple expansion involving only positive numbers, subsequent ques-
tions involve negative numbers and the latter questions involve positive
and negative numbers and collecting like terms. The level of challenge
increases, yet the learning outcome would simply involve expanding a sin-
gle term over a bracket (success criteria would identify the different skills
such as multiplying positive/negative number or combining with collecting
like terms).
Assessment of pupil responses against these criteria should not mean sim-
ply checking pupils have the correct answer as this does not constitute as-
sessment for learning and does not provide enough evidence for you to move
to the next activity. Each quick-fire question should offer the opportunity
for basketball questioning passed among at least three pupils. Thus, a ten-
question quick-fire starter means, in a class of 30, each pupil has answered
at least one question in the first ten minutes of your lesson. So, for example,
along with other questions which evolve naturally short pacey questions: Why
is the first term 56?, Why is the second term +16m?, Can you remind me
of the rules for multiplying positive and negative numbers? (you will already
have asked this, but this is an example where a concept should be reinforced
every question), Could we have written 16m 56?, Is it the same?, How do
you know?, Why did you write it as 56+16m?. In addition to posing direct
questions, also highlight and ask questions about any incorrect answers that
you see on the whiteboards and unpick the misconception. Following this,
deviate (even if its only one pupil) and secure the understanding it takes
a few seconds and is useful to all pupils that is, if the misconception is
associated with the multiplication of positive and negative numbers then ask
(1) 3 x 2; (2) 4 x 7; (3) 3 x 5. If the misconception is still there (hopefully,
it wont be), and its only one or two pupils, then move on and when the rest
of the class is starting the next activity regroup with these pupils (they may be
able to multiply terms by the term outside the bracket but not quite grasp the
rule for multiplying positive and negative numbers). In this way your assess-
ment has allowed you to note, act upon and deal with the misconception of a
few pupils without limiting the progress of others.

Pair-matching activities
Pair-matching activities which pupils complete individually, in pairs or small
groups are good starter activities because they promote discussion between
peers that is, they have to justify their choices to each other; the think-
ing and sharing underpins this activity. The review is important but can be
kept simple (as often, when used as a starter activity, pair-matching leads to
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

concepts developed in the lesson and is used, yes, to assess prior knowledge
and benchmark learning, but also to pose questions which will be answered as
the lesson progresses), where pupils are asked to justify their matching pairs.
A nice variation is to put cards on a piece of A4 paper and ask selected pupils
to come to the front and place the correct matching cards to form the pair.
As they do so they explain their choice, which provides the opportunity for
peer-assessment during the learning process. Making your own is probably
best as you can ensure that the cards are appropriate for the learning needs of
your class and work specifically towards the learning outcomes. The cards
can be based upon the application of prior knowledge to be developed further
in the lesson or a more open exercise based on a new topic with the aim that
pupils raise key questions to be addressed as the lesson progresses. If you prefer
to source pre-prepared material, examples of sources of pair-matching exer-
cises are found on the BBC Bitesize website ( for a
variety of subject matter, with different summary tables that can easily be
adapted to make pair-matching exercises. Figure 3.2 shows an example,
describing the properties and uses of hardwood and timber (DT); along
with the word statements and names, you can use samples of the different
woods or photographs so that pupils can physically touch or see the differ-
ent woods and use this alongside the pair-matching exercise. The NRICH
website ( has some good pair-matching activities

Name Properties Uses

Ash Light, creamy-brown colour, open- Sports equipment, wooden ladders,

grained, tough, flexible tool handles

Beech White to pinkish-brown in colour, Furniture, toys, tool handles

close-grained, hard, tough, strong,
warps easily

Elm Light to medium brown in colour, Indoor and outdoor furniture

open and sometimes interlocking
grain, tough, durable, resists splitting,
durable in water

Mahogany Pink to reddish-brown colour, fairly Good-quality furniture

strong, durable, some interlocking

Oak Light brown colour, strong, hard, Interior woodwork, good-quality

tough, open-grained, corrodes steel furniture
screws and fittings

Figure 3.2 An example of a pair-matching exercise for design technology (properties and uses
of hardwood and timber).
Note: This is best used with samples of wood or photographs to support the process.
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

(electronic, for use on the interactive whiteboard, and also printable versions
for example, the multiplication challenge,,
and the coordinate challenge, Alternatively,
simply search the internet for pair-matching activities for the specific topic
you are studying.
Pair-matching activities or resources can also be used in a find your part-
ner activity. Each pupil has a piece of laminated A4 card and they have to find
their match. An alternative is making connections, where pupils have to find
others with statements that have a connection to their statement resulting in
pupils forming a little group with similar information. To make this activity a
success and to ensure that it provides a suitable assessment opportunity when
you give pupils their statement or key word, give them a moment to think
about what they might be looking for and to understand their card. They can
note their ideas on a piece of paper (to compare when they find their partner
or partners). Some of the class may simply have a key word they must think
about what it means; some of the class may have a description they must
think about which word (or words) they need to find. Following the initial
brainstorm, pupils try to find their match and, when they find it, they must
assess in their pair or small group their initial thoughts (for those who may
find this type of activity challenging provide hint cards to help them in their
search). Making the activity more physical adds a different dimension for pu-
pils who may be arriving at your lesson having sat in classes for four hours or
more; this is good for kinaesthetic learners at all levels of ability. Find your
partner activities also benefit from the fact that you can easily differentiate
the statements that you give to pupils. For example, for those who are more
able you may have the same item listed, but a more controversial match which
promotes discussion. All pupils are essentially doing the same activity with
the same learning outcome that is, ability to identify a matching pair and
justify the choice but the depth of knowledge is different. The only downside
in comparison to the full pair-matching exercise is that they are only exposed
to their word/description in the initial activity. Therefore, the review of the
activity and assessment is important. It needs to involve the whole class and
other pupils should have the opportunity to question each pair. Alternatively,
use the find your partner as an initial fun exercise; once they have found
their match, pupils then work with their new partner to complete a paper-
based pair-matching exercise. This can, again, be differentiated; indeed, for
some pupils you may choose to leave a box blank for them to write their own
definition or word. Once completed, the pairs can all stand up and justify their
match; the remainder of the class then peer-assess their justification while
self-assessing against their own answer. Questioning should be developed to
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Are there any other statements which form a close match?, Why was this
statement the clear choice? and so on.
A further example of differentiation in this type of starter activity is given in
the following example, taken from geography. Consider a lesson on ecosystems
which involves pupils being given different climate maps, along with different
statements or adjectives relating to an animal or a plant which they sort into
the corresponding category (plant or animal). The activity can be differenti-
ated by giving pupils different ecosystems and statements etc.; the assessment
comes from the discussion: Why and how has the animal/plant adapted to
the particular climate? Pupils would be expected to present three key points
to the class for both plant and animal adaptations. This type of starter activity
can be progressed to pupils making a clay model of the animal/plant, focusing
on why for each specific feature the plant or animal has adapted, given the
climate. Based on the assessment of this starter activity, the next learning cycle
focuses pupils on producing a new plant or animal that would inhabit their
particular climate and feeding back to the class as to why their plant/animal has
specific features. This is particularly good for kinaesthetic and visual learners
and helps pupils to retain information. It can easily be adapted to your subject
area; you are, most likely, thinking of different examples now.

Treasure hunt
Find the treasure activities are engaging starters (particularly at KS1, KS2
and KS3); if you use a coordinate grid there is the obvious cross-curricular
link with numeracy and geography. There are many online interactive treasure
maps you can use, but a simple alternative is to superimpose a grid onto an
image and create your own. The TeacherLED website (
(which has lots of interactive whiteboard resources for teachers) allows you to
create an interactive whiteboard map (useful if the activity focuses the whole
class), but the activity works equally well using paper-based maps from the
geography department. Scatter the maps or atlases around the room and place
a transparent grid over them. Give pairs of pupils a task which asks them to
identify the coordinates of different cities or places of interest (you can have
a few different cards so that each pair does not have the same) or, if you dont
give the coordinates direct, then you can create a series of problems (again,
this is an excellent opportunity for differentiating in a starter activity as you
can give different pupils or pairs of pupils questions at different levels but the
same theme) that, when solved, reveal the coordinates leading to pupils find-
ing the location of the treasure. This sort of activity is just something different
and pupils are often keen to solve problems to find coordinates if it leads to
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

them finding the treasure first (which may be a little prize), adding a competi-
tive edge. Examples are suggested below demonstrating the breadth of treasure
hunt activities:

Geography: giving pupils a map and asking them to write down the grid
reference of various locations or to find the location with a specific grid
A personal pronoun treasure hunt, which is useful at KS2 (see http://www.
The British Museum website has some useful resources for history, catego-
rised by age suitability.

Remember, the value of this type of activity is that it can be easily differenti-
ated for different groups of learners. The learning outcome for the activity will
be the same, but the depth of challenge may be different. Assessment needs to
be made by circulating and then reviewing some key questions with the class
as a whole.

Game-based activities
Traditional board games are commonly used in classrooms. There are many
adaptations for example, snakes and ladders using algebraic substitution in
mathematics or other subject-specific questions and they can be used across
the age and ability range. At KS1, Battleships makes an excellent game for rein-
forcing coordinates and is an engaging activity for pupils. While board games
such as these are good, and pupils seem to enjoy them, you must think about
how you use them, what you want pupils to gain from them, how it develops
their learning and how you are going to use them to demonstrate progress.
One suggestion which works well is to always ensure you focus pupils on
their own learning during the game (rather than them just carrying out the
task of playing the game). This can be done simply by asking pupils to write
down one question on a post-it note that they found challenging or interesting
which they can return to as the lesson develops, or you can select a few post-
it notes to review the activity. These post-it notes can be used in a phone a
friend activity, where, in groups, pupils have to respond to different groups
post-it notes and then form a new discussion group. Simply playing a board
game can be a pointless exercise without ensuring assessment of the activ-
ity; you will find some pupils drift off task easily. Providing a learning pur-
pose will engage pupils you expect them to produce something from the
activity (which they are clear on) and can then open assessment through
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

discussion. It is difficult to assess each question that pupils complete during a

game-based activity because you may choose (and I recommend this) to differen-
tiate the question sets you give to pupils. Allow them to then become owners of
their own learning and choose the questions they need support with through
the post-it note method above. Creating autonomy underpins assessment
for learning.
Bingo is another game that is often used as a starter activity. (Remember,
however, that time management can be a problem with bingo so try to keep it
brief; for this reason it is, perhaps, better as a plenary activity. In addition it is
much more difficult to differentiate bingo as you ask the same question to the
whole class; most teachers will teach to the middle.) Bear in mind that the
purpose is learning, so it is important, once a pupil has got bingo, to review
a few of the questions they got correct and involve the whole class in this
process (otherwise, if you focus solely on the winner, other pupils quickly be-
come disengaged). If you search for bingo cards on the internet you will see
that there are lots of editable resources available for example, on the Times
Educational Supplement (TES) website.
Taboo works well as a starter activity where you want to focus on devel-
oping techniques in description and language skills. It is an old game where
pupils have to identify the hidden word without using the word itself that is,
by description only. Once the activity is complete, review as a class and ask a
few to share their thoughts for example, you can do this activity with a les-
son on geometric properties of shapes. This can be a nice starter where pupils
describe the shapes to each other and they have to guess which shape is being
described. It gets pupils thinking about the properties of shapes. As the lesson
progresses, you can return to this activity briefly and see if pupils would add
to their initial description using more subject-specific mathematical language,
thus developing mathematical literacy (e.g. use of the word vertices rather
than corners).
Who am I? This is commonly used and is a game-based activity that is simi-
lar to Taboo. For example, in English lessons pupils are paired and each has the
name of the character from a book being studied. They have to ask questions
until they guess correctly the character they have been given. Key to assessing
this activity is to ensure that pupils then come up with three key questions
which would have enabled them to guess the character (in other words, what
would have helped them guess it quicker for that particular character does
that character have any unique features?). As a class, you can discuss a few
of these and assess whether the three key points pupils have decided on (de-
fining features of the character) are the same as other pupils. If you have pre-
prepared key points for each character, you can give these to pupils to assess
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

in their pairs were any points the same or similar? Were any points different?
Why? This can form the basis of self-assessment. Would they now change any
of their key points? If so, why? Comparing their statements with yours really
promotes thinking skills and self-assessment; if they choose to remain with
their original set, how are these better? If they gave them to another pupil to
guess who the character was, would they be able to? Alternatively, the class
can pool their descriptive points and come up with a description of a particu-
lar character which remains visible (perhaps use a large piece of paper and
stick on a wall); as the lesson or series of lessons progress and more text is
studied, would they develop, add to or change any of the statements? Does the
individual character develop? Have other factors played a part? This descrip-
tion becomes dynamic: at any point, pupils can go and add to the poster or, at
key points, you can stop the learning and ask pupils if there is anything they
would like to add or remove from the list. It almost becomes an interactive
learning wall (as discussed in Chapter 7).
Guess Who? This is an excellent game for developing pupils use of adjec-
tives and adds a little bit of fun to the lesson, often being used in MFL. It is
based upon the game Guess Who? (, which can be
purchased at relatively low cost and used within the department as a resource.
Without the actual game, a variation is to give pupils an object/image and ask
them to guess what it is through a series of questions (basically, the same as
Taboo). Assessment is made through pupils, in their pairs, writing a descrip-
tion of the character they chose at the end of the game and then swapping with
their partner, who peer-assesses the work. Examples can be read to the class
and further peer-assessed by asking pupils if there is anything they would add
to the description (perhaps three things they like about the description and
one thing they would improve).

More open starters

Setting the scene through rich tasks or investigations creates a wonderful
opportunity to have a more open-ended starter activity. Open-ended starters
encourage pupils to develop their thinking and problem-solving skills. They
can be individual or beat the clock team starters. Most importantly, they
really engage pupils subject thinking and their ability to apply. In business
studies, for example, develop a brand starting with a series of images and ask
pupils to collectively write their thoughts (individually, in pairs and then as a
group having no prior technical language or knowledge). This is not a closed
starter and leads to an open discussion that acts as a precursor to the activities
involved in developing a brand and unique selling point. In science, there are
some excellent examples based around forensic science discovery lessons; the
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Guardian Teacher Network website (

room) has some thought-provoking ideas.
Another example of this type of activity is the use of statement starters,
where pupils are asked to make an initial choice based on the statement or evi-
dence provided for example, in a citizenship lesson place these statements
on different-coloured card:

I believe that responsibilities are more important than rights. Citizenship

should emphasise the social role of the citizen far more than the individuals
rights. Rights, on their own, lead to selfishness and irresponsibility. Shared
goals and the life of the community are more important than individual self-
interest. (Statement A)
I believe that rights are more important than responsibilities. The state is a
necessary evil which restricts my ability to act as I wish. The emphasis in
citizenship should be on protecting my individual rights. This will allow me
to act independently and pursue my own interests. The only responsibility
I have to the community is to protect these rights and the rights of others.
(Statement B)
I believe that rights and responsibilities shouldnt be in opposition to each
other, but are dependent on each other. We are all individuals, but we are also
rooted in the community. Through participation in the community we both
protect our rights and promote social justice. (Statement C)

Place each statement on A3 card in the same colour as each statement given to
the pupils on A4 and situate at different corners of the room. When you give
the signal, pupils write down their choice (to avoid them changing it when
they see where their friends go!) and then go and stand by the statement they
agree with; assessment begins with discussion. The aim of the assessment is
to probe pupils thoughts, encourage debate and assess their skills in justify-
ing their choice. Following the initial discussion, an important element of this
exercise is to give pupils 30 seconds to decide if they want to switch to another
definition (or colour). In doing so, the next phase of assessment surrounds
why those who moved did so and why those who remained with their original
choice did so. Another take on this activity is to ask pupils which statement
best describes different scenarios (e.g. their school, local community etc.). The
aim of the final discussion is to determine three questions that would help in
their decision regarding which statement they think is correct. Do they need
more information? What information do they need? Does it depend on the
context? What context are the quotes written in? Once the three key questions
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

are selected, these can be used as a basis for future assessment (the quality of
these questions allows you to assess the level of learning). So the outcome of
the activity is quality of learning dialogue and three key questions which dem-
onstrate the extent to which pupils have synthesised the information.
Grid starters in geography, whereby you create a masking-taped grid on
the floor of your classroom and ask pupils to identify where specific objects
are (e.g. A4, B3), are a further example of open starter learning in the lesson.
Does this give us enough information to pinpoint the exact location? Hope-
fully, pupils would say no, leading to them discussing, in groups, how they
might pinpoint the exact location. You can circulate, asking probing questions
to direct the activity, closing it with a whole-class discussion about the grid
coordinates. The lesson then progresses, with pupils applying the skills they
have developed in the starter activity, building on their learning.

Forming assessment criteria

An increasingly popular activity is to allow pupils to compare work (this may be
models, diagrams, pieces of writing and so on). The work must be anonymous and
most teachers have a source of old pieces (or can simply mock one up). The aim is for
pupils to examine work and to determine what makes it successful or unsuccessful,
thus creating a set of success criteria. This can be done as a think, pair, share exer-
cise and involves pupils in understanding what makes one piece better than another.
If you want to mix this up a bit then give different groups different examples and use
them all to formulate criteria. Using more examples in creative subjects, where there
are lots of different alternatives (e.g. in creative writing pieces), demonstrates to pupils
that there are not only two or three ways of responding; this is important in more
open response scenarios. This is really useful in subjects such as DT, where we want
pupils to really focus on the finished product. It helps them to visualise it far more
than a set of instructions or diagrams in a book. Developing this type of technique,
where pupils are actively engaged in assessing the qualities of another piece of work,
will make pupils much better at assessing their own work and encourage them to
think about this during the learning process. Reviewing good work at the end of the
lesson will not impact on learning; I hope that you can see there is limited value in
doing this. We want to use the review during the learning process so that learners are
involved and, most importantly, so that the review impacts on thinking, learning and
next steps, making it a highly valuable activity.

Target boards
Target board starters provide natural differentiation. They involve having a
grid on a board on which you base a series of questions. As you point to a
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

square on the grid (which may contain a number, image, word or statement),
pupils have to hold up their solution (this allows for whole-class assessment
and you can select a few responses for interesting discussions). For example,
in Table 3.1 pupils are told a = 2; b = 3; c = 4.

table 3.1 Target board grid.

8 4 3
2 22 5
100 14 7

As you point to the number, pupils either fill in their blank grid or hold up
their whiteboard. For example, you might point to 8; some pupils may hold up:
c+c or 2c or 4a or a+c+a or 4bc. You can then talk about equivalent expres-
sions, simplifying expressions etc. You can adjust the level of difficulty to
suit the group for example, you may use negative numbers such as a = 3,
b = 5, c = 2.
This also works well if you have iPads and Apple TV that link to your
board, which enables you to show pupil answers (mini-whiteboards are just as
good as an alternative). Target boards can be used in all subjects. You can also
have different images, labelling each image with a letter A, B, C and so on, to
which pupils refer. In languages, for example, read a statement in the target
language which describes a particular image. Pupils must then decide which
image you are describing (this can be anything, linked to animals, fruits, parts
of the body, places etc.). As an extension (and this allows for differentiation
in the activity), ask pupils to write a sentence describing one of the images,
which must contain at least two adjectives, or draw a sketch of the image you
describe (leave one grid square blank) based solely on the statement you read.
You can glance at them and choose a couple for discussion. An alternative is
for you to point to an item in a square on the grid and ask pupils to write down
the question (while this can be used as a starter activity, this particular reverse
use of the target board is, perhaps, better as a plenary, as discussed in Chap-
ter 5). Assessment is made in the why and in focusing on any differences
between pupils responses.

Video technology
Watching a video can be an engaging activity for pupils at the beginning of the
lesson. It offers an alternative to listening to you. On the internet (e.g. www., there are several short clips relat-
ing to lots of different subjects for example, mathematics in the mall, voices of
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

the Saxons (e.g. Saxon English and modern-day English, http://www.essential-, geography
in different cities, scientific experiments in context and lots more. The value
of a video clip is, of course, in how you use it, so be clear on the learning pur-
pose and, subsequently, on how you assess the activity. You could ask pupils
to write on post-it notes three key features of the clip or you can pause the
clip at key points to ask probing questions or ask pupils to predict what hap-
pens next. You may choose to revisit the clip in the plenary to see if there
has been development in the underlying concepts, subject-specific language
etc., creating almost an initial response versus a response following develop-
ment of key concepts during the lesson. In this way, you question pupils and
facilitate discussion, posing probing questions that promote deeper thinking
and encourage pupils to ask questions of themselves, developing a true learn-
ing dialogue. In other words, there is no final right or wrong answer; instead,
you engineer the discussion to result in a series of questions that pupils will
be able to answer as the lesson progresses. Videos, therefore, provide a more
open-ended starter activity, sowing the seeds for the next phase of the lesson.
Linking via video call to other schools or to businesses adds a different di-
mension to starter activities. We are so often asked When am I ever going to
use this?; setting a live challenge (this can be pre-recorded if necessary) can
help to contextualise the subject. For example, the local golf retailer needs to
work out the price of certain products for his sale or he needs to work out the
VAT on goods. Show a few products on screen, then, as the lesson develops,
link back up; the golf retailer can make up his signs as you speak (pupils
like this as they see maths in action) and also pupils can talk through the
best method to support the golf retailer in his future percentage calculations
(please check with video link-ups that your school is happy for you to do this
within safeguarding regulations) (Bartlett, 2014). An alternative could be link-
ing up with a university. Universities are always keen to work with schools
and a link with a post-doctoral or research student or academic to set a task
can often really add value and meaning to the task itself. In MFL, links can be
formed with schools where the target language is spoken. Careful planning
with the liaising teacher is required here to ensure that the activity maintains
the interest of all pupils, otherwise pupils can disengage easily.
Podcasts (video and audio) are another alternative starter activity. For exam-
ple, create a video of you measuring a bearing in silence and ask pupils to note
what you do. They have to watch with intensity in order to spot the important
points, such as drawing the North line, linking the points correctly, measuring
in a clockwise direction from North, writing the bearing as a three-digit refer-
ence etc. As part of the plenary, you can ask pupils to make their own video
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

on bearings. The best video could be placed on the maths zone of the schools
learning platform. In chemistry, this technique can also be used to good effect.
Pre-record yourself completing an experiment which can then be stopped at
key learning opportunities. Again, you can ask pupils to note carefully what
you did individually and then gather in small groups to create a series of in-
structions to complete the experiment. Encourage them to think about why
for each point they write. Pupils can compare their instructions with a set
of formal instructions and assess their own work. Was there anything they
missed off their instructions? Are there any equivalent statements? Have pu-
pils omitted technical language? Have pupils addressed all key safety features?
There are lots of excellent examples on TeachersTV (
ernment/publications/teachers-tv) and there are some excellent starter videos
for the primary and secondary classroom across a range of different subjects.

Bring in objects for example, a set of rocks: What is it? Where is it from?
What has it got to do with coastal erosion? Following this initial discussion,
the next step in the starter activity is for pupils to write down three things they
already know about coastal erosion in two minutes on a post-it note, sticking
it on the learning board. Carefully select a few post-it notes for discussion;
remember to highlight any misconceptions as these are equally important in
the assessment process. In mathematics, you could use items of food, such as a
packet of 80 teabags at 1.50 and a packet of 200 teabags at 3.50. Pupils work
in pairs or groups to determine the best buy, going to stand by the best buy.
To assess the activity, circulate, during paired discussions, listening carefully
to the pupils and dropping the occasional probing question to challenge learn-
ing where appropriate. As the activity draws to a close, select a pair to talk
through their method and ask others if they have any contributions, debating
the different methods teams have used. Similar activities can be done using
mobile phone deals, comparing and justifying the best buy or tariff.
An alternative example could be for drama, where pupils are given an image
and they have to act it. This forms a basis for discussion (again with no right
or wrong answer); then, as aspects of drama are developed during the lesson,
pupils return to the image. Does their representation now change? What have
they done differently? How do they know? What impact does it have? This is
a comparative exercise and allows pupils to review different techniques that
they have developed during the lesson.
In English, heres the image can be useful. What would the caption be?
Who do you think its for? Audience/purpose? This can be returned to at the
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

end of the lesson to see if pupils thinking has developed and pupils can use
peer-assessment to discuss their thoughts.
An alternative technique is the gather and return, demonstrated here us-
ing an example from history. Pupils look at an image (e.g. an image of a Motte
and Bailey castle) and, in groups, construct a diagram. Each pupil in the group
comes up to look at the image, takes information back, then the next pupil
comes up and so on. They focus on developing key points on the diagram. At
the end, they assess their diagram compared to the completed image they were
looking at; they must assess how it compares and suggest any improvements
they need to make to their own diagram. Can they comment on the importance
of each aspect of the castle? What elements caught their eye and why? Which
aspects did they miss and why? Does this tell us anything about the design of
the castle?

Targeted questioning
Targeted questioning is often used as a starter. Throwing a cuddly toy to a
particular pupil as you ask them a question (particularly with younger years)
is something that pupils seem to enjoy; it can be used to increase the pace. To
ensure that all pupils pay full attention and are thinking about the question
that you ask, dont throw the toy until a few seconds after you pose the ques-
tion. This keeps all pupils on their toes and allows for thinking time (count
to three or four seconds)! If the lesson continues the learning theme from the
previous lesson or lessons, use this technique to summarise prior learning
rather than an exercise in a book. What did we learn last lesson? How do we
know? Give me an example? Argue the case that .? Kate says ..;
is she correct? Take care when throwing the cuddly toy (health and safety!).

Envelope activities
Sealed envelope tasks are popular with pupils and are particularly good for
kinaesthetic learners as they are actively doing while thinking. They can be
individual, paired or group. Examples include statements or exercises that
pupils have to complete to demonstrate learning, such as statement-matching
or sequencing exercises. You can differentiate tasks in this way, giving different
pupils or groups different activities in their envelopes. In a more autonomous
learning environment, encourage pupils to self-select based on their prior
learning. If you have differentiated, dont go over everything in the review
pupils will easily become disengaged; select a few questions which offer good
examples and use these for the basis of discussion to reinforce underlying
concepts or processes. Figures 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5 show examples from PE, history
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Triceps Extend the arm at the elbow Press-ups, javelin

Biceps Flex the arm at the elbow Pull-up, drawing a bow in archery
Deltoids Move the arm in all directions at the Bowling a cricket ball
Pectorals Adduct the arm at the shoulder Forehand drive in tennis
Trapezius Hold the shoulders in place, move Holding head up in rugby scrum
the head back and sideways
Quadriceps Extend the leg at the knee Kicking a ball, jumping upwards
Hamstrings Flex the leg at the knee Bending knee before kicking a ball
Gastrocnemius Pointing the toes, help to flex the Running
Latissimus dorsi Adduct and extend the arm at the Butterfly stroke in swimming
Abdominals Flex the trunk across the stomach Pulling the body down when hurdling

Figure 3.3 Match the name of the muscle to its function, give an example in sport and then
place these in the correct location on the diagram of the human body.

and religious studies. In Figure 3.4, which leads to a lesson which focuses on
womens suffrage, one of the key elements to the activity is to examine how
each statement makes pupils feel. On the two blank cards, pupils can either
add two additional statements or, as the lesson progresses, they can return at
any point to add a new statement; these can be discussed at the end of the les-
son. In languages, for example, this type of activity can include new vocabu-
lary and the corresponding definition (also useful in literacy at KS2).

Women are equal before A womans place is in the Many women do not want the vote,
God home; going out into the rough and would not use it if they got it
world of politics will change
her caring nature
Women do not fight in Women pay taxes Women already have the vote in local
wars elections
Some women (e.g., Other countries have given If women are given the vote, it will
doctors and mayors) are women the vote not be the gentle intelligent women
far better than some men who will stand for Parliament, but the
(e.g., convicts and luna- violent Suffragettes. Parliament will
tics) who have the vote be ruined
The vast mass of women
are too ignorant of politics
to be able to use their vote

Figure 3.4 Place the following arguments under columns headed for or against women
getting the right to vote.
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

All drugs are classed as either by the churches.

Ecstasy and heroin are damage human health and life.
Alcohol is normally used for the legal or illegal.
Salvation Army and the Methodists are opposed to the use of alcohol.
Tobacco is not condemned illegal drugs.
Drugs prevent people alcohol at the Eucharist.
Some Christians do not permit the use of celebration of the Eucharist.
The Roman Catholic Church says drugs hearing and understanding God.

Figure 3.5 Pair-matching activity Christianity: drugs.

An alternative take on these activities are find your match exercises (as
touched on in the previous section). Pupils have to find all cards that make a
connection with theirs, forming a discussion group on that basis. They must
present the content of their group to the rest of the class during the assessment
process, including their view on the series of linked statements, why everyone
fits together and is a member of the group and what the question possibly
was. These activities can be interesting as they really get all pupils involved in
debate, but make sure you watch the time as it can easily run away with you.
As with previous activities, if you group pupils you can differentiate the task,
giving different groups different problems to develop.
In geography, a simple card sort based on push and pull factors can lead to
a more active learning environment which challenges all pupils. Allow pupils
a few minutes to complete a card sort: would the factors listed make them
want to leave or go to an area? Assessment is through discussion, leading to
a definition of push and pull. You can then use this new knowledge and ask
pupils to decide on a region which they would like to live in based on some
information they are given. Once they are in their new location (four corners of
the classroom), read a series of statements for example, region A is about to
suffer an economic downturn resulting in a lack of services and jobs; in region
B a new railway is to be built resulting in greater public services and more
jobs and so on pupils decide whether to stay or leave (making a decision on
where to go). Assessment of this activity is through questioning and discus-
sion, listening carefully to why pupils made the choice that they did and how
and why different factors influence our decisions.

Review starters
Reviewing a blog is another open starter activity that develops pupils think-
ing skills. In this type of activity, pupils are asked to write comments in their
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

teams or pairs as a response. Groups of pupils can be given different blogs,

but all must focus on the content and determine three key important points.
An extension is thinking about how they would develop or improve the blog,
justifying the comments they make (this may, of course, form the next learn-
ing activity). If you then wish to start using blogs during your lessons or home
learning, this is a good way to introduce pupils to thinking about the quality
of posts and the qualities of a good blog.
Voting on two different podcasts or two different solutions to a problem or
alternative articles are good starter activities for invoking thinking and debate,
encouraging pupils to compare. Which is the best and why? As the lesson and
learning develops does their decision change? Why? This is a useful starter if
you are going to ask pupils to develop a podcast during the lesson; it allows
them to compare podcasts and discuss the features of a good podcast, leading
nicely into the main body of learning. With this type of activity you can easily
give half of the class (flip a coin) one viewpoint and the other another; they
should select key points leading to the next activity, which involves active

How many ways?

How many ways? can be an interesting starter, naturally providing dif-
ferentiated outcomes. For example, issue squared paper to pupils and ask
them to decide how many rectangles they can draw with an area of 30cm2.
This encourages pupils to think. It can be useful for a lesson on area or
a lesson on factors. This challenges pupils; you can add a time limit to
enhance the competitive element. How many ways? can be used in lots
of different subjects. In dance lessons, Show me how many ways you can
collapse with your whole body and body parts. Can you collapse quickly?
S-l-o-w-l-y? Like a robot? In PE, Show me how many ways you can stretch
your hamstring in a warm-up. In English, a simple example is sentence
combining: take two sentences and see how many ways the class can find
for combining them into a single sentence (the idea being they explore the
use of syntactic possibilities). The key to assessment here is spotting things
pupils do the same, using this as a basis for discussion; select any unique
examples and any misconceptions, ensuring that you discuss why the latter
are not correct with pupils.

Scenario-based starters
Scenario-based starters develop a story or build up a theme to be developed
during the lesson. An example is the jelly baby game, often used when teaching
Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

population studies. Each jelly baby colour represents a different cohort within
the population structure (e.g. blue are adult males, orange are adult females
etc.) and pupils are given scenario cards for their hypothetical country with
statements such as Lose 50 per cent of the female population through AIDS
related illnesses (lose 50 per cent of your female population); There is an
influx of migrant workers (gain five adult males). Pupils place jelly babies
back in the jar when there is loss from a given cohort and take them from the
pot when there is a gain. The value in this activity is not the activity itself
this can, of course, alone just be a process of following instructions, making it
task-based; it is the discussion that develops naturally during the learning pro-
cess and the questions that pupils ask themselves and each other. In making
assessments of this type of activity, it is important to get pupils to think as a
team. Why did they lose people? What factors caused a population gain? These
can be written on post-it notes and then discussed collectively as a whole
class. Questions can be targeted and differentiated. Pupils can then identify,
on the progression ladder, that they understand the reasons for population
gain and loss, leading to factors affecting the death rate/birth rate and which
factors were push/pull. This leads nicely to pupils completing a think, pair,
share activity on any other factors they think might affect each of these param-
eters relating to current global scenarios.
The list of different styles of starter activity really is endless. Here, I have
listed just a few which are easy to adapt and implement across different sub-
jects. Most important, remember, is how you use the starter activity and how
it connects to the next phase in the learning journey. Does it allow you and
pupils to know their starting point? Does it provide a platform from which you
can develop the lesson and develop learning? How do you know? In answer-
ing this you are, effectively, answering the question: have you used assessment
alongside learning in the start of your lesson?

As with every activity that you do, review is an essential part of the learning
process. It adds value to the activity. Providing pupils with the answers, for
example, if you have a ten-question starter, without discussion is not enough.
Yes, it tells you how many questions they got correct out of ten, but it does not
tell you whether they understood how to get there, they copied from someone
else or they were just lucky. Probing the learning is important. It is the time to
ask why and to enter into meaningful learning dialogue. What learning value
did the activity have? What was its purpose in working towards achieving
our learning outcomes? What have we learnt in doing the activity? Have we
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

consolidated our prior learning or learnt something new? In the review you
should know where all of your learners are. If they self-mark their work during
the review, then ask for a show of hands at the end for marks out of ten etc.
This gives you a visual indication of the benchmark and you know whether to
move on to your next learning activity or whether you need to take some time
aside to ensure any misconceptions are dealt with at this stage. Remember,
dont just plough on because your lesson plan says its time for the next activ-
ity. Outstanding teachers are flexible and they know when it is appropriate to
continue with an activity or to redirect their plan for learning.

Start of the lesson: summary

To emphasise once more: it is not necessarily the activity itself but what we
do with it that leads to outstanding learning; its the progression and the
what we do with it that defines assessment for learning. There is little or
no value in simply doing an activity and then moving on to the next activ-
ity no matter how engaging the task. Every activity that we plan needs
to have a learning purpose and every activity needs to be assessed before
we progress; we must offer the opportunity for pupils to take ownership
and responsibility in their own learning. I cant stress enough, this does
not increase the workload for teachers; in creating an engaging learning
environment where pupils are actively involved in their own progress, we
establish a more positive classroom and low-level disruptive behaviour is
significantly reduced.
There are lots of different ways in which you can begin your lesson and
outstanding teachers vary their methods. Imagine being a pupil going from one
lesson to the next. If they were all the same we soon disengage. Adding variety
makes pupils interested in learning. They never know quite what to expect
next. Some examples of the start of the lesson include:
Bell work (two minutes)
Share learning outcomes (two minutes)
Big Question (one minute)
Starter activity (five minutes)
Review (two minutes)
Total: twelve minutes

Share learning outcomes (two minutes)

Big Question (three minutes)
Starter activity (five minutes)

Assessment for learning: the start of the lesson

Review (two minutes)

Total: twelve minutes
Big Question (five minutes)
Learning outcomes (two minutes)
Starter activity (five minutes)
Review (two minutes)
Total: fourteen minutes
Learning outcomes (two minutes)
Big Question (five minutes)
Total: seven minutes
Whichever structure you follow for the start of your lessons, remember that
assessment is the key ingredient for progress in learning and is an ongoing
process, both during and at the end of the activity itself. The following acts as
a checklist for the beginning of the lesson:

1) Are you greeting pupils as they arrive?

2) Have you planned a simple bell work activity?
3) Do you have clear learning outcomes stating the aspect of learning and the
4) Do pupils know and understand the success criteria or progress markers?
5) Have you prepared a starter activity which links to the learning and which
will lead to the next learning cycle?
6) Have you planned an appropriate assessment strategy?
7) Have you thought of targeted questioning, being prepared to bounce these
around the classroom?
8) Do you have an awareness of any misconceptions which may arise?
9) After the starter activity, will you know where all learners are and
allow learners to know where they are in their learning profile?
10) Can you move forwards in the lesson plan or do you need to change direction?

ChApter 4

Using assessment to
drive learning in the main
body of the lesson

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.


The main body of the lesson follows the first learning cycle or starter activity;
whether it was an open or closed activity, assessment during learning should
have allowed us to determine whether pupils are ready to progress to this
next phase of the lesson. Indeed, before moving on teachers and pupils should
have a clear indication of where they are in their learning. I refer to this next
phase as the main body of the lesson as its purpose is not to benchmark (or
to determine a starting point as with the more closed starter activities), but
to progress learning from the point of our first assessment and work towards
achieving the learning outcomes, developing, securing and embedding learn-
ing. In this phase of the lesson pupils develop key concepts, key processes and
thinking skills: information-processing skills, reasoning skills, enquiry skills,
creative thinking skills and evaluation skills (perhaps not all in the same les-
son!). In using activities which promote thinking skills, pupils learn to learn,
they know how as well as what and, in the moments of reflection, they think
about thinking (metacognition). Assessment in this section of the lesson is
embedded and helps learning to flow, rolling from one activity to the next;
it may, of course, cause pupils to branch in different directions. This phase
of the lesson allows for pupil choice based upon the outcome of the assess-
ment (whichever method is used) and it is this assessment that underpins pro-
gress. Assessment of each activity or key elements of each activity is extremely
important. Without it all we do is move from activity to activity, not know-
ing whether the learning intentions or success criteria associated with each
activity have been met. This, effectively, means pupils just do and reduces
the likelihood of pupils developing the same depth of understanding as if we
use formative assessment (active assessment during the learning process, not
after it). In other words, our lessons become task-driven. Unless assessment
is an integral part of the learning process pupils will not think about learning

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

(and, consequently, we cannot demonstrate outstanding practice); it is impor-

tant it becomes an implicit part of our learning culture.
The main body of the lesson should be planned to include a sequence of
activities that build on previous learning, or contribute different aspects to
the development of learning. Assessment of each activity should be part of the
planning process and needs to be seamless and focused. If you simply mark
every activity, this is not good practice in assessment for learning as it could,
indeed, dominate the lesson (and often does when teachers use a marks out
of ten approach); before you know it, you have spent ten minutes assessing a
five-minute activity with no actual impact on learning (pupils are just ticking
and crossing rather than thinking) quite the opposite. In addition, all it does
is tell, not probing understanding and, therefore, having little impact on pu-
pil progress. Pupils are not thinking when they are marking. (This approach is
often used where teachers seek reassurance that they have taught pupils cor-
rectly because pupils have got the correct answer, without delving into how
they arrived at this answer, which, of course, is far more important.) Hence,
when you plan activities in the main body of the lesson, ensure that you think
carefully about the key elements you wish to assess from each activity and se-
lect aspects of the activity which best demonstrate this, both during and after
the activity, and the best method to do this, which encourages metacognition.
While outstanding teachers facilitate learning through a sequence of clev-
erly linked activities and regular reviews (often referred to in schools as mini-
plenaries), assessment is more than this. It is continual minute-by-minute,
second-by-second during the lesson, during the learning. Outstanding prac-
titioners know when to draw an activity to a close or when to pause and ask
probing questions to challenge thinking or redirect learning; their lessons sim-
ply seem to flow, with assessment underpinning learning. Assessment may
not necessarily be an explicit process for each activity (by this I mean a pens
down, now were going to assess the activity), but may be an underlying pro-
cess simply through focused observation, listening or discussions with pupils,
which makes pupils think about and challenge their own learning and sup-
ports them in developing the next steps in their learning journey. The point is,
dont think that you have to mark work to assess the value of learning.
The length of each activity in this phase of the lesson is difficult to define
(it could be five minutes, seven minutes or twenty minutes). Use assessment
during the learning process to judge when the time is right to stop or pause
the activity. Are pupils starting to get fidgety? Have you noted that there are
questions which need to be addressed collectively? Do you need to pull ide-
as together? Has the activity served its learning purpose? Dont let activities
drift and make sure that every minute has learning value and that pace is
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

maintained. In this chapter, we focus on different types of activities that are

often used in the main body of the lesson, considering how to effectively as-
sess learning as part of the ongoing learning process.

Sequencing the learning

The main is the name commonly given to the bulk of the lesson; it occurs
after the starter but before the plenary. As it is of greater length, it is impor-
tant to think carefully about how you plan for learning during this phase as,
often, this is where teachers can revert to the I do, you do, we do approach
where they tell pupils how to do something (through teacher-led demonstra-
tion) and pupils then follow the recipe, ultimately answering a series of writ-
ten questions. To avoid this, carefully sequence activities and think about how
they build upon each other, embedding the assessment for learning process. In
planning, however, remember that I am not saying that the lesson must follow
and stick to a rigid plan (teachers, particularly those new to the profession,
produce perfectly timed plans and rarely stick to them why? because learn-
ing is not a prescriptive process if it were we would all be out of a job). So, as
you plan activities, think about how they sequence learning and develop the
concepts, processes and skills to support pupils in making progress. A starting
point is to think about the end point and then work backwards, or to chunk
the learning. This approach can be extended beyond the lesson plan to the
scheme of work for a series of units. Focus on what we want pupils to learn
and how we and the activities we use support this process.
Assessment of each activity allows you to determine whether pupils can
move on or whether further consolidation or practice is needed, or, indeed,
whether learning needs to be redirected. This process has to take place during
the learning itself and pupils must be involved. While summative assessment
has its place and, of course, can be used during learning in a formative fashion,
remember that just knowing a numerical score is not good enough; we are not
simply talking about testing pupils to determine whether we can continue,
but also in involving them in active learning dialogues where we and they can
assess the quality of their thinking and, ultimately, learning.
If you ask teachers about this part of the lesson, they will typically say it is
when they teach rather than when pupils learn. So what does to teach mean?
If you look up the definition of a teacher it is a person whose occupation is to
teach others ( and the definition of teach
is to impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something
( or to cause (someone) to learn some-
thing by example or experience. The focus seems to be on the direct relation
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

between teacher and pupils. It is, of course, the weighting on learning that
develops a pupils understanding and love of a subject. Therefore, a more apt
definition, in todays society, of a teacher, I would suggest, is one who facili-
tates learning and one who listens to learning. By this I mean one who guides
and develops learning through a sequence of activities and one who listens to
the learning in their classroom and acts upon what they hear.

I am not a teacher, but an awakener.

Robert Frost

To me, when we say teaching we imply telling someone how to do something,

which can translate into the classroom as teaching to the test. I dont feel that
this results in pupils who can compete with their peers on a national or inter-
national level. To produce powerful learners rather than robots (who simply
recite facts or regurgitate methods), we need to ensure that, in our lessons, we
encourage pupils to think and to develop (with our guidance) an understand-
ing of our subject and the connections that are deeply rooted within it; assess-
ment for learning lies at the heart of this process. What we then produce are
confident individuals who are able to discuss, debate and apply the subject in
different contexts. When Robert Frost refers to a teacher as an awakener, this
makes me think of a teacher who inspires and who encourages the curious
nature of a learner. Thinking is integral to learning.

He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is
in great danger.

So the question is: how do we develop activities in this phase of the lesson
that encourage pupils to think for themselves? Getting this right, where pupils
develop key concepts (rather than you teaching them, as in a traditional class-
room) makes teaching truly wonderful and learning meaningful. This is of par-
ticular importance because it is during this phase of the lesson (following the
starter) that we introduce the concepts that will underpin learning. Often, in a
very busy day, teachers revert for ease back to the teacher tells how, pupils do
lecture style of teaching. While this seems the easy option, it is really smoke
and mirrors because it is equally as easy to use a simple trick in that every time
you think you are going to make a statement or instruct pupils, you turn this
on its head, considering how you may go about getting pupils to think about
developing their own thinking to work towards the statement you were about
to make. This doesnt necessarily require preparation of additional resources,
it can simply be a case of practising how to use yourself as a resource to best
effect or using the resources you have in a different way. Remember, though,
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

that we do have to reinforce subject-specific vocabulary and definitions in the

For every learning outcome or learning intention it is important to think
about how you are going to get pupils to think for themselves; before the main
assessment activity (where we typically want to embed and transfer skills)
we usually develop concepts in learning. In this way, during these learning
cycles, there is more emphasis on the concept, with mini-assessments or
mini-plenaries used to embed and review. In the main assessment activity
there is more emphasis on the embed and the reflection part of the learning
cycle. An example taken from my book Becoming an Outstanding Mathematics
Teacher (Bartlett, 2014) demonstrates developing concepts through indices,
which is often directly taught to pupils who then follow a set of instructions
in much the same way we follow a new recipe when we cook; only when we
have confidence and a real understanding of the ingredients do we allow our
own creativity to begin.

In a lesson that involves developing an understanding of the rules of indices,

you may choose to start with an activity which asks pupils to expand two ex-
pressions, multiply them and then to investigate the results.

e.g. 53 x 54 = 5 x 5 x 5 X 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 57

Pupils will hopefully spot the connection following a series of these questions
i.e. we add the indices.
This can be extended to division and to terms involving simple algebra,
such as a4 x a2
As we develop the learning, subsequent activities may look at negative indi-
ces and what this means. This can be done through the relationship:

53 > 52 > 51 > 50 > 51 > 52

and so on, where pupils see the theme of dividing by 5 therefore equate to

53 > 52 > 51> 1 > 1/5 > 1/52

Or alternatively through a method (which perhaps better sequences the learn-

ing) which builds on the previous activity, for example,

52 / 54 = 524 = 52 (using the earlier concept of subtracting the indices when

we divide)

Expanding and simplifying means (5 x 5)/(5 x 5 x 5 x 5) = 1/(5 x 5) = 1/52

Leading to pupils understanding that 52 is equivalent to 1/52. (Bartlett,

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

What makes this different to simply telling pupils the rule is that they have had
to think, test their hypothesis and then apply it to different problems. They are
not simply doing nor are they simply following a recipe of instructions. We
expect them to be actively involved in developing the underlying concept and
actively involved in their own learning. Encouraging pupils to visualise and
discover concepts is much more powerful than telling them a rule and expect-
ing them to use it (most pupils forget very quickly things that they are told and
get easily confused, failing to recall the rules floating around in their heads).
Examples from other subjects which can be adapted are discussed below;
I would encourage you to think about the next lesson you are going to teach
and how you can use these techniques to encourage thinking for learning.
In history, for example, you may want pupils to understand the term chron-
ological. Often, teachers will give the definition directly to pupils and then
ask pupils to arrange a series of events in chronological order. Consider, how-
ever, reversing this. Give pupils a list of events. Tell them the events are placed
in chronological order and ask them to come up with a definition of the term
chronological. You may think this is exactly the same; however, in the first
scenario pupils are being told something (a definition) and then apply the rule
to a set of events. In the second scenario pupils are having to think. Which do
you think is more powerful? Which are they more likely to retain? I argue the
latter, but this needs embedding, of course. As a whole class you may discuss
and reach a formal definition following this activity, focusing on any subject-
specific language, and then consolidate through a series of events or questions.
A further example is illustrated with primary and secondary sources. Again,
give pupils (and this can be easily differentiated by giving pupils different
sources) items listed under the heading primary source and items listed un-
der the heading secondary source. Ask pupils, using only the lists of items
you provide them with under each heading, to think about defining the terms
primary source and secondary source. How do we classify a source as pri-
mary? How do we classify a source as secondary? You may ask pupils to then
place some further items under the heading they think is most appropriate,
based upon their definition, justifying their choice. Did any questions arise?
Were there any ambiguities? By asking these questions you are, effectively,
getting pupils to assess the quality of their own definition (still before you
have had any formal input). Do they now need to change anything in their
definitions? They can then assess their final definition against a pre-prepared
solution (good practice in self-assessment, as pupils have to compare and pos-
sibly contrast, which uses higher-order thinking skills). This leads nicely to
a whole-class discussion where you define the terms primary sources and
secondary sources, respectively, and subsequently ask pupils to complete a
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

short activity which assesses their comprehension. In making pupils think,

initially, about what the definition could be, all pupils have to be involved, or
at least give it a go, and they all have to think. It avoids the common problem
of pupils not listening to you when you define something or them being con-
fused by the definition or words initially used, meaning that, ultimately, you
have to repeat it to that pupil several times and they still dont really listen
(because they are being told, paraphrasing the expression in one ear out the
other). Using this type of activity gets pupils thinking first and gives you the
opportunity to probe their thinking to further develop definitions or concepts
(they are much more likely to retain the information because they are initially
doing); you can circulate, perhaps targeting those who may need additional
support or asking deeper questions of those who look like they may be finish-
ing a little too early.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.
Benjamin Franklin

In English, for example, metaphors are often taught. The teacher spends much
time explaining to the pupils what a metaphor is (they hope they are listening)
and then gives pupils some examples. The pupils then get on with some work.
Those who didnt really listen cant access the work and become easily disen-
gaged; there is no awareness of whether all pupils have a real understanding of
what a metaphor actually is, why and when we use them. I think much better
is to provide pupils with a variety of statements (you can, of course, differenti-
ate these) such as:

His house was now his prison

The snow is a white blanket
Life is a roller coaster
The peaceful lake was a mirror

Simply ask pupils to comment on these statements. This can be done as a

think, pair, share exercise and allows you to assess whether pupils have a
raw understanding before being exposed to a formal definition. Hopefully,
pupils would come up with terms such as compare, visualise, feelings,
describing it as something else. Before you define the term metaphor, ask
pupils to write their own sentence based upon the thoughts that have come
from the discussion. They can then share these in small groups and discuss
each sentence, offering improvements or highlighting similarities. Once this is
done, give pupils the formal definition of a metaphor to read and ask them, in
their groups, to decide on whether their sentences fall within this. This allows
pupils the opportunity to assess their own work against formal criteria. Once
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

again, before you have any input, give pupils a series of sentences and ask
them if they are metaphors. They can then refer back to their own and see if
they need to be improved or if they would keep them as they were. Pupils can
then go to two sides of the room: I kept my sentence as it was and I altered
my sentence. Both sides have to then argue their case. This can form the basis
for class discussion and debate and, in my opinion, deepens their understand-
ing of metaphor far more than if they were taught it. They will remember this
and they become truly involved in their own learning, with no room for any
pupil to disengage.
Watching a video in silence before rewatching it with sound is also quite
powerful for developing learning. This could work, for example, with a short
video on life in Victorian England at KS2. Pupils watch the video in silence
and have to jot down any key things they felt or noticed about life in Victorian
times. You can keep discussion very brief and go around the classroom and
ask pupils to shout out one thing on their list. Re-play the clip with sound and
ask pupils to make a new list. What has changed? What has stayed the same?
Which was more powerful? Which made them really think? This allows both
self- and teacher assessment and can be used as a comparative exercise at the
end of the lesson following further research. A similar technique can be used
in media, drama or music in the analysis of the power of music in film to create
suspense or atmosphere. Play, for example, a clip of the film Jaws without the
music (it isnt really very scary) and then re-play with the music. This creates
the power and the suspense; the feelings you have change when you watch it.
Obviously, ensure that the clip that you use is suitable for the age group you
are teaching.
In technology, orthographic projection is commonly taught. Pupils are giv-
en the definition and then shown different 2D projections by way of explana-
tion. A much better activity is to give pupils an object and ask them to draw
the image from different views (dont spend too long on this a sketch at
this stage is all that is needed). Once they have done this, they swap with a
partner. Can their partner guess what their object was? Can they visualise it in
3D? Allow two minutes maximum for this, then give the partner the object. Is
it what they thought? Could they improve the 2D plans in any way? What are
the positive features of the drawings? The aim of this peer-assessment activ-
ity is to get pupils thinking about how at least three 2D images from different
angles can be used to produce the 3D object. You can probe understanding
by asking pupils to put their hand over one of the 2D sketches. Could they
now visualise the 3D object or is the third drawing needed? If so, how many
2D plans do we need? Why? This leads to the formal definition of third-angle
orthographic projection and to the lesson developing in more detail, focusing
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

perhaps on hidden detail lines and their use. Another (although more sim-
plistic) example could be polishing; instead of showing pupils how to polish
items using different pads on a machine, ask them to feel the pads and decide
on what effect they might have.
How pupils make notes during the period where the concept or process is
developed is entirely up to you. One particular style may suit the learners in
one class and be very different for those in another class. Indeed, for different
activities this may vary. It is important that pupils have a formal definition in
addition to notes based on their own thoughts, which may include a pictorial
representation, and that this reinforces any subject-specific language or ter-
minology. It acts as a reference for pupils and should be simple and clear. As
pupils complete the mini-assessments or challenges, you can also ask them to
note carefully what they are doing and thinking at each step, but this must be
checked when you review pupils work to avoid any misconceptions or over

As silly as it sounds, one of the key aspects of assessment is to know precisely
what you are assessing, why you are assessing it, what it will tell you, what it
will tell pupils and what outcomes it works towards. This goes beyond tick-
ing whether success criteria have been met, delving into thought processes
and probing understanding. Often, the reasons why we are assessing learning
are overlooked in the rush to demonstrate what is perceived as assessment for
learning (i.e. confused with marking work and seeing how well pupils have
done) through bolt on techniques and little thought goes beyond demonstrat-
ing that assessment has, indeed, occurred in the lesson. Yet there is no point
using an assessment technique if it does not provide you and pupils with the
information that you or they need and if it does not support and develop learn-
ing. For example, often teachers stop activities and allow pupils to mark a
partners work, under the guise of peer-assessment, without thinking about
the quality of that assessment. Pupils simply swapping and marking work
has limited, if any, learning value. Therefore, equally important to planning
an engaging activity is to plan how you are going to assess that activity and
what information that assessment provides. It is extremely important to use
assessment techniques regularly throughout the lesson and throughout pupils
school years. Otherwise, if you attempt to use the techniques as a show for
observations you will not get the potential outcomes that you would get if
pupils are accustomed to the practices. Using these techniques will inevitably
improve pupils performance in the subject.
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

One of the common features of lessons is teacher talk; during outstanding

lessons this is limited and pupil voice is the dominant voice heard during the
lesson. This is most important during the assessment process (despite the old
joke, schools should not be a place where pupils go to watch teachers work;
if you are leaving the lesson exhausted, then the balance needs addressing).
How can you assess pupil progress if your voice dominates the discussion?
So, as learning develops, if you find yourself talking, ask yourself whether you
could turn this into a question that allows pupils to reach the same outcome
by thinking for themselves or an activity where pupils think through different
materials, allowing them to draw their own conclusion or hypotheses. Next
time you teach and are talking, time yourself; sometimes we dont realise how
long we have been talking for. Make your aim to facilitate and guide rather
than talk through the learning.
During the development of each new concept we use ongoing assessment
through circulation and discussion with pupils on an individual or group
basis and this is as important as the assessment at the end of the learning
cycle because it gives us a very clear indication of the progress of each indi-
vidual pupil. A mini-summative assessment checks that pupils have a good
understanding and is typically (and easily) done through a series of targeted
quick-fire questions. Best practice is to bounce these from one pupil to the next
rather than from pupil to you and back (use basketball rather than ping-pong
questioning, i.e. pass the question around the class to develop the answer).
Alternatively, pupils can complete quick-fire questions individually, using
mini-whiteboards. This allows you to assess the whole class, but remember,
it is not seeing the correct answer that tells you whether pupils have a good
understanding, but through your use of questioning. If, for example, pupils
give different answers that equate to the same thing it is good to discuss which
is better and why or doesnt it matter? If appropriate, you can ask pupils to
RAG rate their understanding (red: insecure; amber: okay but more practice
needed; green: secure). This can then be used to support pupils in the choice
they make during self-selection exercises. Returning to the mathematics
(indices) example, once the rules have been deduced and discussed, good
practice is to ask pupils perhaps five quick-fire questions that assess whether
each aspect or learning criterion is secure. It may include questions which
combine skills, but each direct question asked should act as a platform for fur-
ther verbal questioning to assess understanding and at least three springboard
questions should be asked for every direct question, thus ensuring that at least
twenty pupils have made a contribution.
If you use a simple pair-matching activity or card sort to assess whether
pupils have grasped a key concept, pupils can work through this individually,
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

in pairs or in groups. There are lots of different card sorts and pair-matching
activities available, but, for a simple mini-assessment, it is probably best to
create your own to assess the specific criteria. This also offers a greater depth
of personalisation and should be differentiated. Indeed, not all pupils have to
do the same assessment activity for example, you may choose to split the
class into two with one half doing one activity and the other doing another.
This is useful when you have different styles of learner and where different
activities are used to assess. Peer-assessment may involve pupils assessing the
work of those who did a different activity to themselves and may be used in
the context of teaching each other, followed by a peer review. An example of a
card sort is given in Figure 4.1, which can be easily differentiated in this way,
as demonstrated in Figure 4.2, and used to assess learning. Pupils can be given
the electromagnetic radiation and the uses grouped as in Figure 4.1 or the
electromagnetic radiation and all of the uses given separately (Figure 4.2) for
those of higher ability. There are statements which obviously fall into different
categories and pupils will need to justify these.
A further, extremely useful activity that supports pupils in their learning
is to compare a good and poor example of a piece of work. Whether this is

Electromagnetic radiation Uses

Radiowaves Broadcasting
Satellite transmissions
Microwaves Cooking
Satellite transmissions
Infrared Cooking
Thermal imaging
Short-range communications
Optical fibres
Television remote controls
Security systems
Visible light Vision
Ultraviolet light Security marking
Fluorescent lamps
Detecting forged bank notes
Disinfecting water
X-rays Observing the internal structure of objects
Airport security scanners
Medical x-rays
Gamma rays Sterilising food and medical equipment
Detection of cancer and its treatment

Figure 4.1 Pair-matching exercise based on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

Electromagnetic radiation Uses

Radiowaves Broadcasting
Satellite transmissions
Microwaves Cooking
Satellite transmissions
Infrared Cooking
Thermal imaging
Short-range communications
Optical fibres
Security systems
Television remote controls
Visible light Vision
Ultraviolet light Security marking
Fluorescent lamps
Detecting forged bank notes
Disinfecting water
X-rays Observing the internal structure of objects
Airport security scanners
Medical x-rays
Gamma rays Sterilising food and medical equipment
Detection of cancer and its treatment

Figure 4.2 Pair-matching exercise based on the electromagnetic spectrum, with further
differentiation from Figure 4.1.

an object (DT or art, for example) or a piece of creative writing, the purpose is
the same. Pupils need to identify what makes one piece better than another.
In doing this, they create a series of success criteria which they can use to de-
velop their own work. This means they are making an assessment during the
learning process and using this to support their next steps. The key is not to
focus on the actual product, but on the criteria that make it better. In creative
subjects it is important that pupils realise that the good is only one example
and that there might be lots of different alternatives. This can be overcome by
using a few different examples for different pupils or groups. Reviewing work
during the learning has much greater impact than looking at good work at
the end of the lesson. Why? Because pupils can act upon it to improve their
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

own work (at the end of the lesson, common sense tells us, a heres what you
should have done comes too late to have any impact on learning). Hence, this
is a powerful process in formative assessment.
The most important outcome of a mini-assessment is that it enables you to
judge whether understanding is secure and confirms that you can move to the
next phase in the lesson plan. If it reveals a lack of understanding, you must
deviate from your plan and enter into further discussions or activities to en-
sure the learning is embedded in other words, redirect the learning. If you do
not do this, pupils will be unlikely to be able to access the next learning activ-
ity. As the concept is secured, add a mini-assessment and repeat the learning
cycle until you are confident that all of the underlying concepts needed to
move forwards have been understood. Mini-assessment or mini-plenary ac-
tivities act as a progress check and should be integral to the learning process.

the main assessment activity

Once pupils learning and understanding has developed sufficiently to secure
the learning outcomes through the initial activity or series of activities, they
do need to complete a main assessment activity and it is not uncommon to see
this practice in classrooms. There are lots of different assessment activities
which embed learning (the embedding part of the learning cycle is allocated
a greater proportion with the main assessment activity) and these should be
slightly longer than the periods allocated to the shorter activities above, where
the concepts were developed; it is important to allow pupils space for think-
ing and time to process their learning. You will know when the time is right
to draw the activity to a close for feedback and review, judging this by obser-
vation or learning dialogue during the learning phase. Quality not quantity is
important here.

The worksheet
If you choose to use a worksheet, I recommend that you have different work-
sheets (perhaps three). Based on assessment during the previous learning
cycles (which placed more emphasis on developing the concepts), the out-
comes of the mini-assessments, combined with your judgement, and their
own assessment, pupils should be encouraged to self-select. I advise avoiding
pre-assigning pupils to a specific level of worksheet based on prior data as this
is not best practice. The whole point of doing the mini-assessment (or progress
checks) is to assess a pupils ability in that particular area at that particular
time. Pupils may excel in one field and find another more challenging hence,
mini-assessments and pupil choice. We can limit progress by pre-assigning
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

based upon a target grade (or other prior data measures) or because a pupil
falls in the bottom quartile of the class or because on the last topic they did
not perform well. Labelling pupils in this way can not only limit their pro-
gress, but also impact on their motivation. Choice should be made based on
performance at that particular time, combined with the outcomes of the mini-
assessments and your professional judgement and the pupils own assessment
of their learning. This is how we begin to challenge learning, but, obviously,
if you know that a pupil has made an unsuitable choice, you may want to
guide their selection. Try to avoid the obvious colours of red, amber and green
for the worksheets as it can be demoralising for those who are always red
(owing to the use of traffic lighting in classrooms, pupils often see red as being
the bottom or showing that they cant do). I think best practice is to devise
worksheets that lead to the same learning outcomes, but do so in slightly dif-
ferent ways, or that require greater depth or application of knowledge. Change
how you code worksheets each lesson: use letters, shapes, animals or fruits to
name the sheets and have the learning outcomes or success criteria and key
vocabulary (reinforcing subject literacy) written at the top of the worksheet to
remind pupils of what they are working towards. Its not about giving the less
able simpler work, but about making the work accessible to those who may
need more support in their learning. For instance, some pupils may require
more support with applied questions and it may be necessary to scaffold the
question (splitting it into several parts) on one worksheet and on another to
pose the question direct (without any scaffolding or hints). This gives the
more able pupils more of a challenge and, at the same time, allows weaker
pupils to access the same question. Similarly, on one sheet you may have a
series of hints or have a sheet of hints prepared so that if pupils need addi-
tional support they can ask for the hint sheet. There is no problem with doing
this as long as the hint sheet still encourages pupils to think. An example from
mathematics (Bartlett, 2014) is shown below where the question is direct in
Worksheet A and we apply scaffolding to the same question in Worksheet B.

Worksheet A
Find the area of the triangle shown in Figure 4.3.

3x-1 ~
2x + 5

Figure 4.3 Find the area of the triangle.

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Worksheet B
a) How do you work out the area of a rectangle?
b) What is the area of the rectangle in Figure 4.4?

3x-11'--- 2x + 5

Figure 4.4 What is the area of the rectangle?

c) Can you use this information to find the area of the triangle?

- ~ 2x + 5

Figure 4.5 Find the area of the triangle.

d) How have you managed to calculate this?

A further example is shown in Figures 4.6 and 4.7. In Figure 4.6 the question
is posed direct and in Figure 4.7 the pupil is given structured support.
Allowing pupils the choice over the questions that they complete is very
important, both for a single worksheet and for multiple worksheets. Avoid
working from 1 to 20 in order. You can guide this choice by having different
pathways or allow self-selection.
In a language lesson, an example of scaffolding is where pupils read an ex-
tract of text and then have to respond to questions which test their comprehen-
sion. For more able pupils this may simply be an open statement which pupils
are asked to discuss and offer their opinion on; for the less able a series of
guided questions or a writing frame can tailor the answer, leading to the same
outcome. Alternatively, pupils may be given the same text to read but some
may be presented differently or contain more visual support.
In terms of assessment, I suggest a short period of self-marking (put answers
up on the board or provide pupils with the answers on a piece of paper, no
need for you to read them out, lasting approximately two minutes) or, alter-
natively, use peer-assessment. Remember, though, that this alone is not an ex-
ample of good practice in assessment for learning as all it tells you is how


S Q 30cm


The square PQRS is made by joining the

midpoints of the square ABCD.

The square ABCD has sides of length 30cm.

Calculate the length of one side of the square


Figure 4.6 An applied question with no scaffolding.


S Q 30cm


1) What is the midpoint of a line?

2) What is the length of CQ and QB?

3) Explain your answer.

4) Sketch the triangle RCQ and label the

length of the sides that you know.

5) Calculate the length of RQ.

Figure 4.7 An applied question with structured support.

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

many correct answers each pupil got. It tells you nothing about whether they
understood how to get there. If you do use peer-assessment, ask pupils to write
down three questions that they want to ask the person whose work they are
reviewing to ensure that they have understood the concepts. Consider the ex-
ample demonstrated in Figure 4.8. While I have used a very simplistic ap-
proach, it demonstrates the point quite succinctly. Pupils are asked to find the
areas of the rectangles. The teacher reads out the answers (or sees the answers
on mini-whiteboards). Pupil A and pupil B both get three out of three (writing
12cm2, 20cm2 and 15cm2). If we left it at that, then all we would know is that
they both got the same answers and we assume they have an understanding of
area. However, in reality pupil A simply counted squares (a lower-order skill)
and pupil B applied the formula (area = length x width). Targeted questioning
would have allowed us to highlight this difference and we could then direct
learning accordingly. This is the importance of assessment for learning as an
ongoing process that supports pupils in their development during the learning
Hence, the amount of time given to ticking or crossing needs to be very
short as it plays a very limited role in assessing learning. The value in this
exercise is to carefully select a few questions that demonstrate application of
the key concept and to use these as a basis for group or whole-class discussion.

(1 I 1 cm I 2) I 4 !m I
- - - - - -
.i..m - -
- - - -
I I ,_ ~

(3) Scm

3 ern

Figure 4.8 What is the area of each rectangle?
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

You will have a very good idea of pupil performance through your circula-
tion around the classroom as pupils are completing the activity (aim to get
round all pupils, asking them questions as they work) and this assessment
occurs during the activity itself. The quantitative real-time assessment done
quickly by pupils tells you how many they got right (and often its the pupils
who are eager to know this), which is still important, and the deeper analysis
of a few of the questions tells you their level of understanding. If they have a
good understanding of the few questions that you assess/discuss collectively,
then they most likely will have a good understanding of the remainder. This
is a good opportunity to discuss any questions which pupils got wrong (allow
them to decide whether it was a silly mistake they can now easily correct or a
genuine misconception that they need to discuss give them two minutes to
correct any errors). Following the discussion, you can use RAG rating (traffic
lighting) to indicate confidence in the skill, but to RAG rate alone, based on
a quantitative score, would have little value as it tells you nothing more than
the score itself (those with high scores would rate themselves as green and
those with low scores as red, but it tells you nothing about whether the greens
really understood the underlying process or just followed a prescribed recipe
and, therefore, got all of the answers correct this is why discussion or obser-
vation are such an important element of assessment). My advice, following a
marking and discussion session, is to then ask pupils to pick one question
they got wrong and to give them two minutes to re-do it. This tells you and pu-
pils whether the discussion has helped them to move their learning forwards.
For those who got everything correct have a quick challenge question ready. If
the discussion has not proved fruitful (in other words, they still cant do the
questions they got wrong), then you must redirect learning as appropriate; it
may be that different groups branch in different directions and you must be
prepared for the classroom management issues that this inevitably generates.
My advice is to have challenges ready for those who can further their learning,
allowing you time to focus on the pupils who need further support and input
from yourself.
Alternative assessment strategies include the use of model answers. In this
exercise, supply pupils with a model answer to a few key questions (those that
address specific content or concepts) and allow them time to compare these
with their own answer. Once they have had the opportunity to highlight any
similarities or differences, they can discuss this in pairs and then collectively
as a whole class. Encouraging pupils to compare adds value to the exercise as
pupils are using higher-order thinking skills. If you use peer-assessment at this
point (instead of the self-assessment), then it is important to focus pupils on
how to productively peer-assess work. Perhaps use an assessment frame where
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

they complete two things that were positive about the work and one thing
that requires improvement (this doesnt include things like must write more
neatly, but should focus on learning).
Based on this, how you structure a worksheet is important. The mini-
reviews that lead to the main assessment activity assess a particular aspect
of knowledge or skill, most likely with a few quick-fire diagnostic questions
and/or discussion or simply assessment through observation or self- or peer-
assessment. The worksheet should not be more of the same type of questions
(otherwise learning is static) and it is important to build on the previous activ-
ity or activities by mixing the style of questions or combining different aspects
of learning and ensuring that pupils can apply it. If pupils can do five ques-
tions of one type then they can do 40, so there is no need to do lots of the same.
Quality over quantity!

Giving pupils the opportunity to create a video or podcast is not only an engag-
ing and creative activity (certainly one that pupils enjoy), but it also provides
pupils with very tangible evidence of progress and is a powerful assessment
tool. Dependent on your school usage policy or bring-your-own-device policy,
mobile phones, video cameras and tablets can all be used to create videos.
It is often a good idea to post these on the school learning zone/hub, where,
dependent on the content, they may be used for revision or at a later date
in another learning context (quality assure them first though). There are lots
of websites or apps where you can create videos from assimilation of clips
and it is probably worth liaising with your technology department for ideas
and video-editing software packages that the school may already subscribe to.
Alternatively, you may want to make this a cross-curricular project.
The aim here is to discuss assessment of this type of activity (rather than
focus too deeply on the activities themselves) and how it can be used to dem-
onstrate pupil progress. Key to this is being very clear on what the assessment
criteria are and communicating these to pupils. They need an understanding
of what is expected of them in order to make progress towards these criteria.
Below, we look briefly at different uses of podcasts/videos (all of which can be
applied across a range of subjects) and different types of assessment that can
be used to review pupil progress.
1) Videos to teach others: Creating videos to teach others is an excellent way
to assess understanding of a particular topic. Pupils learn when they teach
and it requires increased cognitive ability. For this activity to be success-
ful, separate the skill from the context. The skill is being able to produce a
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

video or podcast, the context being the context of learning for example,
World War I. Pupils need to be aware of what constitutes a good video (dis-
cussed below) and also of the assessment criteria. These may be that you
expect the use of subject-specific language and an explanation of key ter-
minology. It may be that you encourage pupils to write a question to which
they work through a model answer or it may be that pupils demonstrate a
technique. Whatever the assessment criteria, pupils need to be fully aware
of them in order to ensure that they can actively engage with the activity.
Peer-assessment is excellent here to assess learning, but it is necessary to
focus the peer-assessment on criteria for example, clarity, purpose, use
of language, subject content (focusing on key factors for inclusion) etc. In
other words, if pupils watched the video, would it have helped them learn
something, what would that learning be, how did they learn it and how do
they know? Your own assessment of the activity may not only focus on the
end point, but also take place during the learning process and may focus
on skills, such as how well pupils work together, how they assign different
roles, their leadership skills, their ability to discuss and debate etc. rather
than solely a summative assessment of content.
2) Another way of using a video is to give different groups different topics to
develop during the lesson (effectively almost a rich task). Pupils then cre-
ate videos in their groups and these are, ultimately, shared with the class. It
may be that the video is an assimilation of work in progress clips, result-
ing in a final presentation. This is quite a powerful use of video because
it shows the development in pupils thinking during the learning process
and emphasises the What did we learn and how did we learn it? and
How did we overcome any problems or work through misconceptions?
3) The power of silence: Remember the silent films? If you think carefully
about them I would confidently say that you watched them more care-
fully than a movie that has sound. Why? Because you only have one sense
to focus and are not supported by another. If you are distracted during a
movie with sound and look away you will still be able to hear the movie
(thus, still follow the story), but with a silent movie you would be una-
ware if you had missed that crucial moment. This example relates to that
and involves demonstration of a technique in silence. It can be done with
a pre-recorded video (usually a safer option than doing the experiment
live). The aim of this technique for pupils to watch, note anything that you
did and then, without any discussion, attempt a problem which relies on
the use of these techniques. Discussion with the whole class then takes
place, focusing on the technique, language and process. An example from

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

my own subject specialism (mathematics) is bearings. Here you would be

expecting pupils to note the north line, measurement in a clockwise direc-
tion from the north line to the connective, use of the protractor and writ-
ing the bearing as a three-digit number. Assessment takes place during the
learning process and then, ultimately, through discussion.
If you use videos or podcasts to support learning, I advise limiting the vid-
eos to approximately five minutes; always ensure you are familiar with the
software and any other tools yourself. A good idea is to create a heres one
I did earlier video to demonstrate to pupils the quality you would expect (this
focuses on the skill of creating a video rather than the context). Ask pupils to
critique your video (this could be a starter activity) and then allow them plan-
ning time for their own before they get to work. This, again, allows them to
actively decide on what the assessment criteria for a good video would be. It
may be that you use a similar activity to that discussed earlier where you ask
pupils, as a starter activity, to compare a good and bad video (obviously,
that you have prepared). This focuses them on what constitutes success and
supports them in assessing their own learning and progress. Where pupils are
working in small groups, allocate particular roles to avoid confrontation and
wasting valuable learning time.
One final note is that pupils really enjoy watching the videos and sharing
their work, so make sure you leave time for this (probably as the start of the
next lesson); as discussed above, this can form part of the assessment process,
assessing personal learning and thinking skills alongside subject-specific as-
sessment criteria. Once peer-assessed, it can be beneficial to then allow pu-
pils to build upon the suggestions for improvement and produce a final video
or podcast. It is the provision to make improvements that further informs us
whether the assessment is having an impact on learning. Without allowing pu-
pils the time to make the improvements it becomes a we should have or could
have done this ; pupils quickly forget what they should/could have done
to make improvements to their learning what they are told has limited value
if they dont actually do something with it. This type of activity, therefore,
typically runs over a series of lessons rather than an isolated lesson; rushing it
loses the value of both creating a video and the context. So, if you do use video
or such technology to support learning, make sure you are prepared to invest
the time needed to make it a meaningful activity.

Computer activities
I am sure if you walk around your school or college on a given day you will
see computers being used in the classroom, in various subjects. It is always
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

interesting to observe a lesson (in a subject other than curricular ICT) when
computers form part of the learning process (interestingly, invariably in the
majority of these observations pupils gain nothing from integrating computers
into the lesson). The question you have to ask yourselves is simply this: does
using the computer add any additional learning value than if the activity were
done without it? Of course, we want the answer to be yes. Now ask yourself
the following question: Am I doing this only because the curriculum says
I must integrate ICT into my lessons (making it a tick box exercise) or because
the scheme of work directs that I do this?
In asking these questions, what you do is really focus yourself on the true
value of the computer or other digital device in enhancing the activity and,
ultimately, learning. Once this is recognised, purposeful learning will really
begin. Indeed, without it situations commonly arise where pupils just sit about
at the computer and answer a few questions, becoming easily disengaged as
they are unsure of the success criteria and purpose of the activity and they
drift off-task, leading to low-level disruption. Hence, behaviour management
is always listed as one of the reasons teachers do not like doing lessons in
computer rooms.
The key to using computers in lessons is to ensure that there is a specific
learning outcome which is decontextualised from the skill and that pupils are
very aware of the learning purpose and how the computer supports them in
achieving it. In other words, they need to be very clear on the assessment cri-
teria for the activity, allowing them to assess their own progress at key points.
Pace is a key aspect. If you allow the activity to drag, pupils will start to dis-
engage. For a mixed ability class it is, therefore, very important to ensure that
the activity is differentiated and matched to the needs of each learner, offering
the appropriate degree of challenge (not just an extension task with more of the
A lot of programmes, such as MyMaths (, assess
pupils progress through electronic marking following a tutorial and then a
series of questions. However, as discussed above, simply knowing a numerical
score provides only a summative assessment and you have to gauge whether
pupils really have learnt from the activity. For the activity to have value as a
formative process, we need to develop our questioning to probe understand-
ing and use the quantitative scores as a guide during the learning process to
inform next steps. One suggestion is to ask pupils to screenshot any particular
questions that they find challenging. These can then be used as a base for peer
support (C3B4ME see three of your peers before me) or, alternatively, as a
whole-class discussion. You may want pupils to place post-it notes on an ideas
or questions board as a basis for post-activity or paused-activity discussion.
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

This allows you to assess and discuss learning as the learning takes place. If
you do use a tutorial-based programme, another technique is to give pupils
an assessment question to do once they have completed the tutorial. Allow
them to read the question before they begin the tutorial and to note anything
they think they might need to look for. You can choose whether to use this as
part of an initial discussion or not (depending upon the level of independence
you wish to create). As pupils progress through the tutorial they can attempt
the question. When you call time on the tutorial (ensure everyone has had the
opportunity to complete it, so have additional questions or challenges for fast
finishers), discuss the question as a whole class. If you differentiate here, it is
advisable to use scaffolding as a method so that all pupils can access the same
question. Should you differentiate by giving pupils different challenges, then
regroup according to the specific challenge and form focus groups rather than a
whole-class discussion group; ensure you circulate to each group to listen and
guide learning where appropriate. Discussion should highlight all key learning
points. Once you have assessed the progress of pupils they can complete the
online assessment activity individually or as pairs from within their groups
as you can be confident that you have assessed learning during the learning
process itself; a quick summative assessment provides confirmation (in other
words, if you are confident pupils are answering the mini-assessment correctly
and with good understanding and any misconceptions are addressed, then you
can be relatively confident that they will apply the same to questions in the on-
line assessment). Any questions posing particular difficulty can be discussed
at the end or you may choose to highlight key questions from the activity and
use these as a basis for discussion and assessment. If pupils simply completed
the tutorial followed by the questions, there would likely be little value in the
activity used in this way alone. The true value comes from probing pupils
thinking and learning through questioning, activating thought through discus-
sion and challenging any misconceptions, therefore making a true assessment
of pupils learning.
Aside from the tutorial/question-type activities, computers are also com-
monly used to allow pupils to research particular topics. It is extremely important
that you guide this, imposing a timeframe, keeping the pace and monitoring
the quality of resources. In many cases, if you allow open research pupils do
not have the necessary skills to evaluate the quality of the source (i.e. if you
simply allow them to search the internet) nor to source information adequate-
ly, which simply wastes valuable learning time (and this is another skill in
itself). A suggestion is to provide a list of recommended sites and ask pupils
to use only these in their research (make sure it is a good mix). You may ask
them, as part of this process, to evaluate the quality, credibility or reliability
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

of sources (although this in itself could be an activity and is useful to do, if

computer research forms part of your teaching style, in order for pupils to
develop an awareness of the quality of a resource; it is a nice starter activity).
The most important point in assessment is that pupils know exactly the cri-
teria for assessment and what they need to do to achieve these. This focuses
the activity and reduces the possibility of drift. Therefore, I recommend regu-
lar regrouping sessions to assess progress as a work in action approach; use
information-gathering targets for pupils research against which you and they
can benchmark: We should know by now, What does this tell us ?,
What further information do we need and why ?, How are we going to find
it ?, Is our information reliable ?, Should we consider other points of
view? This is often done well in groups where pairs go off and research dif-
ferent aspects and then regroup, discuss what they have found, devise some
questions or think about further information they need, based on the research;
then the pairs go off again and gather more information. While not explicit,
this is assessment during the learning process and this assessment is being
used to inform future learning.
Computers also offer the obvious visual support. In mathematics, for ex-
ample, graphing software such as Autograph is excellent for investigative-
style activities. For example, if you want pupils to investigate simultaneous
equations graphically or investigate the effects of m and c in the equation y =
mx+c, where plotting on paper can take a very long time (and an exercise in
plotting graphs is perhaps a different lesson), packages such as Autograph
( can lead to immediate visualisation, al-
lowing the focus to be on the learning outcomes and letting pupils really in-
vestigate the mathematics that is, the effects of the gradient and y-intercept.
You could ask pupils to identify the odd one out of a series of four equations
and to explain why

y = 4x + 1 y = 4x 7 y = 10 4x y=x7

This encourages pupils to compare and contrast different features of the

straight-line graphs. They then have to justify their answer, which leads natu-
rally to investigating the features of y = mx+c and the effects of changing m
and c on the straight-line graph. This gives a real purpose to the activity. In
other words, they are not just playing around on the computer until you say
time is up.
Activities like this can be easily differentiated; personalising the learning is
important to ensure that all pupils can access the activity. For each aspect of
the investigation I advise that you set a time limit and then ask pupils to give
feedback. Screenshots can be taken for evidence and for their notes. Working
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

in pairs on this type of activity can support those who are not so confident on
computers and encourage learning dialogue between peers. To ensure success
(and to avoid low-level disruption), it is important to carefully plan, carefully
time activities (maintain pace) and to ensure that all pupils understand the
learning purpose (what they are trying to achieve, how they will achieve it,
how they will know that they have achieved it and how it supports future
In science, there are some wonderful computer activities such as investigat-
ing space or life on the international space station with a 3D tour or investigat-
ing atomic or molecular structures or reaction processes. These bring learning
alive far more than watching a video clip or looking at photographs in a book.
The NASA website ( has some wonderful materials. In subjects
such as languages there are many online activities, including listening tasks.
These allow pupils to listen, undistracted, to different audio and, of course,
you can differentiate far more easily than if the whole class had to listen to the
same material. Again, key to this is to ensure that you add purpose, perhaps
through a short comprehension exercise or by giving some pupils the same
piece to listen to individually and then going on to form a discussion group,
perhaps writing a piece of text in response to what they have just heard or in
extension to it (almost like a what comes next). If you do use the what comes
next approach, then, once pupils have developed their ideas, allow them to
listen to what actually does come next. The focus is not on whether they got
it right (obviously, there are many outcomes to a given scenario and we focus
on their creativity), but on whether there are any similarities or differences,
what these are and how they know. In this way, they are making an assessment
which informs learning and which develops their cognitive skills. Alterna-
tively, if they have listened to, for example, a scene in a caf, you may wish
for them to develop a short drama based upon this with key vocabulary from
the audio. This then forms the assessment piece (where you focus on sentence
formation and the use of vocabulary and language) and can be performed to
the whole class (keep it a three-minute scene max). There are lots of different
possibilities and uses, but the point is to ensure that, however you use the
computer-based activity, you assess it and you ensure that pupils make pro-
gress because they have used the computer to support and enhance learning.
The use of computer games is becoming increasingly popular in schools. In
English, for example, games such as Minecraft ( are be-
ing used to help pupils visualise different scenarios and then pupils are asked
to write a piece of creative writing based upon this. Pupils show increased lev-
els of engagement and, as reported by teachers (
education-27936946), it impacts on the learning of boys (particularly those
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

who show low levels of interest in reading and writing). There is, of course,
debate over whether, with their addictive nature, games should be used in the
classroom. This is, obviously, for you to decide, but I personally think there is
mileage in this. Certainly, in mathematics, I have noticed that those who play
computer games which rely on map-reading or strategy have more developed
skills in these areas and are much more able to relate to the topic and, indeed,
contribute interesting points for discussion.
One final remark on the use of computers is that (as with everything) you
must always make sure that you are familiar with the software and that you are
very clear on the learning outcome (with skill and context clearly identified),
timing the task so that it is efficient and pupils dont drift off-task, making the
task relevant and ensuring that the use of computers in your lesson actually
enhances learning.

I dont personally use textbooks in my teaching; however, textbooks if used
well can be a good resource and can certainly offer different ideas. Where
they fail is when they dominate the main body of the lesson or are used as a
teaching tool. Those who use textbooks commonly adopt the I do, you do,
we do style of teaching. Teaching a topic and then asking pupils to turn to
a page and complete an exercise from the textbook does not create confident
learners and, if you are honest, makes learning quite dull. While it is true
that many have fantastic professional illustrations and diagrams, textbooks
are generic teaching tools and can be a challenge when personalising learn-
ing. In addition, over-use of textbooks leads to pupils using them as a crutch.
They use them in almost a robotic manner and, worse, they use them to
determine how much progress they have made, typically by how far they are
through the textbook (which, of course, is not what we want and certainly
not how we want pupils to assess their progress). Therefore, if you are using
textbooks then try not to use them all of the time (as this becomes tedious).
Think carefully about how you are going to use them as a resource and how
they fit into the learning plan for the lesson. Does the material support the
learning outcomes? Does the material demonstrate progression in learning?
Have you planned for different pathways for pupils? How are you going to
assess the activity? Can you use the resource in a different way that is, not
simply completing questions from the book but take a different approach
to how you use the material?
Typically, more interesting and certainly more challenging or thought-
provoking applied questions come at the end of the exercise or as an
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

extension activity. If you start at the beginning and work through, remem-
ber that many pupils never reach the questions which actually develop
their higher-order thinking skills; this is likely to be the same pupils each
time. They may be perfectly capable of attempting these (and all pupils
should be exposed to these questions to ensure we do not limit learning
or add a glass ceiling), but work at a slow pace so they just dont get there
before you call time on the activity. Therefore, encourage self-selection
based on self-assessment or different learning pathways, and allow pupils
to choose the questions that they complete; have hint sheets prepared for
those who may need a question to be scaffolded. This involves them in
directing their own learning.

Investigations and rich tasks

We often dont allow true investigations in lessons (or, in fact, over a series of
lessons) because we are restricted by a curriculum that is exam (results) and
content driven and we often simply dont have time to spend on activities
which dont focus on exam criteria. This means that, for example, any investi-
gations that we do cause us, in reality, to apply rigid guidelines and steer the
task to the outcome we expect to see. Of course, in its purest form this is not
an investigation; however, pupils need to develop investigative skills and we
must guide and support their development. Investigations or rich tasks are a
valuable part of pupil development and time invested will reap rewards in the
learners we create.
What does an investigative task actually do? I believe it:

allows pupils to explore the subject using a variety of different methods in

intriguing contexts
encourages pupils to pose as well as solve problems, make conjectures and
ask questions of themselves and each other
allows pupils to extend knowledge or apply knowledge in new contexts at
a range of levels
broadens their thinking skills and deepens their content knowledge
reveals underlying principles or connections between different areas
within the subject and potentially across a range of subjects.

When we refer to investigations, we typically think about science-based sub-

jects, but, of course, investigations can be done in humanities, languages,
mathematics and technology. It is simply a method of learning and can be
thought of as part of the independent learning process.

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

Investigations can be used in a variety of different ways. Some teachers

prefer to use them as a thought provoker at the start of a topic to get pupils
intrigued and to get them to think of questions which naturally arise from the
materials and that they will expect to be able to answer at the end of the unit
of study (keep the questions and use them as an assessment tool and a marker
for success criteria). Were there any misconceptions? Can they now correct
these themselves? The importance of this activity is in using these questions or
statements as a very clear marker of progression. They form tangible evidence
of progress. If pupils can answer the questions they had at the start of the
unit of study (and this, of course, may be occurring naturally as the lesson or
series of lessons progresses and does not have to be at the end of the lesson
indeed, they may attempt to answer their own questions several times, which
provides excellent evidence of progress as learning develops) and understand
how these questions arose and now offer well thought-out answers to their
own questions, this is an excellent base for self-assessment. Used in this way,
assessment looks at the quality of the questions pupils generate, the learning
dialogue between pupils and how their responses develop as learning pro-
gresses and as the depth of study increases. The implications of this approach
to a more open-ended task are that teachers can find out the pupils ideas in
order to take these into account in their teaching during the learning process,
thus using formative assessment to drive learning. Teachers then need to pro-
vide experiences which challenge the pupils current understanding in order
to help them restructure their ideas and this is based upon their assessment of
the investigation. It allows teachers to challenge any existing ideas that pupils
have; sometimes the assessment will result in the teacher needing to restruc-
ture these ideas and guide learning consequently, the assessment process is
integral. At KS2, concept cartoons are often used as a forum for discussion and
are an excellent tool to engage learners.
Other teachers prefer to use investigative tasks at the end of a topic or unit
of study to assess how well pupils can apply the knowledge that they have
acquired; typically assessment is through teacher review. Short investigative
tasks also often form a nice activity for an open plenary, which is continued
for home learning and discussed at the start of the next lesson. It may form part
of an extended project for home learning. There are lots of ways this can be
used, but the assessment of this type of activity is typically through a two-way
learning dialogue.
The chickpeas example is used in mathematics:

How many chickpeas does it take to fill the room? In this investigation provide
pupils with a variety of measuring instruments e.g. trundle wheel, metre rule,

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

measuring tape and with a bag of chickpeas each and have smaller cuboid
containers around the room. How are we going to begin (allow pupils five
minutes planning time in small groups)? How might we find the volume of the
room? How might we find the volume of one chickpea? Is there a better way?
What assumptions have we made? How accurate are our measurements? There
are lots of ways this investigation can be extended and developed and it is a
good way of using and applying volume, accuracy, measure and calculation.
(Bartlett, 2014)

There are different uses beyond traditional research for example, in English,
we can infer and deduce through murder mystery using group collaboration
to develop a murder plot, leading to a piece of imaginative writing. This can
be assessed during the research phase as well as through the piece of writing
itself. Similarly persuasive writing can be used in the context of the courtroom
and pupils enjoy learning through different contexts. Creating new words also
works well both in English and in MFL. Groups have to invent a new word
and pitch this to the rest of the class. There is only one place available in the
dictionary and teams must use persuasive language to persuade the class that
their word best fits the criteria and should be included above all others in the
dictionary. Assessment focuses on the definition, context, role play (they must
act the use of the word), quality of research (is there a place in the market for
this word?) and so on, and peer performance uses an assessment frame, with
the best word taking its place in the class dictionary!
In the younger years, teachers often introduce rich tasks in a more supported
environment through different phases: context rich, active rich and response
rich. The context is used to introduce pupils to a wide variety of sources or
interesting information in the context of the investigation. This helps pupils
to truly see real-life connection. The active-rich phase develops pupils own
involvement in the task, where they work collaboratively to plan and design.
High-quality questioning by both pupils and teacher is important here, along
with the opportunity to reflect. The response-rich phase is where pupils test
their hypothesis (or hypotheses) through investigation and it is useful to re-
cord this with a talking photo book (in other words, take photographs of the
work in action and pupils can annotate this). Using new technology to record
and evidence learning is important during an investigation. In breaking the
investigation into these different phases, we support pupils in developing the
skills needed for a true rich investigation early in pupils education, which
make them more independent and confident researchers later in their school

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

Assessment opportunities when pupils work together

You will, no doubt, have been exposed to the statement learners retain
90 per cent of what they learn when they teach someone else compared to
10 per cent of what they learn when they read many times during professional
development sessions, yet have you consciously planned your lessons with
this in mind? Next time you teach a lesson, note down the amount of time
you allow pupils to engage in learning dialogue. Does it outweigh your own
contributions? This allows you to begin to analyse your own practice; often
teachers are guilty of feeling a loss of control in their lessons when pupils start
to discuss or work collaboratively some (not all) feel more in control when
they are teaching to the class and pupils are working individually (basically,
in silence). Teachers often prefer to adopt this style, particularly with classes
they consider to be poorly behaved, because they dont trust the learners
to get out of their seats or to work together. Yet enforcing this rigid learning
environment actually creates behavioural issues (pupils with short attention
spans will not sit for prolonged periods happily completing question after
question). More active activities or collaborative work actually benefits pupils
with behavioural difficulties and is more likely to hold their interest.
Working together, whether as a pair or in a group, supports cooperative
learning and almost any activity can be turned into a group activity or a paired
activity (even using textbooks). There can be value in grouping pupils close
in ability and in grouping pupils who are different in their abilities. You must
choose this sensibly, based on the activity you are doing and the outcomes you
wish to achieve or the materials you use or perhaps types of learner. One thing
that is advisable is that you mix up pairings or groups each lesson or series of
lessons so that pupils become used to working with different pupils on a regu-
lar basis and know that you select the groupings rather than them (this avoids
any potential confrontation). Keep in mind that some research (and I believe
there is good evidence for this) suggests that if you do group pupils all of the
time as similar ability then you limit progress. Why? Because the lower-ability
groups feel demotivated and the higher-ability groups can become compla-
cent, thus having a negative impact on both groupings.
There are different types of group activities (and, indeed, many are often
just slightly different versions of others):
1) Jigsaw: each pupil is given a different piece of information and, when the
group comes together, they piece together the information to complete the
jigsaw. An alternative to this is that each group is a piece of the jigsaw
and, when the class is pulled back together, the work from each group is
joined to complete the picture. Another idea is that pupils within a group
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

are numbered (e.g. one to five). All of the pupils numbered one form a new
expert group, all of the pupils numbered two form a new expert group and
so on. In the newly formed expert groups they focus on a specific aspect of
the topic. After a given period, the original groups are reformed and pupils
numbered one to five teach their findings back to the original group one
by one. It is the quality of their teaching that needs to be assessed. When
pupils teach someone else they are more likely to remember. It encourages
higher-order thinking skills. A key element of this process is to encourage
others in the group to ask questions. This challenges learning. As a team,
they then use the combined information to answer a problem which they
present back to the whole class. Each group can have a different problem
or some groups can have the same, to encourage debate.
2) Think, pair, share: think, pair, share is, effectively, a cognitive rehearsal
structure. The idea is that you pose a problem and allow all pupils to think
individually for a short period; they discuss their findings in pairs and
then, further, share these in groups or as part of a whole-class discussion.
This can be used for all activities. It is particularly useful as a tool to build
confidence in learners (they are more likely to make suggestions if they
have agreed their thoughts with another pupil). Assessment is mainly dur-
ing the pair and the share process. It does not have to be a classroom-based
strategy; in drama, for example, if pupils are studying a poem in the con-
text of a unit of study, then instead of reading pupils the poem and getting
them to act each line, give pupils a single line from the poem. They have
to think about what it means for one minute. They then find a pair with
the same line and together they agree the tone and interpret the line (two
minutes). They then form a group of all those with the same line and work
together to produce a short piece interpreting the line through movement,
using a narrator whose tone they have all agreed. The whole class can
then be given the poem to read and then the whole class can watch each
performance first without the narrator, trying to guess which line they
are acting, and then with the narrator. They must assess the tone and the
interpretation using an assessment framework to guide them. As a whole
class you can then discuss the poem in greater depth.
3) Snowballing: snowballing is similar to think, pair, share. It involves
thinking, working with others and problem-solving. Pupils are given
a scenario or problem. Individually, they write down their thoughts,
solutions or opinions. Pupils then form a pair and discuss their ideas
or compare answers and together must come up with an agreed solu-
tion. Next, pupils form groups of four and further debate their response.

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

This can be repeated to form groups of eight. A spokesperson is

appointed who relays the position of the group to the whole class for
further debate and discussion. Assessment is made by pupils at each
stage and by you in the whole-class discussion, where you act to facili-
tate targeted questions. The debrief may not only look at assessing
understanding, but also at how pupils allocated roles, whether they
managed to change another pupils opinion (persuasive argument),
whether they effectively argued their case, whether they could justify
their response, what skills they used and how they finally arrived at
their agreed response (or, indeed, whether there are still those in the
group who remain in disagreement).
4) Carousel: in the carousel each group moves from one activity to another.
This can be used in lots of different ways. Each group can have a different-
coloured pen and can be asked to add to the previous groups contributions
to a problem. Essentially, as pupils develop the answer they are assessing
the previous work and developing it further. Alternatively, each group can
contribute independently to each problem and, at the end, the different
solutions can be compared and discussed. If you wish to assess the activ-
ity during the process itself, then it is a good idea to station yourself at one
point in the carousel so that you can observe how each group approaches
one particular problem.
A nice carousel activity is one where pupils are given questions with
a solution which has a misconception and they are asked to identify the
error and then correct the response. To ensure that groups remain focused,
add the race against time element and time the activities for example,
five activities at three minutes each. Change the roles (e.g. the scribe on
each rotation), so that all pupils take on different roles during the activ-
ity (this can be done easily by numbering pupils within the group and on
each new activity a different number becomes, for example, the scribe;
simply note the number of the new scribe next to the new activity to avoid
wasting time). Other activities include introducing a real-life application
or scenario-based problems to which pupils are asked to contribute. Each
group has a different-coloured pen; at the end of the activity you will have
a large piece of A3 paper with a collection of answers which may be inde-
pendent or which may build on the previous group. The activities can
embrace different learning styles for example, one problem may involve
structuring a model, another creating visualisation through diagrammatic
representation, another writing a contribution to a social media feed,
another discussing language used in a piece of prose.

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

5) Speed dating: this is another fast-paced activity and involves half of the
class remaining in their seats and the other half of the class hot-seating,
moving each time the bell is rung. Give each pupil in the class a card
with a problem on it. They have a few minutes to become an expert on
this problem. Make sure you have written the solution to the problem on
the back of each card and, after a few minutes, ask pupils to turn over and
compare their solution with the one on the card. Respond to any questions.
Now the speed dating starts; pupils are given one minute with a partner to
teach the solution to their problem, and vice versa. Pupils are to note on a
post-it note any really good contributions to their own problem and then
also any questions they have about other problems. As the speed dating
progresses, pupils become more confident with their own problem and are
exposed to other problems. At the end of the event ask pupils to write up
a solution to their own problem with any key questions that were raised.
These can be posted onto an online noticeboard (such as
or Wallwisher) as a homework activity which you can review. The key to
this is that pupils make each other think, causing them to assess and then
possibly improve their solution or quality of explanation.
As this can take quite a lot of time, an alternative is to only have six
questions. Form groups, initially of six, and allow pupils in each group to
become experts on the problem. Pupils then pair with pupils from another
group for example, all pupils in group one pair with a pupil from group
four and they challenge them with their problem or teach their solution
to the other pupil and then swap after a minute. This makes the activity
shorter and then allows you to ask each group to reform and, after five
minutes of noting any comments they have received from the speed dating
activity, to produce a presentation of their problem and solution to the
6) Spectrum debate: this is a technique often used when discussing or debat-
ing issues. A line is drawn across the classroom (use string) and different
viewpoints are placed along the line. To ensure that pupils dont change
their mind initially because their friends go to a particular point, give
pupils a piece of paper with all viewpoints on; they must select the one
they most agree with (highlight it). They then go and stand by the state-
ment on the line and form a new discussion group with others who have
chosen the same position. Collectively, the new group must agree on how
they are going to argue their case in the whole-class discussion. Instead of
statements, you may have an initial statement and along the line have a
range of options, from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

Assessment opportunities in independent learning

Pupils need to learn to learn and assessment for learning supports this process.
Pupils cannot learn to learn without the skills to assess where they are in their
own learning, where they need to be and how they are going to get there. While
there is a lot of research, the purpose here is not to delve into the theory but to
look at how we can use independent learning techniques to support learning.
One key point I must stress is that it is never too early to develop independent
learning in your school as the potential impact on learning will reap benefits
for pupils, but pupils need support in developing their confidence in inde-
pendent learning; there is no quick-fix approach.
So what does the phrase independent learning actually mean? Well, in-
dependent learning is where pupils become involved in their own learning
experience. Pupils are actively encouraged to think for themselves and reflect
on their learning, setting targets as appropriate. They are able to research, for-
mulate opinions, synthesise information, make a choice, reflect and evaluate
their own learning, identifying the next steps. There are many definitions of
independent learning; what it does not mean is pupils working in isolation,
teaching themselves.
For those who focus on OFSTED criteria, note that the only reference to
independent learning in the new OFSTED framework is: Not all aspects of
learning, for example pupils engagement, interest, concentration, determi-
nation, resilience and independence, will be seen in a single observation
(OFSTED, 2014a).
In former guidance, in an outstanding lesson, pupils show exceptional in-
dependence and take the initiative in solving problems in a wide range of
contexts, including the new or unusual. They think for themselves and are
prepared to persevere when faced with challenges, showing a confidence that
they will succeed (OFSTED, 2012a).
The activities and techniques we have discussed so far all encourage inde-
pendence in learning, creating confidence in pupils.

Individual learning preferences: supporting

the assessment process
There are three primary channels through which we learn: visual (through
sight), auditory (through sound) and kinaesthetic (through touch). Common
sense tells us that no one individual is 100 per cent a particular type; however,
one style of learning may dominate. It is important to mention, before we pro-
ceed further, that there are also different classifications and sub-classifications

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

beyond this and a lot of research is dedicated to this field in education. However,
here we will focus on the three main learning preferences (or combinations of)
and the importance of being conscious of different learning styles when we
plan our lessons, exposing pupils to a variety of different mediums through
which to learn. So lets think about the following questions. Do you mix it up?
If there was learner with a strong kinaesthetic preference, would they be able
to access learning in your lessons all of the time? Do your activities support
different learning styles? As teachers (if we are honest), we are often so busy
with everything else that, in reality, this may fall to the bottom of our list of
priorities when planning because, typically, we focus on what we are going
to teach. However, we need to always be conscious of learning styles, focusing
more on how pupils will learn, because, if pupils can access the work, they
will become more independent as learners and engage in the process. Where
a learner has a strong learning preference (this is often evident in pupils with
SEN), think about the following: if you assess progress through a written activ-
ity, will this allow them to best demonstrate their understanding? The answer
can, of course, be no. Therefore, we must ensure our assessment for learn-
ing practices support learning styles, allowing all pupils the opportunity to
achieve success in learning through a variety of different mediums. Be aware
that there is research that says we should not force a particular learning style
on pupils (and I agree) and that we should encourage pupils to use as wide a
variety of styles as possible (Adey et al., 1999). This goes without saying. The
very best teachers support learning in different contexts and through different
Examples of kinaesthetic activities:

Investigations: set up some investigations which involve pupils physi-

cally doing. For example, in mathematics the oranges activity is one
way of introducing surface area of a sphere an excellent activity for
kinaesthetic learners because, more often than not, pupils are told the
formula and then given a series of questions (written) to answer. This
activity allows pupils to investigate. Pupils draw circles around a large
orange (the idea being that the radius of these circles is the radius of
the orange), if they struggle here, they may have to cut it in half (or for
health and safety perhaps you do this) and then use acetate which can
be wiped clean. They then peel the orange (smallish pieces) and stick
the pieces of peel in the circles. The idea is that pupils will fill four
circles, leading to them determining that the surface area of a sphere is
4 x area of a circle (or 4 x pi x radius2). This really engages kinaesthetic
learners and you can then encourage them to translate these activities

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

into language so that they can explain the mathematics through demon-
stration. Assessment comes through observation and learning dialogue,
revolving around developing the formula and gaining an understanding
of its origins. It provides something pupils can relate to and refer back
to. Questions should be asked to develop thinking, such as: will this
work every time? How do you know? The jelly baby game (discussed in
Chapter 3, based on social geography) is another excellent example of a
kinaesthetic activity. Essentially, any activity in which doing activates
thinking falls into this bracket and provides a platform for those with a
kinaesthetic preference to access learning.
Getting up: it sounds obvious, but allowing pupils to come to the board
to demonstrate solutions or try to embed learning in movement supports
kinaesthetic learning. In dance, often emotions are expressed through
movement; this is a powerful technique for kinaesthetic learners. An exam-
ple from a topic which is traditionally taught in mathematics is ratio: ask
five boys and ten girls to stand up. Ask the girls to move next to a boy, so
that standing next to each boy is the same number of girls. Talk about ratio
and 1:2; in other words, for every boy there are two girls. You can assess
their comprehension by asking how many girls would there be if eight boys
stood up. Ask pupils to do this. Then simplify back to the pairings of one
boy and two girls. Can we use this to check our answers if we were given a
problem? You can ask how many boys there would be if six girls stood up
and continue to probe learning in this way. This really helps kinaesthetic
and visual learners. In languages, a good example of kinaesthetic learning
is a treasure hunt. If all clues are in the target language and pupils have
to solve the puzzle to find the location of the next clue, this demonstrates
comprehension and, as an extension, you can then ask pupils to write
about what they did and where the treasure was finally located. In sci-
ence, you can print off simple instructions for an experiment, each on a
separate A4 piece of paper. Kinaesthetic learners will benefit from these
being scattered on the floor and they then have to jump through the steps
in the correct order. While it sounds simple and just the same as if you put
it on a piece of paper, it is not. It is an activity that pupils will remember
and they will engage with. It has far greater learning potential; I urge you
to just try something new.
Card sorts or pair-matching activities are good for engaging the kinaes-
thetic learner as they are actively doing something while at the same time
having to think (i.e. physically moving cards with their hands while think-
ing). These are commonly used in all subjects, but a simple change, such

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

as pre-cutting the cards and allowing pupils to physically move cards,

makes the activity more appealing to kinaesthetic learning preferences
than simply joining a connecting line to match pairs.
Drama and role play are both excellent for kinaesthetic learners. They
allow them to express their thoughts or learning through actions, move-
ment and verbalisation. These can be used in any subject.

Examples of visual activities:

Drawings: expressing thought through drawing is a powerful tool. Visual

learners often benefit from drawing their learning. This can be as simple
as a sketch of a scientific experiment with key points noted around the
diagram. It can be a diagrammatic representation of a recipe or a process
in DT.
Mind-mapping: this is a very good way of allowing pupils to visualise
learning. Schools commonly encourage pupils to use this for revision pur-
poses. An adaptation of this is to prepare cards which, when put together,
form a mind-map; ask pupils, in pairs, to complete the diagram, effectively
sequencing their learning (there is the obvious overlap with kinaesthetic
learners here).
Interactive whiteboard: tools such as this are excellent for supporting vis-
ual learners (and Im not just talking about slide show after slide show, but
some of the excellent resources for whiteboards which allow visualisation
of techniques, processes and concepts) for obvious reasons and combined
with situations where pupils come to the board and interact with an activity
we also embrace the kinaesthetic learner.

Example of auditory activities:

Peer-hearing: let pupils enter into learning dialogue. Allow them to read
and to explain. Listening to each other helps auditory learners develop their
language skills. It is the explanation that offers the assessment opportunity
(unless we are directly assessing reading skills). It is probably the most com-
mon technique used in classrooms (often perhaps with little thought to the
fact that peer discussion supports auditory learning). Allowing learning
dialogue supports pupil development.
Podcasts: pupils become the expert and explain the particular topic, con-
cept, technique for the purposes of a podcast. This will help to embed their
understanding and assessment can be either on content or on the skills.
The use of podcasts was discussed earlier in this chapter.

Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

Real-life meaning: linking learning to real-life connections in your explana-

tions or asking pupils to think of and discuss real-life examples supports audi-
tory learning. This also includes cross-curricular links (examples discussed
below) and allows pupils to make connections across learning in different
subjects. Again, assessment is through the connections that pupils make.

Linking with other departments: creating a

meaningful assessment opportunity
Developing cross-curricular links adds value to learning and allows pupils
to make connections. It prevents them from thinking of subjects as discrete
entities with little relevance and from considering topics to be divorced from
each other. No doubt, in your career, at least once (and most likely more),
you will have heard staff from one department complaining that pupils dont
have the skills that you know are taught in your department. I have certainly
heard physics teachers make comments along the lines of They just cant rear-
range formulae. Yet I know this is taught well in mathematics. What we are
really saying is that pupils cannot transfer skills across subjects. So, using
this example, next time you study rearranging formulae with a class ask the
physics department for some formulae they actually use and then use these in
class, using the words associated with the formula and making the physical
connection in context to add real meaning to the example. The very best learn-
ing makes connections and allows pupils to relate different subject matter to
other curriculum areas, and, of course, to life in general. Below, I offer a few
examples of simple but effective cross-curricular links. This does not have to
be something that is restricted to younger pupils (who generally have a more
engaging curriculum), but to all pupils across all phases.

Maths, DT, MFL and others

Recipes provide a wonderful cross-curricular opportunity. MFL can intro-
duce the recipe in a target language (one language, if all pupils study a single
language). Pupils can be asked to translate the recipe or to answer a series
of questions (you may use different recipes for different groups of students
through discussion with DT, mathematics and MFL). In mathematics, you
can study ratio; pupils can be asked to develop the recipe for different serv-
ings (e.g. rewriting a serves 8 recipe as a serves 12 recipe). The assess-
ment focus here is on the technique and method that pupils use (can they
effectively use the unitary method?). This may only be a short plenary task
as part of a lesson developing the concept of ratio and need not take up
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

substantial lesson time. For an extension, pupils can be asked to explain the
mathematical process. When pupils make the product in DT, assessment is
in both the how (i.e. during the process) and in the quality of the final prod-
uct (could be a tasting similar to Masterchef [], where pupils
present their product), with explicit assessment criteria to support pupils
in assessing their own progress and perhaps redirecting. There are lots of
different avenues to this very simple project. A continuance is designing
packaging for the product and developing a marketing campaign (this can be
in English and also in the MFL used), with links to ICT or business studies.
None of these are particularly onerous on individual subjects and all dem-
onstrate progress in learning across a range of subjects in a rather simple but
very effective way. All types of learners are embraced, allowing everyone to
access the curriculum. It could, of course, equally form an extended cross-
curricular home-learning project.

The rocket design project (of which you have, no doubt, heard) is a fun activity
where pupils make a rocket out of various materials and then, ultimately, fire
the rocket to see if their design works (your physics department will know all
about this). They use mathematical skills such as measurement, scale, volume
and circumference, and social skills such as team work and planning. In physics
or DT, they assess the property of the materials. This can be further combined
with scale drawing, art and design and, finally, motion in physics. Assessment
is by pupils at each stage of the project against assessment criteria which focus
on application. Aspects of this could be used for home learning; however, in my
experience it is best used as an in-house project or perhaps on activity days
(days allocated to cross-curricular learning opportunities in schools).

Maths, geography and social studies

There are some excellent resources as part of the Millennium Mathematics Pro-
ject ( These include
looking at the mathematical modelling of disease dynamics (epidemiology)
and maths and our health or the impact of disease on public health. The pack-
ages are multi-media and provide a good application of mathematics for pupils
of school age to appreciate and are a useful source to promote interest. All are
fields of research at the top universities throughout the world, so offer won-
derful insight into the world of mathematics beyond school. They incorporate
both social studies and geography and form a strong cross-curricular link for
pupils in the upper years.
Using assessment to drive learning in the main body of the lesson

Learning, in the main, is a sequence of learning cycles, a single learning cycle
(Figure 4.9) or different parallel routes that provide different learning opportunities
(differentiation) for pupils. It is well chunked where assessment for learning is im-
plicit (pupils are involved in their own learning and in the assessment process as the
learning takes place). In this section of the lesson, pupils develop learning, are able to
recognise progress and are actively involved in directing their own learning.


reflect activate


Figure 4.9 The learning cycle and possible sequence of learning cycles within the main
part of the lesson (to illustrate learning is not always a smooth journey, but
can take many twists and turns).

During the main part of the lesson:

Have you planned activities which engage learners and encourage learners to
Have you considered different learning styles in planning activities and during
the assessment process?
Have you thought about the process of assessment for learning?
Are pupils actively involved in their own learning and next steps?
Do the techniques you are using provide both you and pupils with quality infor-
mation to support progress?
Can you confidently move on to the next learning cycle?
How do you know?
What criteria depict success in learning?
Are these truly learning criteria (rather than task-driven in other words I can
do because I follow a set of instructions)?

ChApter 5

the final challenge:

the final assessment

An outstanding lesson should demonstrate exceptional progress in learning

for all pupils. Towards the end of the lesson (referred to here as the plenary)
learning should be challenged further, not only building on previous activi-
ties, but also drawing on other skills; pupils should be able to assess the
progress they have made during the lesson and consolidate their learning.
This assessment informs your future planning. Teachers commonly allocate
2025 per cent of lesson time to the plenary and allow sufficient time for
an activity and reflection. Of course, in reality this isnt a distinct phase
where we stop learning and start a plenary activity. Rather it flows from the
previous and is simply a section where we incorporate further challenge,
return to the Big Question and allow pupils to measure their progress; the
activities we select in this phase are most likely different to those used in
both the start and main body of the lesson. Indeed, certain types of activity
lend themselves to best use in this phase of the lesson and others are more
suited to the main body of the lesson. It is, therefore, important to select the
activity which best suits your purpose and audience.
This chapter looks at how an effective plenary can allow you to demonstrate
progress in learning. The activities are not prescriptive and how you choose
to order or use them will be dependent upon what works best for you in your
classroom with your groups.

the Big Question

The Big Question is an excellent tool for demonstrating progress in learn-
ing. As discussed in Chapter 3, at the start of the lesson pupils were given
a short time to answer a challenging Big Question, which they then had to
seal in an envelope. This provided us with their initial response to a prob-
lem, statement or scenario. The question embraced the learning outcomes
or intentions; if pupils develop their learning during the lesson (and if we
have used formative assessment we should be confident) they should now
The final challenge: the final assessment

be able to revisit the Big Question and develop their initial response, draw-
ing on learning in the lesson. We would expect pupils to be able to com-
plete the challenge (or to have made significant progress towards achieving
this), explaining and justifying their final response using any subject-
specific language appropriately.
The more challenging the question, the longer you will need to give to pu-
pils to retry it. It may be two minutes, it may be five minutes. The power in this
technique is when you ask pupils to open their envelope and to compare their
answer at the start of the lesson to their answer at the end of the lesson. Pupils
can then address the key questions (whether individually or as a whole class):

What have they learnt during the lesson?

How do they know?
Can they identify key processes or concepts?
Have they developed their reasoning?
Can they now use appropriate subject-specific language?
Can they justify their answer?
What were the differences and why?
Are there any gaps in their learning?
Were there any misconceptions? (There is power in correcting a wrong
Can they now explain why these misconceptions arose, how they can be
corrected and why?

It is important that pupils spend time reflecting on the differences between

their initial response (at the start of learning) and their final response (after
the learning process), thus assessing their own progress and thinking about
planning for future learning. This comparative activity helps to embed learn-
ing and to develop thinking skills and, most importantly, it provides tangible
evidence both to pupils and the teacher that progress has been made. A whole-
class discussion provides a good forum for further assessment and future
Pupils add value to an activity when they know that you value their input.
It is, therefore, important to ask pupils to stick their initial and final responses
in their books; there is no need to waste time on activities such as What have
I learnt today? (which is excellent as a theoretical tool, but hasnt really trans-
lated to a high-impact process in the classroom). When you review a pupils
work, pay particular attention to the Big Question as this really demonstrates
development in learning and shows clearly what pupils have learnt today
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

in the context of a learning challenge. Be prepared: the initial response may

be blank or a question mark. Thats okay as long as the pupil simply cant
be bothered (if this is the case, dont be disheartened they will soon want
to be involved with the progress they see others making). The dialogue you
have with pupils based upon this before and after forms an important part of
the assessment process and is addressed in Chapter 3. It may be that you want
pupils to use the Big Question as a basis for supporting statements such as
their answers to What have I learnt today?; pupils can physically see what
they have learnt and can easily compare their initial and final responses. This
provides you and them with much more information than if you simply ask
them to write down What have I learnt today? (we know from experience
that what pupils typically do in this situation is regurgitate learning outcomes
without actually thinking about the process of learning that has taken place
during the lesson).
Example extracts taken from actual pupil responses to Big Questions:

1) A rectangle has sides (2a + 1) and (3a 2). What is its area?

Initial response: 5a 1
Final response: (2a + 1) x (3a 2) = 2a(3a 2) + 1(3a 2) = 6a2 4a +
3a 2 = 6a2 a 2

Initial response: (2a + 1) x (3a 2) = 6a 2

Final response: rectangle method (pupil had demonstrated this) to give
6a2 1a 2

These responses gave rise to the opportunity to discuss the different meth-
ods used, notation (e.g. a or 1a) and collection of like terms.

2) Do plants need light?

Initial response: No. Plants dont need light like we do because they dont
have eyes and dont need to see.
Final response: Plants need light to make food for themselves. The more
light they get the faster they make food. The food is called glucose and they
use carbon dioxide and water and light to make glucose and oxygen. The
oxygen is needed for animals to live.

Initial response: Plants are fine in the dark.

Final response: Plants need light for photosynthesis which is the process
of making food and oxygen from carbon dioxide. This food helps plants
to grow. Plants also need other minerals. If there is no light it limits the
rate of photosynthesis. Light is absorbed by chlorophyll. We need the

The final challenge: the final assessment

oxygen to survive and so do animals. More light increases the rate of

photosynthesis. So yes plants need light to grow and we need them to
grow to produce oxygen.

In this example we can see that both pupils have significantly developed
their responses and used scientific language to explain the process and
why it is important. In this case, the pupils have clearly developed their
learning and are able to articulate this, demonstrating progress.

The Big Question explicitly emphasises success in learning. Pupils feel a sense
of achievement in being able to clearly demonstrate progress from the begin-
ning of the lesson to the end. There are lots of different ways in which you can
use a Big Question (as discussed in Chapter 3), but the power is in the assess-
ment and the thinking opportunities it provides.
As you develop use of the Big Question in your lessons and pupils become
familiar with the process as a means to support learning, you might want
to differentiate the Big Question. In terms of practicalities (cost, variety and
actual use), sometimes I prefer to use post-it notes rather than envelopes. If
you use post-it notes, get pupils to put their post-it note somewhere on a wall
in the classroom and then as the lesson progresses encourage them to add to it
at any point (or stick a new post-it note next to their first attempt). This devel-
ops autonomy and progression in learning during the lesson. In other words,
they are making an assessment as the learning happens and acting upon this.
The Big Question also works well as a team activity. Used in this way, small
groups work together to draft an initial response and seal it in a large A4 envelope.
At the end of the lesson the teams regroup (or they may have worked mainly in
teams during the lesson and been provided with additional information at points
to return to the question) and attempt the question again as a team. They must
focus on providing supporting evidence for their revised answer, focusing on key
points developed during the lesson. Different teams can be given different Big
Questions if you want to differentiate. If you choose to do this, you could allow
time at the end of the lesson for each team to present to the class their initial and
final response, highlighting what they have learnt during the process. The remain-
der of the class can assess their progress (along with you). This, obviously, then
becomes the plenary activity itself as it is a longer activity, but it is highly effective
in involving pupils in their own learning.

plenary activities
It may very well be that the Big Question and subsequent learning dialogue
and discussion form the plenary activity itself, but if you aim to keep the

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Big Question brief (or perhaps not use it at all) then you really need an out-
standing plenary that will challenge pupils and assess the progress that they
have made during the lesson. An outstanding plenary should allow pupils to
make connections in their learning, allow for metacognition and encourage
independence, debate and discussion.
An outstanding plenary should enable you to judge the progress of all learn-
ers. Remember that each phase in the learning cycle should build on the previ-
ous, so the plenary should not be more of the same. It should offer different
application of skills, knowledge and understanding and demonstrate further
progress in learning. Some teachers use past exam questions in the plenary
(particularly for exam groups); there is no reason past exam questions should
not be used as long as they offer a different challenge to those used in the
lesson. Try to select an example which combines different techniques or
knowledge from combined topics.
Teachers often use mini-whiteboards (laminated A4 card is a good alterna-
tive) during this phase of the lesson as it allows you to assess the whole class
simultaneously. Pupils cant opt out or choose to not participate as they will
be easily identifiable. Therefore, you are able to demonstrate assessment of
your class individually and collectively. Tablet devices (such as iPads) can
also be used and are excellent if you have a networked TV (such as Apple TV)
connected to the whiteboards because you can then link instantly to any of
the pupils individual tablets and display their answer for whole-class discus-
sion. As with all of the activities in the learning cycles we have discussed so
far, ongoing assessment must be made through observation and discussion.
Questioning should be used to probe understanding and to make pupils really
challenge their own learning. Creating a safe classroom environment where
pupils are not afraid to make mistakes is essential to developing a positive
learning culture, with assessment for learning an intrinsic feature of the learn-
ing process.
Discussed below are different types of activity which lend themselves to the
plenary phase:

Correcting a response: this type of activity is excellent as a platform for

discussion and certainly makes pupils think. Essentially, pupils have to
spot any misconceptions and correct them. In order for pupils to correct
a mistake, they have to have a good understanding and, indeed, whether
they articulate this or it forms part of their thought process they are using
higher-order thinking skills (reasoning and justifying). This can be done as
a whole-class activity (using mini-whiteboards) where you place a ques-
tion and response on the board and pupils have to correct the response (or

The final challenge: the final assessment

comment on it). It also works very well in groups as a round robin exercise;
each team has a different-coloured pen and they circulate around the room
with one minute on each problem, adding to the other team responses.
This means pupils are assessing previous responses and then having to
develop the answer further or contribute something different.
The same or different? In this activity pupils have to decide whether two
things are the same or whether they are different. Alternatively, if you
have two similar statements, phrases, images, equations, graphs, paint-
ings, regions, objects etc. then pupils have to identify similarities and dif-
ferences. This really tests their understanding. There are lots of ways to
assess this activity. Pupils can go to different sides of the room depending
on their answer. You can then assess through questioning. Where there are
both similarities and differences pupils can post these on two sides of the
room on post-it notes and you can then select key ideas or misconceptions
and question pupils directly. An alternative is the odd one out. Pupils
have to identify the odd one out from a series of solutions, statements,
images, paintings, people etc. and justify their decision. Again you might
make this a more kinaesthetic activity by placing these items around the
classroom and when you say go pupils have to walk direct to the item
they identified as being the odd one out. Obviously, there are lots of varia-
tions on these activities, but the key element is the how, the why and the
why not. Without this, pupils can simply be making a choice based upon
incorrect reasoning therefore, without correctly assessing the activity it
would lose its true power.
ABCD cards or collective voting mechanisms are very useful at KS2 and
KS3. There are lots of templates on the internet (e.g.,
so you can design your own quiz or, alternatively, use PowerPoint and ask
pupils to hold up the correct response (A, B, C or D). The key to making
this activity outstanding is the question design and, if the question is a
discussion question, the discussion that follows. As a standalone activ-
ity where we simply ask pupils to hold up an answer card and then move
immediately to the next question it is not outstanding. After each question,
make sure that you ask pupils probing questions. Why did they select A?
Why could D not be an alternative response? This ensures their answer is
not simply a guess! Piggy-back the questioning to develop the concepts
further and pick up on any misconceptions should they arise. If you are
lucky enough to have interactive voting systems, this is an excellent way
of recording pupil progress (but again it only provides a numerical score).
Voting systems record responses by pupils to each question. You are then

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

able to keep this information to support and inform future planning. The
ABCD activity can be an individual, paired or team game.

For example:

I invest 500 at 3 per cent per annum. What is the interest earned after three years?
A: 546.36
B: 45
C: 46.36
D: 545
In a situation where the majority of pupils hold up C, but some hold up A and
B you may choose to direct the questioning in a way which leads to picking up
the misconceptions. For example:
Kyle, can you talk us through how you got C as an answer?
Karl, can you develop this further?
Piggy-back questioning to other pupils.
Joshua, you chose B as your answer, can you talk through the method you
used? Involve other pupils in the discussion. Encourage pupils to justify their
answers rather than restate a method.
Which is the method we use in the banking system?
What assumptions have we made?

There are lots of ways in which this can be directed but the point is that ques-
tioning is used to probe the answers. You may not wish to do this on every
question, but select a few where you feel the learning needs to be reinforced in
order to secure the learning objectives. This is a rather closed example (hav-
ing only one correct answer) and, of course, depending on the outcomes you
wish to achieve, questions can be more open where the answer sparks debate
between two responses.
Dylan Wiliam (2011) discusses the use of discussion and diagnostic ques-
tions in the framework of multiple choice responses. Discussion questions
lead to discussion and there is no point in asking this question unless you
are going to have the discussion. With diagnostic questions it would be very
unlikely for the pupil to get the correct answer for the wrong reason, so you can
be confident that if pupils answer correctly they do so because they understand
the topic. The teacher gains concrete evidence about the students learning
without having to have the classroom discussion (Wiliam, 2011). Diagnostic
questions are often used as a quick check of pupil understanding and discussion
questions where you want to enter into discussions about the reasons for a par-
ticular choice (gaining an understanding of pupil thinking). Therefore, think
carefully about whether you are using diagnostic or discussion questions in any
The final challenge: the final assessment

ABCD activity and, if it is to be used as a quick check, then use diagnostic questions.
I personally still recommend reinforcing learning with questioning in this situation
to follow up on pupil responses.

Extended challenge: these are open-ended challenges for pupils to continue

in their home learning. In the plenary we set the scene and draw from con-
cepts developed during the lesson. This also provides an excellent oppor-
tunity for cross-curricular challenges and cross-curricular assessment or
assessment of key skills as discussed in Chapter 4.
Making connections: images are scattered around the room or on a screen
and pupils are asked to make a link or spot the connection. This is quite
a fun plenary and useful to reinforce links to everyday life or to sup-
port the cross-curricular development. An alternative to this is having
a start image and a final image and then asking how they are connected
by a chain of images, each connected by its neighbour (or simply pro-
vide the start and final image and ask pupils to think about what would
go in the middle). This works well as an activity for small groups and
can be easily differentiated by providing those who require more sup-
port with pre-prepared possibilities for the middle image or images.
Assessment is made when pupils reason and justify their choice. On the
Futures Channel there are lots of short clips relating to real-life applica-
tions ( These can be used as a starter or a
plenary. If you use it as a plenary, then encourage pupils to write down
as many connections to learning in the lesson as they can and then, pos-
sibly, use the clip to set the scene for an extended home-learning task.
Hidden questions: this is an activity which is similar to pass the par-
cel or out of the hat and there are lots of different versions. Essentially,
when the music stops the pupil with the box or hat has to pull out a
question, key word or statement. The only downside to this type of activ-
ity is that it is random and you cannot differentiate the questions. The
question a pupil picks out could offer them little challenge (therefore
does not further learning) or, alternatively, they may be unable to access
the question. Therefore, think carefully about the questions you use so
that you are able to use this activity to make an assessment. Neverthe-
less, the aim is to keep the pace and ensure that every pupil in the class
has the opportunity to answer a question. As the focus is only on one
pupil at any one time rather than on the class as a whole (as with the
other activities), then classroom management is extremely important.
If classroom management is a concern, a similar activity is a follow-me
or loop card activity. These are where pupils have an answer and then
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

a question on their card. You ask the first question. The pupil with the
answer to this on their card identifies themselves and then reads out the
question they have. This continues until all pupils have answered and
asked a question. The learning power in this activity is in the Why did
you come next?, so encourage all pupils to read the answer on their card
and then give a because before asking the subsequent question. This
type of activity will engage all learners because they need to listen care-
fully so that they do not break the chain. A similar activity is guess who
or guess what. An envelope is passed from pupil to pupil. Each pupil
takes out a clue and reads it aloud. They have ten seconds to guess who
before it is passed to the next pupil. If pupils are on teams then they get
points for their team according to when they guess the clue or solve the
problem. This, again, cannot be differentiated, so it should really only be
used to add a different dimension to the lesson.
Top trumps: this activity is popular for younger years. Everyone is given
a card, including the teacher. The cards are very similar to the cards that
come with new toys; pupils really enjoy this type of game-based learning.
However, as fun as the activity is, be clear on the learning purpose. If you
look up top trumps on the internet, in your subject area, you will find a
wealth of resources. Of course, these are someone elses resources and best
is to either tailor them or to make your own set which can then be adapted
for future use. The one benefit of activities such as top trumps is that they
can be very easily differentiated, both through the content of the trump card
and also the questions that are asked. Top trumps can be played directly as
the game or the cards can be used in reverse to generate questions. Often
teachers like to use these in an argue your case activity, where pupils
respond to a statement according to their card and physically move around
the room to create different clusters of information. Assessment is made by
observation and through discussion and questioning. Alternatively, pupils
can work in small groups, being given a selection of cards. Each group may
have the same characters but different levels of information, thus differ-
entiating between groups. Each group then has to decide which character
is the best, according to the criteria you provide (you may do this several
times for different criteria). The object is to see whether each group has
chosen the same character. Groups elect a spokesperson (this can be differ-
ent each time you change the criteria); they then put their case forward (you
may give each group a timed response of twenty seconds to discuss with
their team and then respond). Collectively, the class then decides on which
character is the best. Assessment is made during this phase.

The final challenge: the final assessment

What was the question? This type of plenary activity encourages pupils to
really think. It also allows for natural differentiation. The assessment oppor-
tunities provided are endless. It allows you to really see how well pupils
have understood the learning during the lesson and, by developing a possible
question, pupils demonstrate higher-order cognitive skills. They really have
to think about thinking. The questions pupils generate can then be swapped
with another pupil in the class, thus providing an opportunity for peer-
assessment. During the peer-assessment pupils should be encouraged to:
Check the answer (in other words, does the question actually result in
the correct answer?)
Assess the level of difficulty
Assess the quality of the question (focus on key criteria here)
Provide an opportunity for further development.
When they swap back to their partner, the pupil who set the question can
further assess the answer of their peer. Did they use the correct method?
Did they show steps in their working? Have they used any key words cor-
rectly? The questions and answers can then be discussed among the pair
and any learning points highlighted during whole-class discussion.
Progression line: this is a powerful technique in assessment for learning
as it encourages pupils to relate the learning experience directly to the
learning outcomes. Place the learning outcomes or success criteria along
a progression line (I place them on pieces of A3 paper along a wall). Give
pupils 30 seconds to look at each learning outcome (or success criterion)
and to write down an example on a post-it note. If all pupils have met all
outcomes (but perhaps at different depths) then do this for each learning
outcome: 30 seconds to read it and one minute to write down an example
and stick their post-it note around the poster. Continue until all outcomes
have been completed. You can then pick post-it notes for discussion that
are good examples or that highlight misconceptions. If not all pupils have
achieved all outcomes, give pupils a little longer to decide which outcome
they feel they have progressed to and then to put a post-it note next to it
for review. This then encourages pupils to think about their own learning
against the success criteria and allows you a visual representation almost
a graph or map of pupil performance and understanding.
Comment-based plenaries: some subjects lend themselves well to comment-
based plenaries. An example is where pupils are asked to write down three
headlines to sum up the content of the lesson (pupils should be expected
to include any subject-specific language). For each headline pupils would

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

be expected to produce a mini-example. Pace needs to be maintained dur-

ing this activity. It also works well as a team activity, where pupils pre-
sent their headlines and examples to the rest of the class, who peer-assess.
This is important as completed individually and without assessment the
activity loses its value in learning. It can be extended to a What comes
next? type of activity, where pupils are asked to make a prediction. This
draws on the learning from the lesson and encourages pupils to apply their
knowledge in a different context.

It is essential to build in assessment of the plenary activity and assessment

of progress during the lesson. The most important element of the activity is
that it allows you to do this and that it is used effectively to support pupils in
assessing their own learning therefore, when you choose the activity for the
plenary do so with this in mind. It is the what you do with it rather than the
activity itself that is most important. A fantastic activity is only as powerful
as the assessment opportunity it provides. Remember, formative assessment
bridges the gap between teaching and learning.

In any outstanding lesson, time is spent giving pupils the opportunity to reflect
on their own learning and this is an essential component of assessment for
learning. Reflection occurs naturally at points during the lesson, but towards
the end of the plenary is ideal for assessing progress made during the lesson or
series of lessons as a whole. In order for reflective practice to work it is impor-
tant that it becomes a two-way process between teacher and learner, forming
a learning dialogue. This means that if pupils reflect on their learning, and
record this, as a teacher you respond. Pupils then know that there is value in
the exercise. Simply asking pupils to traffic light their performance (RAG rate),
indicate with a smiley face or similar, or write down what they have learnt
during the lesson is not best practice as a stand-alone exercise. Common sense
dictates that a pupil could simply indicate they were green without any real
understanding; when pupils are asked to write down what they have learnt
often they simply regurgitate the learning outcomes or success criteria without
thinking. This type of activity alone is rendered meaningless and a waste of
valuable learning time.
The power, then, is in the Why? and the How do you know? So, if you
use the above measures for pupils to assess their own progress, encourage
them to back it up with an example and expect pupils, as part of this process,
to signpost their learning and be confident in identifying the next steps in

The final challenge: the final assessment

table 5.1 Ideas for prompts.

I did . well, because I can . An example is .
I need to work on . because .
My learning targets are . so that I can .
How I managed to answer the Big Question .
My next steps in learning are . to achieve . because I want to be able to .
I will know I have been successful because .

achieving their goals. Simply being able to do something isnt enough. Pu-
pils need to be encouraged to continually challenge themselves. Grades are
often used in this period of reflection, but remember that, sometimes, for
lower-grade pupils this can be demotivating and caution should be taken
when using any grading system. Whether you return to differentiated learn-
ing outcomes or progress grids, encourage pupils to identify where they are in
their own learning and where they need to go to achieve their next steps (and
this can be done very easily without grades simply with a learning or pro-
gress ladder). As discussed above, if you combine reflective practice with the
Big Question then you will demonstrate outstanding practice in assessment.
A quote from a mathematics report produced by OFSTED makes the following

In plenary sessions at the end of lessons, teachers typically revisited the learning
objectives, and asked pupils to assess their own understanding, often through
thumbs, smiley faces or traffic lights. However, such assessment was often
superficial and may be unreliable. (OFSTED, 2012a)

Until pupils become confident in this activity, use prompts to guide them,
but remind them that they need to justify each statement they make. Ideas for
prompts are given in Table 5.1.

reverse bell work

If you used bell work at the start of the lesson, you must return to it at the end.
No activity should be left unassessed. As pupils leave the classroom, return to
the bell work question or questions and target specific pupils to answer. This
should be a quick-fire session, but it allows you to assess whether there is
value in repeating the specific topic as bell work in the near future or whether
more time needs to be spent on it. This, in itself, is a powerful tool for us as
teachers. I had a class that didnt like fractions. If I had left fractions as an
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

isolated lesson, then my feeling would be (and I am only speculating) that

they would still not like fractions. What this means is that they instantly
had a negative attitude whenever questions involved fractions. Instead,
I made a point of ensuring that I regularly used fractions as part of bell work.
The pupils became so used to doing them (efficiently and correctly and with
understanding) that when I spent a little time one lesson asking them to look
back in their books at the lesson on fractions they were genuinely shocked at
how their attitudes had changed to the topic. This is only my experience, not an
academic case study and I realise you may be sceptical, but I urge you to use
bell work to support learning.

home learning
There is much debate as to whether home learning has any impact and also as
to the quality of the activity itself. Often teachers set more of the same. What
this means is that those pupils who couldnt do it during the lesson still cant
and may spend hours struggling (or do not even attempt it); those who could
do it fly through it. In both cases there is little learning value in the activity.
Some schools choose to use a theme for home learning and pupils are given
an extended project which draws on techniques from all subjects and encour-
ages pupils to apply their knowledge in a different context. Indeed, the very
best homework activities encourage pupils to apply and make real-life connec-
tions (in other words, they are not just more of the same). We have to make it
different and interesting for pupils to want to do it. Whether we like it or not,
there is often a culture of apathy towards home learning.
Many schools use their learning platforms to set homework and to submit
and record performance. This can also be linked to the parent portal page,
which means parents have access to their childs performance. If internet
access is a problem for some pupils, always make sure you have a paper-based
alternative or that pupils are allowed access to school computers (perhaps dur-
ing the after-school homework club). Learning platforms are also often used
for pupils to post questions or as discussion forums where pupils post work
or add comments. Teachers can use this forum to generate subject glossaries
created by pupils to support revision or learning. This does need careful moni-
toring, though, and pupils need to be very clear on what constitutes a good
contribution. Nevertheless, it is a valuable exercise.
Remember, however, that if you dont assess home learning it becomes a
pointless activity and situations can arise where pupils simply dont bother. Fur-
ther, it should be assessed promptly otherwise it loses its learning value and the
impact is limited. In Chapter 7, we discuss marking and assessment techniques.
The final challenge: the final assessment

However you choose to assess learning during the plenary, it is essential that pupils
have a strong awareness of their own progress and that they can identify opportuni-
ties for development. I strongly advocate the use of a comparative technique such
as the Big Question as it provides tangible evidence of success or, indeed, highlights
areas for development. The timelines below show different possibilities for structur-
ing the plenary and are based on a 60-minute lesson.
For a challenging Big Question, which forms the plenary activity:
Big Question (seven minutes)
Reflection (five minutes)
Reverse bell work (one minute)
Where the Big Question was simple and only needs a quick response, progress needs
to be demonstrated with a plenary activity:
Plenary activity (seven minutes)
Reflection (three minutes)
Big Question (two minutes)
Reverse bell work (one minute)
No Big Question at all:
Plenary activity (five minutes)
Reflection (three minutes)
Reverse bell work (one minute)
By the end of the lesson you should be aware of the progress of all pupils and, if you
have followed these simple techniques, there is no doubt that you will be. Outstand-
ing practice embeds assessment throughout the lesson and an outstanding teacher
facilitates learning through assessment.
Always ask yourself the following questions:

Can all learners access the plenary activity?

Have you differentiated the activity?
Does the activity demonstrate further progress?
Have you returned to the Big Question and allowed sufficient time for pupils to
reflect and to compare their initial and final responses?
Have you asked higher-order questions to reinforce any key concepts?
Are pupils asking key questions?
Can pupils demonstrate progress?
Do they know how to further challenge their learning?
If you have an awareness of all of these questions, then you are on your way to planning
an outstanding plenary which demonstrates outstanding assessment for learning.

ChApter 6

Assessment through

Take a moment to reflect:

How many questions do you think that you ask a day?

What percentage do you think are associated with classroom management?
What percentage do you think are associated with assessment for learning?
What percentage develop higher-order thinking skills?
How long do you wait before you expect an answer?
How long do you wait before you respond to an answer?
Do all pupils in your classroom leave having answered at least one
How do you facilitate questioning?

Research suggests that teachers ask between 300 and 400 questions a day (Levin
and Long, 1981). Yet the results of many studies tell us that, of these questions,
approximately 60% of questions are lower order, 20% are higher order and
20% are procedural (Cotton, 1988). Irrespective of the true percentage (we all
know this will depend on many field-related factors), everything points to far
too few higher-order questions being asked in the classroom. What this means
is that if the majority of questions asked of pupils are lower order (typically
recall questions), the majority of our assessment is of lower-level cognitive
skills. Further, if we only ask a small percentage of higher-order questions,
only a few pupils (and potentially the same pupils) are encouraged to develop
higher-order thinking through questioning, resulting in us only ever assessing
a very small percentage of higher-order cognition.
I would, confidently, say that questioning is probably one of, if not the, most
common techniques used by teachers to assess learning in the classroom (and
the one that will stand the test of time). Yet, so often, it is not developed to
its full potential to engage the learning process. Indeed, research suggests that
this may be because teachers feel that, since they already use questioning in
Assessment through questioning

their lessons, they must be doing it well, questioning was not an easy me-
diating artefact to develop partly because many teachers felt that they were
already doing it and often failed to appreciate its full potential for enabling
dialogue that could develop thinking (Webb and Jones, 2009). When someone is
already doing something on such a regular basis (often for many years), it is
often harder to change that persons mind-set than if we were introducing a new
technique and there is the danger that they slip back to habits already embed-
ded in their own practice. It is important, therefore, in developing questioning
that particular emphasis is placed on your response time (discussed below)
so that you consciously think of the next question you might ask, allowing
yourself thinking time to synthesise a response. Simple strategies can be
employed to demonstrate outstanding assessment for learning through ques-
tioning; in this chapter we focus on developing questioning in the classroom,
both for the teacher and pupil.

Who questions much, shall learn much and retain much.

Francis Bacon

Wait time and hands down

To maximise the impact of questioning on learning and pupil progress, both
wait time and hands down must be discussed. It is not uncommon to
observe a lesson where the teacher asks a question and then hands shoot up
in the air and the teacher picks one pupil to respond (often in search of the
correct answer because, subconsciously, this reinforces to us that we must
have taught the topic well). Typically, if you map the room and put a cross
next to the pupils who put their hands up and then dot those that are chosen
to answer questions, you will see clusters of crosses and dots (and areas with
none). Using this method, pupils are choosing whether to be involved in the
lesson (they choose whether to put their hand up or not) and many, of course,
will actively avoid participation. This means that some pupils choose to dis-
engage with learning and, therefore, pay little attention in class. In my opin-
ion, no pupil should leave the classroom without having answered at least one
question. Therefore, it is extremely important to adopt a hands down policy
and to target questioning. Ask the question to the whole class and allow suf-
ficient time for all pupils to synthesise their response. Then you can identify
the pupil by name who will answer first. This technique obviously allows for
focused and differentiated questioning but then also provides the opportunity
to bounce the question around the classroom. It prevents a situation where
teachers always ask the few who put their hands up, leaving some learners
as the forgotten few who never answer a question. These can become the
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

learners who disengage and who dont actively participate or they might be the
learner who is simply too quiet to offer an answer (they must be encouraged
to develop their confidence). This technique obviously relies on a safe learn-
ing environment. Pupils need to be comfortable when they attempt to answer
a question, irrespective of whether it is correct. Remember, wrong answers are
important when assessing and developing learning because they allow us to
highlight and unpick any misconceptions, encouraging pupils to think about
the why and the why not. When pupils think about why an answer is not
correct, they are using higher-order thinking skills. Another obvious advantage
of the hands down approach is that we keep learners on their toes. The very
fact that you could ask anyone in the class to answer a question means that
pupils need to pay attention and, therefore, be involved in the learning process
(this obviously reduces the possibility of low-level disruption).
I talk a lot about using basketball questioning; by this I mean bouncing
questions around the classroom in the same way a basketball team passes the
ball among themselves (you are part of this team). Applying this technique
ensures that any one question can be successively developed from pupil
to pupil before returning to you. This really allows you to use assessment to
inform learning. Ping-pong questioning (often seen in classrooms), where the
questioning is from you to pupil and back to you, doesnt always allow pupils
to build answers collectively or to develop higher-order responses. In addi-
tion, your initial input can be too high and too soon. Some teachers like to ask
the same question successively to a few pupils, gathering opinion (rather than
developing the question itself as it moves through the classroom). In doing
this, one way to involve others in the class is to ask them to decide on which
answer offers the best explanation. What you are looking for is the quality of
response and the assessment made by other pupils of their peers (using this to
develop their own answers) and the key is to leave your involvement until it
is absolutely needed to drive, redirect or summarise learning. This will ensure
that you use questioning to maximise assessment for learning.
Another important aspect of questioning is wait time (both thinking time
and response time); this is critical if you are using questioning techniques
to assess learning. Pupils need time to think about their response, otherwise
they rush their answer, making it poor quality ultimately, leading to a false
assessment of learning and a worthless gauge of pupil progress. Research
shows that the average wait time for the response to a question is one second
or less (Cotton, 1988). This is far too short count to one and you will see
and, coupled with teachers responding immediately, there is little opportunity
beyond low-level cognitive development. Pupils feel pressured and the qual-
ity of answers is poor. If you extend this thinking time to three seconds or more
Assessment through questioning

for lower-order cognitive questions and more than seven seconds for higher-
order cognitive questions you will see that the quality of discussion/response
improves. Indeed, the research suggests a strong positive correlation between
student outcomes and wait time (Cotton, 1988). While it may feel uncomfort-
able having a silent pause, it allows pupils time to think (although be sure not
to identify who will answer the question until the thinking time is up so that
all pupils remain involved).
Response time (your direct response or time given to pupils to think about
the answer from their peer) is also important. If you respond immediately or
ask another pupil immediately what they think of the answer, it doesnt allow
time for pupils to think. Therefore, in the same way as the wait time above
and for the same reasons, extend your response time accordingly. Whether
you recycle the question or create a cliff-hanger, increasing the response time
allows you to assess pupils and gives pupils the opportunity to assess their
Some research has suggested that even when teachers adopt a hands down
policy in their classroom (which is better than asking pupils to choose wheth-
er they participate in learning), some teachers can still revert to asking those
who they are confident will answer correctly. This, of course, limits those who
will answer more challenging questions. Research suggests that, perhaps, a
reason for this (as touched on above) is that there is a culture of wanting the
correct answer as this reinforces to us, as teachers, that pupils must obvi-
ously understand what has been taught; this is known as evaluative listening
(Davies, 1997). All teachers learn from evaluative listening is whether pupils
know what they want them to know or know what they have taught; it is often
seen when teachers feel a necessity to stick to their lesson plan. We must
remember that the discussion that comes from incorrect answers can be ex-
tremely valuable we gain an insight into what pupils are thinking. When we
do this, we listen interpretively and use answers as a tool to develop learning.
Where the focus is on the correct answer rather than, perhaps, digging behind
this to check understanding, you will often hear teachers make comments
such as Not quite right, Not quite there, try again. Pushing for the correct
answer (and almost turning a blind eye to the misconception) means a valu-
able learning opportunity is lost. So, be conscious of this during questioning
sessions and ensure that all pupils are actively involved in the process. Many
teachers use random name generators and these are readily available and free
on the internet (apps are also available on other devices). Be aware, however,
that the use of such resources limits the potential for targeted and differenti-
ated questioning; random name generators are, perhaps, best used at the start
of topics when you are base-lining.
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

If questioning highlights misconceptions, you must address these as they
arise. Think carefully about how you unpick errors and how you will involve
pupils in this process, ensuring redirection is focused. One of the best tech-
niques before you become involved is to pass the question around the class-
room, as discussed above. Something simple such as Pauline, thank you for
your answer, Olivia, do you agree?, Oliver, can you add anything further?
This gives other pupils the opportunity to highlight the error before you do,
but you must give pupils the opportunity to think through the question, the
answers so far and their own answer (this means increased wait time). Once
a good learning dialogue or learning debate has been had, it is time for your
input; this may be summarising the discussion so far or it may be posing fur-
ther questions to challenge learning. Whatever approach you take, you must
make sure that the misconception is correctly dealt with and, if necessary,
redirect the learning or lesson before moving on; ensure that you assess that
the misconception is resolved by returning, a few minutes later, to a similar
question. Assessments such as this, made during the learning process, allow
you to think carefully about the next steps, involving pupils in their own

Open and closed questions in assessment for learning

An open question is one which encourages pupils to think and which natu-
rally encourages higher-order cognitive development. For example:
Why is it important to purify water?
Why do artists make portraits and not just take photographs of people to
What do you think the sitter is thinking?
Why is light important to plants?
Closed questions are lower order and typically require recall, knowledge or, at
their simplest level, a yes or no response. For example:

Is eight a cube number?

What kind of painting is this?
What era do you think this is from?
Is London the capital of England?
What is the capital of Spain?
What are the two elements of water?
Assessment through questioning

The difference between the two classifications is that open questions typically
require pupils to apply or to explain, often drawing comparison leading to
justification. Many teachers start with a lower-order question and then progress to
open questions using the basketball technique. Always be conscious, if you use
this process, that all pupils have access to open questions as a common problem is
that those pupils perceived to be of lower ability are often only ever asked closed
questions or, if they are given the opportunity to answer an open question, teach-
ers sometimes jump in too soon, assuming that the pupil is unable to answer the
question correctly anyway. An example developing from a closed to open ques-
tion is demonstrated below through square numbers:

Is 25 a square number?
Give me another example of a square number.
Summarise the properties of a square number (you will need to validate this
response and, at this point, you ensure the correct technical language).
In pairs circle the square numbers on the number grid (pupils are given a
number grid with numbers 1 to 100).

This final activity (keep it timed and short) assesses whether all pupils under-
stand. A quick-fire question session, in which you ask pupils to shout out
sequential square numbers as you point to them in turn, assesses whether
they have identified all of the square numbers. This can be followed by a cou-
ple of targeted questions asking, for example, Why is 15 not circled? or List
the numbers in between 4 squared and 5 squared. Does the gap get bigger if
we square larger consecutive numbers? Why? This enables assessment of
whether pupils really understand what the properties of a square number are
(a higher-order skill) and have not simply followed basic instructions to work
out, for example, that 5 squared is 5 x 5 = 25 (a lower-order skill).
Open questions typically lead to discussion; closed questions are typically
diagnostic and used to determine whether pupils have factual knowledge.
Discussion questions lead to valuable learning discussion and debate, but
are not good diagnostic questions. It is important that, if you ask a discus-
sion question, you actually have the discussion (so factor this in). Diagnostic
questions need no discussion because they provide concrete evidence about
the pupils learning. What makes a question useful as a diagnostic question,
therefore, is that it must be very unlikely that the student gets the correct
answer for the wrong reasons (Wiliam, 2011). Of course, you can still (and
in my opinion should) ask questions to probe pupils understanding based
on a diagnostic question, but you do not necessarily need to do this to assess
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Blooms taxonomy
Blooms taxonomy (Bloom and Krathwohl, 1956) classifies questions accord-
ing to their level of cognitive demand; you will, no doubt, have heard Bloom
referred to during your teaching career. During the 1990s, a new group of cog-
nitive psychologists, led by Anderson (a former student of Bloom), updated
the taxonomy to reflect relevance to twenty-first-century work (Anderson and
Krathwohl, 2001). The new system contains six levels, which are based on
hierarchical form (as with Bloom) and which move from the lowest level of
cognition (thinking) to the highest level of cognition: remembering, under-
standing, applying, analysing, evaluating, creating (this compares to Blooms
original taxonomy of: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, syn-
thesis and evaluation). Note that the top two levels are essentially exchanged
from the old to the new version (Schultz, 2005) and that there is a movement
from nouns to verbs for example, application to applying.
In the remainder of this chapter, we take each cognitive level and think
about what this means to us in the classroom. Remember that Blooms tax-
onomy is appropriate at all levels. In other words, the use of, for example,
evaluation is not limited to a higher grade but applies across all ages and abil-
ity ranges, pitched at the appropriate level.

This is the lowest level and simply involves the recall of facts. For example:
1) What is 7 x 8?
2) What is the formula for the area of a circle?
3) What are the elements of hydrochloric acid?
4) What are the primary colours?
5) What is the capital of Australia?
6) List the rules for netball.
7) What is the name for a multi-channelled river?
Generic prompts include: What did ? Who did ? How many ?
Words often used: know, who, define, what, name, where, list, when.

Understanding facts and ideas by organising, classifying, comparing, trans-
lating, interpreting, giving descriptions and stating the main ideas from oral,
written or graphic representations. For example:
Assessment through questioning

1) What is the main idea of this story?

2) How do waves erode the coast?
3) Why are both 5 and 5 the square root of 25?
4) Describe the climate graph.
5) What does the ratio 5:2 mean?
6) How would you illustrate the water cycle?
7) Can you convert your six-second heart rate count into beats per minute?
Generic prompts include: Why did ? What are/does ? Why has ? Can
you explain ?
Words often used include: describe, use your own words to, outline, explain,
discuss, compare.

This is where pupils take information they already know and apply it to differ-
ent situations to reach a solution.
Examples include:
1) How would you use your knowledge of longitude and latitude to locate
2) If there were 8 inches of water in this tank and all you have is a hose, how
would you empty all of the water out?
3) Why does the climate graph show this pattern?
4) How would you change the activity to reach the target heart rate?
5) A supermarket is offering three for two on its products. A small bag of
80 teabags cost 1.40 and a large bag of 320 teabags cost 3.70. Milo wants
to buy 320 teabags. Which is the better deal?
6) How do you round a number to the nearest 100?
Generic prompts: How can you ? How would you ? Using this informa-
tion, can you ?
Words often used include: apply, demonstrate, calculate, illustrate, classify,
discover, solve, compare.

This involves pupils breaking down a problem and looking at it in different
ways. Pupils need to provide reasons and reach conclusions, using evidence

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

to support their argument, and need to have a strong awareness of how com-
ponent parts relate to one another.
Examples include:

1) Why do we call these animals mammals?

2) Give pupils two different graphs that offer similar information for
example, boys and girls heights in a box plot. Ask pupils to analyse the
information and come to conclusions.
3) Can you analyse the strategies used in the first and second round of the
4) Explain why, if we increase 80 by 25 per cent, we add the same amount as
we take off if we decrease the answer by 20 per cent.
5) What are some of the factors which cause rust?
6) Why did the UK declare war with Germany on 4 August 1914?
7) What elements of art did the artist use (line, shape, space, form, texture,
8) What is the function of regeneration projects?
Generic prompts: What are ? Why did ? Why do ? What if ?
Consider ? Discuss
Words used include: analyse, connect, arrange, compare, select, explain,
infer, order.

This is where pupils make connections, engage in creative thinking and justify
decisions through checking and critiquing. They present and defend opinions,
making judgements about the validity of information or quality of work based
on key criteria. These questions naturally elicit different responses. Examples

1) Which poem did you feel best represented the feeling of loss?
2) Which character do you like the best?
3) Imagine you could climb inside the painting. How do you feel?
4) Why do you think (insert name) is so famous?
5) List two fractions which lie between 1/3 and 1/2.
6) Which management choice is likely to have the most positive impact?

Assessment through questioning

Generic prompts: How would you ? Construct a ? Are everybodys results

the same ?
Words used include: prepare, generalise, create, plan, substitute, modify.

This is where pupils create a new or alternative solution by combining infor-
mation or elements in a different way. To accomplish creating tasks, learners
generate, plan and produce.
Examples include:

1) How would you assemble these items to create a windmill?

2) How would you complete the circuit?
3) Create two different sequences where the fourth term is 12 and write down
the general rule for both of them.
4) The answer contains Cl2; what was the question?
5) Put these words together to create a complete sentence.
6) How would your life be different if you could breathe underwater? How
would we need to be adapted?

Generic prompts: What would have happened if ? Pretend that Design a

Think of another way to
Words used include: assess, design, create, develop.

As discussed at the start of this chapter, research suggests that approximately

60 per cent of the questions asked are lower cognitive questions, 20 per cent are
higher cognitive questions, and 20 per cent are procedural (Cotton, 1988). To im-
prove the quality of learning in our classrooms, we need to improve the quality
of questions that we ask and that pupils themselves ask. This is not a quick fix.
While you can plan key questions to ask pupils, it is very difficult to plan for
the bounce back questions, as these depend upon the pupils response to a pre-
viously asked question. This is why I emphasise again the importance of your
wait time in responding. Give yourself the opportunity to synthesis the pupils re-
sponse, other pupils in the class the opportunity to think about that response and
you the opportunity to think carefully about a follow-up question, ensuring that
you draw on higher-order thinking. If you or pupils rush in response, this often
reverts to lower-level questions and lower-level thinking. In order to develop your
own questioning techniques, I recommend asking a colleague to observe you or,
alternatively, arranging to video the lesson, with a focus only on the questions you
ask and the questions that pupils ask. Think carefully about the types of questions
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

you ask, your response time, wait time, who you ask questions of and who asks
questions of you or others. Focus on the role that questioning has in assessing and
developing learning in your classroom.

think, pair, share

Think, pair, share is a cognitive rehearsal strategy and is a tool commonly used
in assessing learning. It involves self-, peer- and teacher assessment. Essen-
tially, pupils develop their answers individually before sharing collectively as
a class. In brief: you ask a question or give pupils a different scenario or prob-
lem; pupils then have a short period of time to think individually about the
question (perhaps one minute), they then form pairs and discuss, assess and
develop their responses (two minutes or so) and then share collectively as a
class (this is where listening to responses and asking probing questions which
promote thinking is essential to further learning). Assessment in the pair
stage is typically through pupils developing a learning dialogue where they act
as each others critical friend to improve their initial responses (formed during
the think stage); they ask questions of each other (it is important that, as you
develop questioning in your classroom, you encourage pupils to develop their
higher-order questioning skills; pupils need to understand what constitutes a
good question). Indeed, if you want to make the assessment explicit, encour-
age pupils to note jointly two points that were positive about their individual
work and then two points for improvement (which they develop as a pair).
Each pair can then be encouraged to write down a question which they need
further support with. You can extend this by joining two pairs together to form
a group of four to discuss each others solution and try to work as a team to
answer the questions raised. Your involvement here is through listening, mak-
ing the occasional comment or questioning to make pupils think or put them
on the right track. During the whole-class discussion, you make an assessment
based upon the quality of pupil feedback, driving learning through listening
carefully to the points raised and forming appropriate questions or statements
for pupils to think about or, indeed, collectively reviewing work as a class.
Think, pair, share provides an alternative to an initial questioning session.
Instead of a teacher-led question and answer session, pupils become more au-
tonomous. This naturally leads to us gaining a better understanding of pupils
grasp of the subject matter by listening to their thinking and listening to the
questions they ask each other. This gives us far more information than if we
simply seek the correct answer through question and answer sessions. Step
away from the necessity to get the correct answer from students as affirmation
of understanding and move towards more cognitive strategies (of which there
Assessment through questioning

are many more although, in reality all very similar), which provide you with
the opportunity to hear whether pupils have really understood or whether
they are able to simply recite a correct answer.

probing questions to develop a concept

I use an example from mathematics here to demonstrate developing learning
through questioning (the examples are taken from Bartlett, 2014). Focus on the
technique rather than the subject matter, as this can be easily applied to other
subjects. I use two examples: trial and improvement and standard form.

Trial and improvement and standard form

Pupils are asked to find the value of x for the equation: x2 + x + 1 = 17
What happens naturally (ask any mathematics teacher) is that pupils work
frantically on their calculators, trying to find the value for x, and you will most
likely have 30 different answers. The obvious next step is to ask pupils how
they arrived at these answers (the underlying technique being trial and error!)
because it is the how that makes them think about thinking (metacognition).
Unpicking the how and why leads pupils to really understanding the process
of trial and improvement rather than simply being told this is how we do
it. This learning dialogue can develop further to asking pupils whether there
is a more systematic approach we can take. Naturally, pupils will tell you that
x lies between 3 and 4 because they tried other numbers. Yet, very often, teach-
ers will tell pupils the method rather than developing an understanding by un-
picking the process underlying the initial frantic attempts to find the answer.
When you ask pupils the value of x2 + x + 1 when x = 3 and x = 4, you will
get responses of when x is 3 the answer is less than 17 and when x is 4 the
answer is more than 17, which enables pupils to relate to the fact that x = 3
is too small and x = 4 is too big. The obvious question is What do we try next
if we are going to be systematic? Is one value a more sensible choice than
another? Pupils need time to discuss this with each other (of course, in reality
it doesnt really matter as we simply narrow each time). They will inevitably
find that x lies between 3.5 and 3.6. The most important point, next, is visuali-
sation for pupils, when they are asked to give x to one decimal place. Many
struggle more with this. A way forward is to ask pupils to draw a number line
and think carefully about linking to rounding, as illustrated in Figure 6.1. It is
the pupils who must then make the connection, rather than being told it.
Pupils are then asked which number they need to try next to determine the val-
ue of x to one decimal place. Pupils then try 3.55. As they do this, they determine

Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Round Round

. to 3.5
.... to 3.6

3.5 3 .6
Too small Too big

Figure 6.1 Finding the value of x to one decimal place (Bartlett, 2014).

that a value of 3.55 means x is too big (giving a value of 17.15) and, therefore, x
must lie in between 3.5 and 3.55, meaning that to one decimal place x = 3.5 (1 dp).
Pupils have worked through the problem without being told the method.
They now need thinking time to synthesise the process; this can be done
through discussion or a think, pair, share question. What teachers must not
do is assume that pupils now understand it, moving immediately to a set of
ten questions which are then marked (ticked and crossed). Doing this rushes
learning and all pupils focus on is completing the questions as quickly as they
can rather than the thinking; indeed, the concept may not yet be secure. There-
fore, a single question they work through in any way mentioned above, which
is then discussed (this is very important), embeds learning. You can move on
to an activity which demonstrates that pupils can do, but, remember, if they
can do five, they can do ten.
Another example is given below through standard form. This is, typically, a
taught process in mathematics and I have chosen it here for that very reason.
In other words, pupils are told how to write numbers in standard form. In
doing so, they then follow a recipe and, most likely, never really understand
what standard form actually means. A simple alternative to begin the thinking
process is to make the following statement:

The following numbers are written in what is known as standard form. What
do you notice?
823 = 8.23 x 102
5273 = 5.273 x 103
51 = 5.1 x 101
0.00643 = 6.43 x 103
0.43 = 4.3 x 101

You will get lots of different discussion points from this exercise and, of course,
this is what you want. You want the misconceptions as much as any correct
observations because this allows you to make an assessment of whether pupils
have really understood what numbers written in standard form mean; you can
ask pupils to think about any incorrect points raised. Pupils generally notice
Assessment through questioning

that each number is written as a number between one and ten, multiplied by
a power of ten. This can be developed further without teacher input by asking
pupils to write some numbers in standard form, based on the discussion. Ask
pupils when standard form might be a useful form of notation that is, for very
large or small numbers (e.g. link with science and diameter of planets etc.). This
can lead to problems using standard form. Note, again, that we are developing
pupils thinking skills through questioning and not simply stating the rules of
standard form; it is the opportunity to think and the subsequent discussions that
lead to an assessment of understanding (far more than pupils being told how to
write numbers in standard form and then completing ten questions all this
tells you is that they can follow a recipe; you dont get the valuable insight into
their thought process that you do from discussion based on the ideas above).
Rather than a simple worksheet which asks pupils to write numbers in standard
form, devise a series of questions which contain a mix of numbers written cor-
rectly and incorrectly and ask pupils to determine which these are. This focuses
them on the why and the why not and, again, uses higher-order thinking skills
rather than following a set of instructions on writing a series of numbers in
standard form (which can become parrot-fashion learning).

teacher input
The purpose of questioning is to challenge learning and to encourage pupils
to think, supporting them to make natural connections in their learning. As a
teacher, you do not want to intervene too early as allowing the discussion to
evolve and listening carefully to the learning dialogue will provide an ideal
assessment opportunity.
There are key points when a teacher or facilitator does need to intervene:

When pupils need subject-specific notation or words.

During consolidation to offer alternative methods or to highlight key
When pupils need guidance. This can be where the lesson is pulled back,
following ongoing assessment.

When and how a teacher intervenes remains a controversial topic. Some

research suggests that pupils in countries where teachers talk more during
lessons actually perform better than those in countries where they talk less
(Wiliam, 2011). I argue that it is the quality of the teacher input that is the key
factor in pupil performance. Of course, with any studies that involve live sub-
jects it is difficult to make such generalisations as so many variables come into
play, so we must consider this when reviewing research.
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Questioning is one of the most common forms of assessment used in our classrooms,
yet the quality of those questions remains lower order; in order to develop learners
we must focus on moving to higher-order cognitive questions. Ask a colleague (it can
be cross-curricular) to observe your lesson and to focus only on the use of questioning
in your classroom. Note:

How often you tell pupils something (keep in mind how you might have turned
this into a question to draw learning from pupils).
How often you ask questions and how often pupils ask questions of you (do a tally).
How many of these questions are open or closed.
The cognitive level of the questions (are they lower or higher order?).
Do you adopt a hands down policy and how is this managed? How do you select
the pupils who will answer?
Who you ask (draw a rough plan of the room and each time a pupil answers a
question or is asked a question, mark with a cross, this will allow you to see the
distribution of questioning i.e. whether a) you always ask the same few; b) the
same pupils offer solutions; c) you ask all pupils at some point during the lesson.
You may be surprised with the results of the observation!).
What is the wait time after asking a question?
What is your response time?
What is the impact of questioning on learning?
Once you have completed the observation, discuss openly with your colleague and
think about how you would have changed things develop your questioning together
and set yourself targets. Video your lesson (ensure this is allowed within your school
policy) at some point to see whether you have made progress towards your targets.
This is a very powerful tool. You can watch the lesson back with someone and re-
ally note questioning behaviours, patterns and pupil responses. The next phase is to
try to conduct a lesson where you only ask questions and draw the learning through
questioning that is, you dont tell pupils anything. Video this lesson and focus on
the behaviours of the learners. If you dont have a high level of independent learning
in your classroom, pupils will struggle with this if you normally teach and they
do. Persevere because the outcome is, ultimately, worth it. Next is to try to ensure
a fine balance between your facilitation of learning with questioning and your input
as a teacher. This is where you will develop outstanding learning in your classroom.
I would also encourage you to observe a colleagues lesson and focus only on ques-
tioning use the questions above as a guide.
When you plan your next lesson:

Think about the type of questions you ask in your lesson.

Develop the vocabulary associated with higher-order thinking.

Assessment through questioning

If you are about to tell pupils something, stop and turn this into a question
where pupils have to think.
Promote a safe learning environment where mistakes are valued as part of the
learning process and where pupils are confident to answer questions and to ask
questions of you, themselves and their peers.

It is not that Im so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.
Albert Einstein

ChApter 7

Marking and feedback

As teachers, we make continual assessments, whether explicitly or not.

These may be through observation, listening, discussions, learning dialogue or
formal review. The outcomes govern our feedback and we know that outstand-
ing teachers use assessment as a powerful tool to drive learning and to check
pupil progress. Feedback forms a significant part of the assessment for learning
agenda in any school and is defined as the regular dialogue (both verbal and
written) between teacher and pupil to support and guide learning, enabling
pupils to recognise their strengths, areas for development and to identify the
next steps in their learning. Feedback can occur at any point and it should pro-
vide pupils with the opportunity to improve their knowledge, understanding
and skills. It should:

focus on the activity and support pupils in assessing their own learning
against criteria;
offer the opportunity for development;
be constructive and timely;
relate to the learning outcomes and success criteria;
inform future planning.

In this chapter, we discuss different elements of the feedback process that are
used to support pupil progress, along with self- and peer-assessment, focus-
ing on how to develop pupils skills as assessors of learning (more commonly
known as assessment as learning).

Assessment criteria
Before we delve further, we must address the critical questions underlying any
assessment (whether in education or not): what are we assessing and what are
we assessing against? When teachers make an assessment or when pupils use
self- or peer-assessment, there has to be an understanding of precisely what we
Marking and feedback

are assessing (and for what purpose) and the criteria against which the assess-
ment is made. If this is not clearly understood, how can we make an assessment?
Of course, the quality of these criteria determines the quality of assessment.
One without the other is ineffective. What pupils are working to achieve, how
and why has to be communicated. It is, therefore, important to address some
or all of the following questions:

Do pupils (or you) know what they (you) are assessing?

Are pupils (you) aware of the purpose of the assessment?
How robust are your learning outcomes?
How accurate are any grades linked to the respective outcomes?
Are pupils involved in assessing their own learning or the learning of their
Do they measure success against specific criteria and do they understand
these criteria?
Are learning outcomes contextualised through success criteria?
Does self- or peer-assessment have an impact on learning in your classroom?
Are pupils aware of how to take the next steps in their learning?
How do you review or mark work?
Do you use comment-only marking?
Do you attach a grade (attainment and/or effort)?
Do pupils read what you write when you assess work or is it just some-
thing you do in line with school policy?
What does the school marking policy mean to you?
What does the school marking policy mean to pupils?
What does the school marking policy mean to parents?
How do you know that marking has an impact in your classroom and on
pupil progress?

When schools use summative assessments (typically at the end of a topic or

school term/academic year), progress is measured relative to each individual
pupils target grade and pupils are issued with a single performance indica-
tor (grade or score), each with associated assessment criteria. Whether you
agree with targets or not, they are used in most schools and it is important
that pupils have an understanding of how the work they have covered ena-
bles them to make progress towards achieving or exceeding this grade. There-
fore, it is essential that summative assessments not only provide a measure
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

of progress, but also empower pupils to develop their skills as learners. Time
should be spent allowing pupils to assess their own progress against the assess-
ment criteria; however, very often, following an end of term assessment, for
example, pupils are either simply given the quantitative score (and/or grade)
or we spend a lesson going over the paper but not really doing this effectively
(therefore limiting its impact on learning). The following questions should be
considered as a faculty or department:
Have you accurately moderated summative assessments to ensure secure
measures of progress?
Are the outcomes of these assessments used as a measure of progress
towards a target grade?
Are the grade criteria communicated with all stakeholders?
What do you do with information obtained from assessments?
What involvement do pupils have in assessing progress based on these
Are they involved in analysing questions where they require further
Do they have the opportunity to highlight areas of weakness/strength
(beyond colour coding with red to indicate that they got something wrong,
and therefore must not understand the subject, or green, indicating that
they got it correct and therefore must have a good understanding)?
Are they able to work collaboratively to develop?
Are pupils given the opportunity (time during lessons) to work
together (or independently) to correct their errors/misconceptions?
How are the assessments used to support future planning?
How are the assessments used in developing pupil study plans?
To whom is any information communicated and by what means?

All of these questions need to be addressed by you as a teacher, as a depart-

ment and, collectively, as a school. Remember, it is not carrying out any form
of assessment that drives learning but what you do with it and the involve-
ment pupils have in shaping their own learning pathways. Have pupils
gained anything from the assessment that informs them in their future learn-
ing or does it just tell them and you what they/you already know? (By this
Imean, for example, George can rearrange formulae but struggles with spatial
awareness which you and he knew already.) We know that both summa-
tive and formative assessment play a key role in developing learning, but it is
important to remember that for anything to be successful it has to be valued by
Marking and feedback

all parties and, in the case of assessment for learning, certainly by the teacher,
pupil and parent. For any whole-school assessment for learning policy to
have an impact on learning (beyond being something in place because it dem-
onstrates to any school inspector that you do assessment for learning in your
school) it must be workable and the workability needs to be assessed by teach-
ing staff (not just by senior leaders who perhaps teach only a few hours a week),
otherwise it becomes something that is rushed and done rather than some-
thing that is integral to pupil progress. Workability is essential and schools
should not be concerned with deviating from what they perceive as stipulated
assessment practices. If assessment for learning is going to be used to its full
potential, teaching staff must be able to implement it with ease and confidence
in their daily routine. It should not become a tiresome, time-consuming, bolt-
on activity because then it simply loses its power and the quality of feedback
diminishes. It is far too important to allow that it is an intrinsic part of the
learning process.

Learning outcomes and success criteria

Learning outcomes, in one form or another, are common in schools and all
teachers will be aware of their prominence in education (albeit often under
different names). They are typically displayed at the beginning of the lesson,
but the quality of learning outcomes varies, in part owing to a lack of under-
standing of what constitutes a good learning outcome; it is worth noting that
there is often great in-house variability. Learning outcomes should summarise
the purpose of the lesson and success criteria should dissect these outcomes
into a series of achievable chunks. Success criteria support pupils in assess-
ing their own progress towards meeting the learning outcomes. Essentially,
they become a check list (but be careful they dont tell pupils how to do some-
thing; ensure that you dont issue success criteria with too much information
if you choose to give them out at the start of the lesson!) that pupils use during
the learning process itself to support them, both in assessing their learning
and in identifying their next steps. Some teachers choose to grade success
criteria; however, as discussed earlier in this book, be cautious: pupils who
are in the lower grade bracket can often be demotivated by grades and those
in the higher bracket can sometimes feel they provide a false safety blanket.
It is progression in learning that pupils need to think about, not necessarily the
grades themselves (because these are, in many cases, meaningless when asso-
ciated with single, isolated criteria or learning outcomes). The success criteria
allow for differentiation in learning. They may develop the learning outcome
to greater depths or in different directions (the learning outcome should be for
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

all pupils, otherwise there is the potential to limit progress). Remember, we

must not allow learning outcomes or success criteria to apply a glass ceiling to
any pupil in our classroom. I would very much avoid the all, most, some that
some schools adopt; typically, this can mean that it is the same pupils who
achieve only the all and that these pupils never access the some material.
Whichever way you look at it, this limits progress because we reduce acces-
sibility (some pupils will, naturally, not attempt or even be given access to the
some work because it is perceived as too hard for them or they think they
do not fall into that category). It is much better to use the progression ladder
(or however you choose to phrase it) and allow natural progression within
different topics to a pupils own ability, based on performance at that point in
time, rather than pre-assigning pupils to categories.
Examples of learning outcomes and success criteria are given in Chapter 3,
where we also discuss writing learning outcomes as learning intentions, with
the context made explicit. Whether we take this approach or not, it is the
assessment criteria or success criteria that pupils use to gauge their progress
in learning.

Verbal feedback
When pupils are completing an activity, how you interact with them on an
individual or group basis is important (whole-class interaction has been dis-
cussed previously). This is where you make an assessment through discussion
and observation during the development phase and use this to inform and
guide learning. Circulating around the classroom and intervening when appro-
priate is an important aspect of facilitating learning. Teachers often worry too
much about group work. I am often asked Which group should I go to first?;
teachers are anxious to get it right, particularly during an observation. There
are many trains of thought on this. Some say to start with the more able and
ensure they are heading in the right direction (assuming they will then sup-
port their own learning independently) and then move to the less able as you
may need to spend more time here. My argument is that you are a professional
and you know your class best, and you may, of course, group by mixed abil-
ity. If pupils are beginning an activity and you know the weaker pupils in
your classroom may need some further guidance, then target them first and
ensure they are confident and can access the appropriate skills. Perhaps more
important, and a key skill here, is to ask the right questions to enable you to
further challenge learning, make pupils think (perhaps outside of the box) and
to support you in making an informal assessment. These probing questions
provide you with a wealth of information and, as other pupils are engaged in
Marking and feedback

the activity while you discuss with an individual or small group, you can often
have more informative discussions than when using questioning to develop
whole-class learning. This is simply because some pupils will be more cau-
tious when discussions are in front of their peers as a class and seek your
reassurance before they will contribute fully (they, perhaps, dont want to be
seen to get it wrong in front of their peers). In one-to-one discussions you can
offer this reassurance and then later ask them to contribute any ideas to the
whole-class discussion where they are confident of their contribution. You can
direct challenging questions appropriately to further develop their learning.
The important point (with all of this) is that you are the professional and there
is no right or wrong answer (otherwise we would all teach the same which
would be terribly boring for pupils) it has to be judged on the day, in your
classroom, by you, in your learning environment, with your pupils and it isnt
something that can really be planned.
So what does the verbal feedback during this type of activity look like? The
majority of verbal feedback to pupils during this interactive phase is through
questioning to develop learning or through dropping in an occasional state-
ment or additional piece of information or food for thought; a fundamen-
tal part of best practice is not to intervene too early. Sometimes groups need
time to work together and if we jump too soon they lose basic gains. In oth-
er words, they have little time to think for themselves. One of the important
aspects to developing confident learners is to use praise. Even if pupils are
going down the wrong path, use praise to redirect: Thats a good thought, but
have you considered This prevents pupils from feeling like failures (which
only serves to lower self-esteem and to disengage with learning). Avoid simply
telling pupils they are not right or well done thats right: it is the two-
way dialogue in both situations that allows you to assess whether pupils have
understood key concepts. Equally important is to pick up on any misconcep-
tions and to take the time to work through these with pupils. This means en-
tering into discussions which support pupils in unpicking the error rather than
telling them how to do something correctly. Teachers are sometimes guilty of
showing pupils how to do something rather than getting pupils to think for
themselves with guided support; if you are honest, this is often because of lim-
iting factors such as time and class size. When you do interact with a group,
join the group or pupils on their level and physically sit with them (this makes
a difference to someone standing pupils naturally become tenser and more
cautious when a teacher stands over them).
Listening is one of the most informative skills and any interesting points
should be noted and used during whole-class discussion. Even if you simply say,
Darren, I heard you make an interesting point do you want to elaborate on that
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

for us? You may not have had any discussion with Darren about this, but simply
heard him make the point and made a mental note to use this during whole-
class feedback (this also serves to remind pupils that you are listening to them
working i.e. they cant go off-task). Another example is the situation where you
noticed an error which a group then worked through (whether independently or
with guided input from you) and you may want them to present this to the class.
I recommend assigning a spokesperson to each group and then, if necessary, se-
lecting others to contribute. Alternatively, you may have pulled the class together
early because, during this assessment phase, you have observed that the majority
have the same misconception; this can then be worked through as a whole-class
discussion. The important point is that, as you circulate, you assess learning and
note any key aspects for discussion that will further challenge or embed.

target setting
We need to think carefully about our use of target grades, how we arrive at
them, what they really mean and how we communicate them. My own belief
is that we have now evolved beyond the single target grade issued to pupils
at the start of an educational phase and that we have to question the purpose
of a single grade estimate in terms of pupil learning. Remember that many
schools form target grades on the basis of information from a mathematical
algorithm which generates forward estimates (often five years ahead) based on
a pupils attainment in a test at a given age, used along with other factors such
as month of birth, gender and socioeconomic parameters. When such mod-
els were developed, I genuinely dont think the originators ever really had in
mind that the data they generated would be used so literally in schools. Should
we really be giving pupils a ceiling? Should we not want them to aim high?
We must ask ourselves whether, as professionals, we feel confident in assign-
ing a pupil to a target grade (assigned typically at age eleven or fourteen to pre-
dict performance at age sixteen) which, at these early ages, then affects their
future path? We know, as professionals, that things can change and schools
need to be much more flexible in how they approach this much debated topic,
certainly looking to involve teachers in the process much more than they cur-
rently do (after all, it is the class teachers that spend the time with the pupils,
observing their learning). Nevertheless, remember that target grades were
never meant to be used as rigidly as they often are and we must always bear in
mind that they suggest a minimum estimate of pupil performance.
Consider the following scenario: you are a pupil with a target grade of
E in a given subject. How do you feel? Most likely you feel labelled as a failure;
the pupil who isnt predicted the grade C they would need for college or
Marking and feedback

further education (taking grade C as the benchmark for college entry). The one
who isnt expected to achieve. The word expected is important here because,
whether we like it or not, the data is causing us to have low expectations per-
haps before we have even taught the pupil; when we impose the target on the
pupil we subconsciously affect their own expectations. So, if you have a low
target grade, how do you behave in lessons? Do you engage with the learning?
Do you put more effort into other subjects where there is potential that you
will pass? Do you give up before you have begun? Of course, each pupil is an
individual and will react differently, but how do you think you would react?
Now think of a set of pupils who have these lower target grades? How do they
feel about their target grades? Have you ever asked them? Do they really un-
derstand what it means? I really encourage you to think carefully about all of
these points (and there are, of course, many more) when setting pupils target
grades. Please remember it is very important that we dont demotivate from the
outset and, as practitioners, we should reflect more on the impact target grades
have on the individual pupil and their attitude to learning.
So is there an alternative? Well, I believe that there is and I discuss this in
Chapter 8: the use of grade distributions (in our culture of target-setting this
offers a better alternative). They come from the same mathematical model that
provides us with a single estimate for a target grade but they are much more
powerful. Yes, they give us the most likely grade (based on prior performance
and, typically, an estimate for the target grade) for example, a grade D but
they also look at the probabilities (based on previous national performance data
for similar circumstances) of achieving all grades and, therefore, provide us
with a grade distribution; there is a possibility of achieving a range of grades
(all with different probabilities associated, based on the prior performance of
similar pupils). This is the information that should be shared with pupils,
demonstrating to them that, based on prior performance, x% of similar pupils
achieved a grade C, for example. Their target could then be set as a grade range
from, say, D to B. Explain to them that while their most likely grade may be a
D, if they work really hard they could get a C or a B (or if they dont put effort
in a grade lower than D). This doesnt label pupils as a failure from the outset
and it changes their (and your) mind-set. They can see clearly that there is the
possibility of achieving a higher grade, which raises their expectations, your
expectations and potentially changes their attitude to learning by giving them
the possibility of success (acting as an intrinsic motivator).
A question commonly asked is: if you use a range of grades, how do you
monitor pupil performance? The answer is that most management systems
(because we do not use sophisticated algorithms in our school tracking sys-
tems) do require a single grade to measure relative performance, as discussed in
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Chapter 8. Simply use the most likely grade in your data management systems
to which you can then compare performance. For example, a pupil who has a
most likely grade of D (but a range of probabilities associated with all grades)
performs to a C in an examination. They would then be highlighted (perhaps
green in a colour-coded system) as performing a full grade above their most like-
ly grade (indicated, perhaps, as +1). Your data management system can then be
used to monitor performance from one data input to the next, noting improve-
ment (pupil progress). On their grade range, pupils can then colour grade C and
this shows them that they are moving to the upper end of their grade spectrum.
In your management information system, I would advise using numerical
values such as 2, 1, 0, +1, +2 to indicate performance relative to the most
likely grade (two grades below, one grade below etc.), combined with colour
coding to reflect performance relative to the previous data input. This allows
stakeholders to see all of the information from a single data entry. Numerical
scores indicate where pupils are in relation to their target grade and colour
coding indicate how they have performed relative to the previous assessment.
An example is shown in Figure 7.1 (Bartlett, 2014).

In this table we can see that whilst pupil 1 is on target at assessment point3
(AP3) i.e. an indicator of 0, they have actually underperformed relative to the
previous assessment (hence the colour indicator of red). The colour coding
allows for tracking by progression (red: underperformed relative to previous
assessment; blue: remained the same as previous assessment; green: improved
on the previous assessment) and the numerical entry allows summative
performance relative to the target grade (1: one grade above target; 0: on target;
1: one grade above target etc.). This system of tracking therefore provides two
types of assessment. (Bartlett, 2014)

As discussed previously, it is important to review target grades at regular

points and to ensure that they do not remain fixed from, for example, the age of
eleven to sixteen. People change and circumstances change. The target grades
are based on statistical data from similar cohorts, based on prior attainment.
There are always exceptions to any rule; never forget that many pupils can
suddenly just make the connection and get it. Pupils are individuals and
no mathematical model can account for individuality, only generalise and

Target grade AP I AP2 AP3

Pupil 1 D 1 1
Pupil 2 B 0 -1 1
Pupil 3 A 0 0 -1

Figure 7.1 An example of a tracking grid.

Source: Bartlett, 2014.
Marking and feedback

hypothesise. My advice is to use data generated from external sources, com-

bined with the many other factors and pieces of information that are available
to you as a professional (and never underestimate the professional contribu-
tion). One final, but worthy note. Have you discussed what target grades really
mean with each pupil? Have they been involved in the process and do they
understand the process? Or is it simply a grade on a page, there to be refer-
enced if someone asks? Do their parents or guardians understand what a target
grade means? Communication to avoid miscommunication is such an impor-
tant part of the assessment process. Remember the influence parents have on
their children and remember that times have changed significantly since many
parents attended school. Therefore, it is our responsibility to provide them
with the necessary information to support them and their children.

the quality of assessments

We know that any tracking system is only as good as the quality of data that
it uses. The quality of the output is wholly dependent on the quality of the
input. If the assessments you use are not accurately moderated, the informa-
tion obtained from them will have no value. We have to invest time in mod-
erating the quality and accuracy of assessment (both the activity itself and the
subsequent marking). There can be great in-house variation in the quality of
marking, so it is important to moderate this to ensure consistency across a year
group and cohort, allowing you to make meaningful comparisons.
The quality of the assessment is critical. Do grade boundaries accurately
equate to the external national assessment grading? Put bluntly: if a pupil con-
tinually achieves a grade C in in-house assessments, is that suggestive of perfor-
mance at a grade C in external examinations? Does history in your department
tell you that your moderation and predictions are accurate? Have you looked
at your predictions, in-house assessment results and external examination
results over a five-year period? Have you identified any training needs? Have
you been given the opportunity (time) to act upon these? Moderation, as a de-
partment, is important and, if you have the opportunity, invite experts in to
support this process. There are lots of resources out there, such as exam banks,
which offer graded material; it is worth spending time, as a department, re-
viewing the pre-assigned grades and ensuring that you have an understanding
of why questions are at a specific level. In addition, past graduated or modular
assessment examinations offer graded questions and, although they may no
longer be used, they are a useful resource. The type of assessment you choose
to use, as a department, is important, but it is the quality of that assessment that
will support pupil progress and future planning.
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Additional food for thought is whether the internal assessments you use
support different learning styles and, thus, allow all pupils the opportunity
to demonstrate their best ability. For example, are all of your assessments
written? Do you assess activities, such as podcasts or video links? Do you
openly discuss this as a department? Look at the assessment points during
your academic year and discuss, as a department, whether they cover a range
of learning styles and promote a culture of success (of course, pupils need to
be fully prepared for the style of final external assessment, so I do not wish
to detract from that process, but do feel that we should design assessments to
allow all pupils access to success, exposing them to a variety of learning and
assessment mediums).

Marking and feedback

If I say the word marking, how do you feel? For many teachers it brings an
emotional response, a sinking feeling and, nine times out of ten, when I ask
this question (and I am being honest here) I inevitably hear I hate it, worst part
of the job.
Now think about the following questions:

How often do you mark pupils work?

How confident are you that the pupils read what you have written or
review any comments you have made?
Do you feel pressured to mark every piece of work in a pupils book?
Has marking simply become a habit because of a whole-school marking
policy, written, often, by those who rarely teach and, therefore, have no
(oronly a few) books to mark (!)?
Is your marking worthwhile?
Does your marking impact on pupil progress?
If you asked pupils in your class tomorrow what they thought of the marking
process, what would they say? (Ask them!)
Ask pupils to tell you what the most recently piece of marked work said
and how it supported them in developing their learning. (This will give
you honest feedback if they can only base their response on how many
they got right then the marking has had little learning impact.)
Ask them what marking means to them?

Too often, we rely on marking trawls conducted by senior leaders, who pick
up a few books and review marking in line with school policy. I wonder how
Marking and feedback

many school leaders have then asked the respective pupil the impact it has
had on their learning and progress and, of course, why (really focusing on the
true value to the learning process). We have to recognise that, at times, it is
very important to get feedback from pupils (and not just the tick box sheet of
replies following a brief meeting because an inspector is due to visit); this is
one of those times (discussions with staff are obviously also valuable and must
not be side-lined). This is because if the marking is having no impact on learn-
ing and does not support pupils in taking next steps, then there is little point
to it and it is (in all honesty) a waste of time. If they gain no more from it than
they do from a series of ticks and crosses, then it is time to address marking
within your school. Moreover, it is very important to compare ongoing feed-
back as you develop a real culture of interactive marking.
I now ask another question because we talk a lot about examining your
books, but when was the last time you had a look at another teachers books
(and not only in your subject)? Teachers are often quite protective (top secret
even) about their books (marking); often this is because we feel very judged
by how we mark (and whether we are up to date with our marking). It is very
interesting when we take that pressure off and look, in a non-judgemental way,
at how others mark their books on a day-to-day. For many, this offers relief
(that they are not in it alone). Sharing practice and ideas is often the best way
to develop your own practice and that of your department and school, but
you must be prepared to be open and honest about your own and the work
of others and in a lot of schools that means a change in mind-set. Developing
feedback strategies collaboratively is important because we must not forget
that marking commands a significant amount of a teachers time and it has to
be workable. Lets be blunt; it is a waste of time if it doesnt have any impact
on the pupil learning process. In this section, we look at how, by marking
less, you can potentially have a greater impact. Quality marking over quantity.
Letus consider a few key features of marking.

Should work be graded?

There is great debate surrounding the grading of work and we have previ-
ously discussed grading work in this book. If we grade individual pieces of
work we should be cautious. Why? Well, consider in mathematics the topic of
surds (simplifying surds: grade A). If a pupil gets most of the work incorrect,
does this make them a grade B? No, it does not. Therefore, be cautious if you
grade individual pieces of work as grading, by its nature, is there as a guide
and a general indicator as a measure of ability over a range of different topics.
Research suggests that pupils do not benefit from grades and marks on their
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

work (Black et al., 2003) and that, when grades and comments are given, the
positive effects of the comment are diminished by the grade. Several research
studies have been conducted to examine these effects and, indeed, a study by
Ruth Butler (1988) demonstrated that if staff provided diagnostic comments
and a grade then they may as well have just written the grade and saved time
as the impact on the cohort of pupils given both the grade and comment was
the same as those given the grade. Yet those provided with comment-only
marking performed, in the next lesson, on average 30 per cent higher than in
the first lesson. Of the pupils given scores, those with a low score did not wish
to continue with the work in the next lesson and those with a high score did,
which if you think about your own classroom probably aptly summarises
what we see on a daily basis. This all points to comment-only marking; how-
ever, I recognise that a lot of schools still insist on a grade as well.
An alternative solution is to indicate performance relative to learning
outcomes or success criteria through the use of above, on or below target
indicators, using, for example, T+, T, T. This removes the potential issue sur-
rounding the use of grades for individual pieces of work and supports marking
for progress. Subject-specific targets can then be issued to pupils.
Remember, if you do lean towards comment-only marking this will be very
different to the experience of pupils parents during their time in education.
They will most likely have been very used to seeing a grade or score and,
therefore, this will form the basis of their expectations when you mark their
childs work. If they dont see that, they will most likely ask why or criticise
the marking policy as it does not provide them with a proper indication of
how well their child is doing. Therefore, communicating to parents your as-
sessment for learning policy, along with the why, is extremely important as
their opinions will naturally shape their childs.

What do you write?

Some suggest that writing positive comments has little impact beyond mak-
ing pupils feel happy and that there is no value in adding them to a piece of
work - even that the pupils only focus on this to see how well they have done
rather than on the learning comments alongside. Personally, I believe the use
of praise or positive feedback enhances teacherpupil relations and, while
I recognise that it most likely has no impact on pupil progress (learning value),
in my experience pupils who receive praise tend to feel a sense of encour-
agement which motivates, so I do think that it has a positive impact in my
classroom. Whether you include praise or not, it should always be alongside a
meaningful comment. Indeed, we must get feedback right. If we get it wrong,
Marking and feedback

we demotivate, but if we get it right, pupils engage with the feedback and we
see changing attitudes to learning. Feedback needs to be forward-looking in
other words, it should help the pupil to recognise what they need to do to move
forwards in their learning rather than be backward looking and focus only on
what they didnt do (which is not overly helpful and certainly doesnt moti-
vate). Look closely at written feedback you have given to pupils. If it doesnt
support pupils in improving their performance, it is not formative. For exam-
ple, if a mathematics teacher wrote in a pupils book Use FOIL to help you
and you asked the pupil whether this feedback was helpful, they would most
likely say No, because if I knew how to use FOIL in the first place then I would
have done. So think carefully about your comments: can the pupil use them to
improve or are they simply accurate descriptions of the work?
Some examples are given in Figures 7.2a, 7.2b and 7.2c on the following pages.
These are only example extracts and you could apply different marking
techniques, in many ways. The technique illustrated in the examples corrects
the error and then asks pupils to complete a few quick-fire questions to rein-
force. However, to develop thinking further, an alternative to Figure 7.2a, for
example, where the error on collecting like terms is corrected, is to focus on
the fact the mistake involved directed number work and to guide the pupil
with a few simple questions such as: Think about directed number work and
use this to support you. What is 8 + 3? Now try:
1) 7 + 4
2) 12 7
3) 3y + 10y
4) 5b 7b

Obviously, we could also have stated facts such as 11 + 2 = 9 or put a sketch

of a number line to support learning (what you do here depends on the learner,
which comes from your professional judgement you know the pupils and,
from assessment for learning during the lesson, you will know the level of sup-
port they might need). The important point is to emphasise a question I am
commonly asked: But how do I mark? I just want to get it right. (But get it
right for whom, I often ask if it is solely for an inspector and what they want
to see, then we are on the wrong track, but if it is about the learner, then we are
heading in the right direction.) As with everything that involves learning and
the classroom, there is no fixed prescribed method and certainly no one size
fits all approach (which is why whole-school marking policies need to be care-
ful not to be too rigid sometimes less is more); there are lots of alternatives.
The point is that when errors have occurred or, indeed, where pupils have got
everything correct, we challenge learning further and encourage pupils to think
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Figure 7.2a An example of marked work.

independently and, most importantly, we make sure that pupils have an under-
standing of any misconceptions (confirmed through active marking discussed
below) or whether further teacher input is needed. What is important is that
what we write relates directly to the pupils whose work we are marking. Far too
often, teachers write generic comments, often because they cant think of what
to write; they feel forced to write something in case their books get checked,
they focus too heavily on writing the correct thing (in line with whole-school
Marking and feedback

Figure 7.2b An example of marked work.

policy) and, because they themselves are under so much pressure to mark and
to mark such large volumes of work, the quality of marking suffers because they
simply dont have the time to think carefully about the impact of what they
are writing on the progress of the pupil. This is why marking less, but smartly,
improves the quality and, ultimately, the impact on learning.
Comments are an integral part of the learning process and for them to be
successful they should be part of dialogue between teacher and pupil. Pupils
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Figure 7.2c An example of marked work.

should be encouraged to read the comments and to reply to them, acknowl-

edging that they have read them and being free to reply. This type of two-way
marking process, however, needs careful use for it to have any impact and
pupils need training in how to respond or how to use the comments (it is,
after all, a new skill). There is little point in pupils reading comments and
then signing to say that they have read them as this has no impact on learn-
ing. In the next section, we discuss what I refer to as active marking. This is
Marking and feedback

something I have developed over the years and I have found to be an extremely
powerful technique.

Active marking
I refer to the style of marking discussed here as active marking. Why? Because
it is an interactive marking process that involves both teacher and learner,
which can be used to support progress at all stages and is dynamic rather than
static in nature, encouraging continuance of the learning process. Before we
start, I ask you to turn to your current mark-book. Select a topic and three pupils
at random. Does your mark-book provide you with information beyond RAG-
rated progress or numerical scores? Does it tell you specific areas of weakness
or strength? Does it allow you to highlight areas for development? It is most
likely that the information available to you from this source is quantitative
(and, if you are looking at this some months later, you will not remember the
specifics for any one individual, which means the mark-book has little benefit
or future impact on learning and, therefore, its role in assessment for learning is
limited). In this section, we discuss an alternative to this style of marking that
does impact on learning, allows the teacher to refer at any point to specific
areas for development for individual pupils each time work is marked and is
an ongoing dynamic process. Essentially, I use post-it notes. I add a post-it note
to each pupils book, as necessary, when I mark at the end of a unit of work or
topic, using different colours for different reasons. I use yellow post-it notes
when a pupil has made lots of errors and I set them a challenge to work on.
I use pink post-it notes if I feel that a pupil has grasped the general concepts
but I need further confirmation of their understanding, so I set them a problem
to work on which will confirm this. I use green post-it notes for those pupils
who have got everything correct and I want to set a task (inaddition to those
set in class) that will challenge their thinking further. Pupils have to write their
response back on the post-it note (or on a blank post-it). Ithen take the post-it
notes in and review them. Pupils need to have read the comments about their
work (usually written in their books and mainly in the form of addressing an
error) and reviewed their own work in order to respond to the post-it. This
often forms a basis for differentiated home learning. The post-it notes form
one of the home-learning activities during the week. I have a simple A4 folder
with a page for each pupil in the class; I simply stick the post-it note onto
their page when they return it; sometimes I will give pupils two minutes at the
start of the lesson (where I am returning marked work) to read my comments
thoroughly and then two minutes to answer their post-it note, as an alterna-
tive to them doing this at home. This can be made into a think, pair, share
activity, as appropriate, or a collaborative learning opportunity. You may ask
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

specific individuals to share their post-it with the class. So, essentially, you
will see limited written comments in my pupils actual books, although there
are clear corrections of errors/spellings etc. and the use of praise, where appro-
priate. All of the formative assessment is written on the post-it note, which
I then keep (there is no loss then if pupils lose their books!).
This is one of my most useful tools (particularly close to exams) as I can turn
to any pupils page in the folder and see immediately where their strengths
and weaknesses are in specific topics. For example, consider the topic of frac-
tions in mathematics. A pupil could be excellent at the questions involving
addition and subtraction of simple fractions but poor at converting top-heavy
answers to mixed numbers. The post-it note would indicate: strong on addi-
tion and subtraction and there would be a few questions asking the pupil to
convert top-heavy fractions to mixed numbers (this serves to remind me of
their specific weakness). If I simply had a mark in my mark-book, all it would
tell me is that they got, for example, ten out of fifteen, and I would need to go
back through their individual books to find the specific area of mathematics in
the topic causing concern. In using the post-it note system, I know, immediate-
ly, the weakness; in other words, it is not generalised by RAG rating or a mark
or grade and I do not have to ask pupils to find their old exercise book to look
at the specific subject matter in a given topic that they were having difficulty
with because it is all there for me and, obviously, for the pupils themselves to
see and we can immediately make reference to it.
Pupils find looking at their own page extremely useful and, when talking to
other staff or inspectors, they can get the folder (this is always accessible) and
talk, immediately, about their strengths or weaknesses and what they need to
do to make progress in a given area and how they will do this. You can see
the obvious advantage over a mark-book; I can see the pupils who are always
pink and those who are nearly always yellow, but, most importantly, the
specific strengths and weaknesses within a topic for those pupils. This also
allows me to support differentiation for future topics (particularly where prior
knowledge is needed) and to personalise their learning and revision plans as
necessary. It serves as an excellent tool when meeting with parents. It is simple
and yet provides all of the information I need, much more than a mark-book as
it actually shows pupils work and questions/areas that they need to develop
further all in one place (rather than having to flick through endless pages in a
book which may or may not have been misplaced!).
Using this or a similar style ensures that work is not marked and then for-
gotten about. It is active marking and is essential if we are to use marking and
feedback to inform learning. In other words, if pupils make errors they are
actively encouraged to correct them and, moreover, to ensure they understand
Marking and feedback

the topic. This prevents a piece of work being marked and then nothing ever
really happening as a consequence of the marking that is, work being marked
and never looked at again, just becoming a mark in a mark-book. Pupils are
always encouraged to look at their page. (I take these out at specific times, col-
lectively, and will have prepared little progress checkers for each pupil these
can then be added to their page. Often I use these as bell work or, on occasion,
as a starter. It is personalised as each pupil has their own question to think
about and I can use this to check progress. Most importantly, it allows me to as-
sess clearly where pupils may still require additional support in their learning.)
An example is shown in Figure 7.3.
The example shows that pupil X demonstrated a very good understanding
of recurring decimals and surds (indicated by T+). The questions extend their

Figure 7.3 An example of active marking. An extract for pupil X. Post-it notes (a) and (b) are
green, Post-it note (c) is yellow and Post-it note (d) is pink. (Bartlett, 2014).
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

thinking further. It challenges pupils to think about how they can use their un-
derstanding and combine other mathematical skills to write more challenging
numbers using the notation for recurring decimals. They need to synthesise the
example and then see if they can apply this to the three questions. The pink
post-it note relating to interior angles demonstrates that the pupil completed
the work on target (T) and showed an understanding of finding, for example,
missing angles solely using numbers, but needs to further extend to problems
which involve algebra; the question focuses on this. It doesnt simply ask pu-
pils to find the value of x (which is a common mistake in examinations pu-
pils find the value of x, but then forget to complete the question), but, further,
they must use this information to complete the question fully. The yellow
post-it note shows a weakness in rearranging formulae (T), with the concern
being formulae involving squared terms. The post-it note gives an example
and then asks pupil X to complete three simple problems. This will then be
followed up to ensure that pupil X has a clear understanding of the process.
When pupil X comes to prepare for an assessment, we need to ensure that they
are confident on rearranging formulae; turning to their A4 page quickly shows
the area of weakness that is, squared terms and fully completing the question
(remembering to square root).

Do you correct every error?

If you corrected every error your life would be endless marking. It is impos-
sible to do this when you are teaching a full timetable and it should be not
expected. A simple indication of whether a question is correct or incorrect
is sufficient, alongside, perhaps, an example of common errors a pupil has
made. This can then be used with the active marking example to ask pupils
a question based on these misconceptions, to ensure that they are now aware
of the errors and how to correct them. If they are still unable to complete the
questions following your written input, then it is important to arrange an early
meeting to support them further (if this meeting is not timely then it will have
little impact as pupils forget quickly). If you are marking, for example, twenty
calculations and you see that five are incorrect it may be worth simply adding
a statement such as five of these are incorrect, can you find them?. This then
encourages the pupil to review the work and to take the time to go back and
reflect on the process.
I realise that in more creative subjects this is more challenging, but if you
are to make marking workable and of high quality to impact on learning, you
need to think carefully, along with your colleagues, how you can best mark
work. I advise picking samples of work (old or recent) and looking at how it
has been marked; then look to the future. How can we improve this marking to
Marking and feedback

focus on learning? Could it have been marked more smartly? Could we have
had a focus for the marking and then used this to make marking very specific
rather than generally marking a piece of work?

Do you correct spelling mistakes?

All schools have a literacy policy and, as part of their marking policy, lit-
eracy will feature. It is extremely important to highlight spelling and gram-
matical errors and this is common to all subjects. Indicate with sp or gr and
then write the correct spelling alongside the error. Ask pupils to review these,
otherwise again you have simply wasted your time. Subject-specific vocabu-
lary is very important; there is nothing wrong with a quick 30-second spelling
challenge as reverse bell work. Using the English department to run a training
session (make it interactive) for staff which highlights common grammatical
errors and how to correct them is a worthwhile exercise, not least because it
ensures that all staff then adopt a consistent approach.

How often do you mark?

We have to be realistic about marking. If you teach a full timetable during the
week, it is impossible to quality mark every piece of work done by a pupil in
the way described above (unless you want to spend every evening and week-
end marking!). Potentially, you could be teaching classes of 30 for 22 hours
each week thats 660 pieces of pupils work each week to mark. Based on
a minimum of five minutes marking per piece of work, that is, potentially,
a minimum of 55 hours of marking each week. On top of planning, prepara-
tion and actual teaching, this is completely unrealistic (and thats without any
additional administrative tasks!). So you must carefully select pieces of work
that allow you to assess pupils understanding in a given topic. If, for certain
pupils, you need to clarify understanding, you may choose to review earlier
work completed by that particular individual rather than collectively marking
previous pieces for all pupils. Key is that work should be regularly marked
within a realistic and workable cycle and, most importantly, marked close to
the time of submission. This is essential. If you collect books in and mark work
completed one month earlier the feedback loses its relevance and, therefore,
has little or no impact on learning.

Self-assessment and peer-assessment

Self- and peer-assessment are defined as assessment as learning and, once fully
embedded into teaching practices, can be particularly effective in motivating
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

pupils to move forward in their own learning. The development of effective

self- and peer-assessment, however, takes considerable time and pupils need
training, guidance and structure. This should begin in the early years; it is
recommended to start with peer-assessment and then develop pupils skills
in self-assessment. It is far more than a summative assessment exercise where
pupils mark each others work, giving a numerical score or grade. Any form
of assessment as learning involves pupils thinking and not just ticking and
crossing work. During the process, pupils learn about themselves as learners
and become aware of how they learn. They think about thinking (metacogni-
tion). This secures pupils involvement in their own learning and in how to
move forwards. They become more autonomous as, instead of being told the
next steps, they have to shape their own future learning pathway (with your
Peer-assessment is a good starting point and, in the early years, it is ben-
eficial for teachers to model the process, demonstrating good practice (in all
honesty, it is a good idea to do this with pupils of all ages at the beginning of
the academic year, to serve as a reminder). This does not need to be an I do,
you do, we do exercise; it can be an interactive training session. Pupils can be
given examples of good, bad and moderate peer-assessed work and, in pairs
or groups, decide on the key features of each marked piece. This gets them
thinking, from the outset, about what constitutes good feedback; you are then
able to develop a set of rules for good practice in your classroom and subject
area. In teams, pupils can then be given anonymous work to mark using this
framework and this can be discussed as a whole class, highlighting both good
and bad practice. Feedback should be constructive and objective (or outcome-
focused) with reference to success criteria. Peer-assessment can be verbal and
written, so both need to be developed with pupils. In many ways, however,
verbal feedback has more benefit because it is the discussion between pupils
that promotes learning. Before pupils are asked to comment on the work of
their classmate, they should be confident in the skills involved, so this is
ongoing development not a process that should be rushed or undervalued,
otherwise the impact on learning is lost and the exercise is pointless. Pupils
should be encouraged to focus on how they can help others to improve their
work; feedback should focus on improvement. Whole-class marking can also
be useful in this context as it opens discussion and promotes the sharing of
ideas in a secure learning environment.
A potential danger of pupils comparing their work with others (during self-
or peer-assessment) is that some pupils may be excessively or insufficiently
challenged and become demotivated. Therefore, carefully match peers and
ensure that pupils understand that everyones learning journey is different.
Marking and feedback

Also, be aware that some pupils dont like others writing in their books. Be
considerate here. Ensure that pupils know the boundaries of what they write.
It may be that, for peer-assessment, you produce a little tick sheet of the suc-
cess criteria linked to a given activity and you ask the peer-assessor to write
their name and then to tick off whether they think each success criterion has
been met and why, which can be glued into the pupils book.
For example, in an exercise in plotting straight-line graphs, the success cri-
teria for peer-marking may be:

pencil has been used

axes have been drawn and are correctly labelled (e.g. x and y)
the correct scale has been used on the axes
the table of values (x,y) has been included and is correct
points are plotted in pencil accurately and then joined with a straight line,
which extends beyond the points
each line is labelled with the correct equation
they can use the graph to find missing values and have checked their
answers by substituting into the equation
they know why the answer from their graph is possibly not necessarily
identical to the exact answer (as by substitution).

Your role, when pupils are peer-marking, is to make sure that you circulate
and observe the process in action. You have to be confident that it is work-
ing to best effect in your classroom; sometimes pupils need a little reassur-
ance or input from you. Make sure that, on the peer-marking sheet (or use a
prompt line), you have a section for learning comments and that pupils are
encouraged to link these to success criteria. It is also important that you act
as quality control, taking books in and, perhaps, making peer-assessment the
focus of one of your marking sessions to ensure that pupils are following the
guidance developed as a class and that peer-assessment is having an impact
on learning.
There are many different techniques and strategies used to develop peer-
assessment in the classroom, such as two stars and a wish. This is a commonly
used technique where pupils are asked to highlight two positives about their
colleagues work and then to identify one area for improvement. It is important
to encourage pupils to think about linking with success criteria and to focus
them on looking at learning. For both the assessor and the assessed to gain from
the process, it must be more than a ticking and crossing exercise. Ialways ask
pupils to note in their own book (or wherever you choose) whose work they
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

have peer-assessed and what they learnt from the activity. For example, did
they assess a pupils work where more steps in working had been shown? Did
they really understand the importance of working when they reviewed work
with none? Did they learn the value of different representation? Did they gain
from the experience something that they had not done in their own work? This
is important to ensure that peer-assessment does not simply become the mark-
ing of another pupils work. We want the assessor to have a real insight into
the work of another and to think about how this relates to their own learning.
Can they support each other? Are there questions which need to be asked? Do
they need further clarification? Why? Therefore, once pupils have assessed a
partners work, it is important to allow a short time for discussion (learning
dialogue) between the two parties and then to invite pairs to share anything
that they gained from the experience. Adding learning value to the activity is
important for its success.
Self-assessment is where pupils assess their own learning. This would typi-
cally be against success criteria in achieving learning outcomes and, once good
peer-assessment practices are established, pupils move well to assessing their
own work and are more confident in identifying their weaknesses and how
they can improve their work. Often, in classrooms, you will see pupils self-
marking their work. This provides them with immediate quantitative feed-
back on their performance on a given topic. But, as with peer-assessment, this
is not best practice in self-assessment and will have little, if any, impact on
learning. You will also, no doubt, have come across the use of traffic lights
to indicate performance (red, amber or green); again, this is insufficient as
isolated practice it simply provides the same information as a numerical score.
Think about this question: How do you know that, just because they happen
to get the correct numerical answer, their method is correct? For this reason,
if you ask pupils to self-assess, ensure that you later review this for quality
control purposes. Following any self-assessment activity, pupils should be
given sufficient time to make improvements.
Select a few key questions to model as a class which pupils then self-
assess, focusing on key steps and processes. Ensure that pupils assess their
own progress against not only the correct answer, but also the correct struc-
ture, framework, use of language or method. This offers them more support
and guidance in assessing their own work. If pupils have used the correct
process for the few questions you collectively review, they have, most likely,
used this process for the remainder (therefore, marking by response alone for
the other questions is fine). It is the thinking about thinking that is important.
Why did they do it the way that they did? Could they make any improvements?
Why would these help?
Marking and feedback

In self-assessing (as with peer-assessment), the purpose needs to be very

clearly communicated. It is not about simply getting x out of ten, but about
thinking about the learning process and encouraging pupils to take responsi-
bility for their own learning. Have they met the success criteria? How do they
know? Have they made errors? Can they identify what these are? What do they
need to do to take their learning to the next step? Pupils should be able to an-
swer all of these questions when they self-assess, otherwise it simply becomes
an exercise in marking and the value for learning is lost. Pupils need to focus
on the task itself rather than getting the answer right. They should be able to
adjust and articulate their understanding based on any assessment as learn-
ing process. Your role is to provide a safe environment where pupils can take
chances and where support is readily available.
In some schools teachers use tablets and network devices (such as iPads and
Apple TV) or small projection cameras to project a pupils work onto the main
screen. They then involve all pupils in an active feedback session part way
through the activity itself, where they think about planning for improvement.
This needs to be done very sensitively and, in my opinion, always with an ele-
ment of praise with an option for improvement. If the learning environment is
not safe and secure, this can have obvious negative impact on a pupils well-
being and confidence.

Reflection is a metacognitive phase in learning and is part of the assessment
as learning process. Part of this process is to encourage pupils to think about
thinking. What have they learnt? Have they encountered any mistakes or
misconceptions? How have they dealt with these? While we learn from our
mistakes, we learn nothing if we dont have the time to do so. We must cre-
ate opportunities for pupils to unpick and understand where learning might
have gone wrong. This involves a high degree of thinking and, in order to
support this open process, the learning environment must be safe and secure,
giving pupils the confidence to admit errors and to seek help in working
through them.

Making mistakes simply means you are learning faster.

Weston H. Agor

When a pupil works through an error and gets it there is an enormous sense of
achievement. During this process, you gain valuable insight into their under-
standing. While this falls within the remit of self-assessment, the real purpose
of reflection is to provide pupils with the skills to be able to identify the next
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

steps in learning and to set purposeful targets. Metacognition is an essential

part of the learning process.
Reflection, of course, should go beyond pupils reciting What have I learnt
today? I put emphasis on recite because, in most cases, when pupils are asked
what they have learnt during a particular lesson, they will revert back to
regurgitating the learning outcomes without actually thinking. This, of course,
has no value. What we want is for pupils to really think about what they have
learnt; yet, even with the best intentions (if you are honest), you know that pu-
pils struggle with this. Therefore, use the Big Question, or a similar alternative,
as a way to demonstrate what they have learnt. They can use the comparison
(before versus after) as a base from which to write why they have improved,
how they know and, therefore, what they have learnt during the lesson.
This is far more effective as a tool to drive learning, and helps pupils to visu-
alise progress. Reflection is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5.

Mini-assessment points
Mini-assessment points, or mini-plenaries, are probably most commonly referred
to as progress checks; feedback is typically given verbally, through discussions.
Outstanding teachers continually (whether explicitly or not) check the progress
pupils are making towards learning outcomes and make this clear at key points
in the learning process. They then adapt their teaching as necessary, meaning
that, in an outstanding lesson, all pupils make progress.
Mini-assessment activities are short and check progress towards success
criteria during the learning process. The feedback obtained may mean learning
has to be redirected. They are, therefore, an invaluable part of the assessment
for learning process. Typically, teachers use mini-whiteboards as they allow
immediate feedback from all pupils in the class (pupils cant choose to be
involved). It is important to remember, when using this technique, that it is not
just the answer that provides the feedback, but that we must also ensure we ask
probing questions to determine that pupils have understood and thattheyhave
not just followed a recipe or arrived at the correct answer for the wrong rea-
sons. Types of mini-assessment activities are discussed in Chapters3, 4 and 5.
It is worth mentioning that a different technique (often used in more creative
subjects) is to not reveal the success criteria, but to ask pupils what they think
the success criteria actually are for the given activity or series of activities dur-
ing the mini-assessment process. This focuses pupils and encourages them to
think about the purpose of an activity and how this links to developing learn-
ing. It also helps to provide you with information on your choice of activity
or teaching. Has the activity had the impact on learning that you expected?
Marking and feedback

Are pupils aware of what they were learning? Often, what we think we have
taught and what pupils learn can be very different and it is worth using this
technique occasionally, just to check the context of learning.
Sometimes teachers reference mini-assessments to grades; I advise you against
this. Is there real benefit, at this stage, in asking pupils to grade themselves?
What purpose will it serve? Better is to encourage pupils to think about progress
in learning rather than discrete grades, as discussed in previous chapters.

the final assessment activity

In Chapter 5, we discussed the final assessment activity or plenary. The main
point to make here is that you should always include an opportunity for final
assessment or a closing activity. We have already discussed that the plenary can
be an open or closed activity and that it may lead directly to developing learning
through extending to home learning. What it should do is allow pupils to dem-
onstrate the skills they have acquired during the lesson and, most importantly,
to assess whether they have met the learning outcomes through the success
criteria; the Big Question, or other comparative activity, is a tool to support this
process. There is, typically, whole-class discussion (perhaps through question-
ing) during the plenary, allowing you to make a final assessment of progress.

the learning environment

The classroom environment should support assessment for learning in any
educational setting; this holds true for the intangible climate for learning and
the tangible or physical surroundings themselves.
The classroom climate needs to be safe and secure, with pupils feeling
comfortable contributing to discussions or volunteering solutions to questions,
irrespective of whether they offer the correct answer. This extends from your
approach to an incorrect answer to the reaction of other pupils in the classroom.
We want to create a positive culture of learning which motivates and involves
pupils. Think carefully about how you respond to an incorrect answer before
jumping in to identify immediately that it is incorrect. Ask other pupils what
they think of the response (obviously, in a sensitive way), using terminology
such as Sara, what do you think of that answer? (involve a few more pupils in
this way); then use this as a platform to discuss the misconception. If you jump
in too quickly, pupils dont get the opportunity to think. Remember, it is just as
powerful in the sphere of learning to consider the why not as it is the why.
An equally important factor is how you respond to correct answers. If a pupil
surprises you with a good answer and you comment, Well done, I wasnt expect-
ing that from you (and, yes, I have heard this said), the subliminal message is
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

that you have low expectations of them. Use praise through positive language
choices, but further challenge the learner who has offered the response you
were looking for and use this as a discussion point to promote learning.
What does a learning classroom look like? Some say that a learning class-
room looks like one where all of the pupils face the front in uniformity, with
their heads down, eagerly writing. I dont want to dwell too much on the seat-
ing in a classroom (as, for many, they are constrained by the size and orienta-
tion of the room itself), but think about how the seating in your classroom sup-
ports assessment for learning. There are many different seating arrangements
and my advice is to be flexible. Change the layout if needed. All desks formally
facing the front reduces the likelihood of pupil interaction, but grouping pu-
pils on tables of four or six means we often have backs to us. A V shape
(or angled horseshoe) is a useful arrangement as all pupils have a central focus
point; this is a good formation for classroom discussion and peer-assessment
exercises. As an extension to this, always think about your seating plan. This
is particularly important if you use peer-assessment, as discussed above.
What does a learning classroom sound like? You will find those who say
that pupils with their heads down concentrating and completing questions
(usually in silence) means that they are learning. Does it? There is absolutely
nothing wrong with noise; discussion and debate with their peers (and you) is
a valuable part of pupil development. So dont be afraid of noise: if it is learn-
ing noise, then it should be celebrated with confidence.
In terms of the physical environment, be aware of your surroundings. Take
a brief look around your classroom. What do you see? Is it tired old posters
from last year? Is it tired old level ladders or grade criteria from several
years ago? The learning environment is important and can support assess-
ment. There is no reason why you cant use the walls and put up the success
criteria each lesson around the room, asking pupils to place post-it notes by
each as an example of how they have met the criteria (this makes a nice mini-
assessment activity). This makes the environment interactive; there are lots of
ways to do this:

Have key words and cover the meaning. Every so often, during the lesson,
have a 30-second break and ask pupils for the definition and an example,
which can be written on whiteboards.
Use the posters in an interactive fashion at the start of the lesson place
questions around a poster, individually, for pupils; ask them to answer
their question as the lesson progresses and then place their answer back
by the poster. You can pick key questions and responses (correct or incor-
rect) anonymously as a discussion-based plenary. Alternatively, it may be
Marking and feedback

that you ask pupils to describe an image in the poster (or a character from
history) or an environment at the start of the lesson and then ask them to
put another post-it (use different colours for before and after) around the
poster at the end. Hopefully, you will see development in language, termi-
nology, use of phrase and so on a what did you think before? and what
do you think now? exercise (has learning developed?).
Display pupils work in progress take photographs and use these as
examples of assessment. Place key assessment criteria next to the work
and ask pupils to contribute (using work in this way requires a very secure
learning environment). It is easier to use this technique if pupils are
working in groups; give groups the opportunity to assess each others work
in this way.
Use information from active marking to set personalised bell work. Place
post-it notes around the classroom for individuals to address indepen-
dently. While this may be thought of as just the same as sticking the post-it
on the desk (and yes it is!), it does seem to get pupils interest more. Where
is their post-it note? Can they race others to finish first? The competitive
edge seems to work well (although not in all cases).
If you want to create a truly interactive learning environment, where
pupils support each others development, create a help board. This is
where pupils can post questions for example, related to a home-learning
exercise and other pupils can then look and see if they can help sup-
port the learning of another before they ask you directly for support. This
encourages pupils to develop their learning collaboratively.
There are lots of ways to make an environment interactive to support the
assessment for learning process. The above suggestions are but a few and I am
sure you can think of many more.
If there are other adults in the classroom (parent helpers or teaching assis-
tants), then it is very important that, before the lesson, you have discussed the
lesson plan with them. Are they fully aware of the learning outcomes? Do they
understand the success criteria? How are they going to work with pupils? Do
they work with only one pupil in the classroom? While our day as a teacher is
extremely busy, communicating with those who will be supporting learning in
our classroom is key to success. They cannot second guess your lesson; if you
wish to maximise their impact you must communicate with them in advance.
Remember that they will also be (although perhaps not formally) assessing
pupil progress, so it is important to make them aware of different techniques
and strategies, to ensure that they do not have too much impact too soon and
that they support the development of learning.
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Marking and feedback are an essential part in developing learning; however, to
have impact, feedback needs to be a two-way process. Learners must be involved in
their own learning and, most importantly, have a full awareness of how to improve
(including how to make these improvements) and how to take the next steps in
their learning journey. Teaching staff must be involved in reviewing any assessment
for learning policy and, particularly, any marking policies within the school with
an emphasis on workability and impact on learning. Keep in mind that we cannot
adopt a one size fits all approach to marking, but there are some simple techniques
we can all use to support the process of marking and feedback. Ask yourself the
following questions:

Have I been involved in a review of the marking policy within the faculty,
department or school?
Do I feel confident with the whole-school marking policy?
Does my marking impact on pupil progress?
Do I carefully select the pieces of work that I mark?
How often do I mark?
Do I need to reduce the amount of marking I do to ensure quality marking which
impacts on learning?
Is feedback to pupils a two-way process?
Do I support pupils in taking those next steps?
Are pupils benefiting from the feedback process and how do I know?
There is no doubt that pupils benefit from being involved in their own learning and
assessment as learning, whether self- or peer-assessment, encourages pupils to think
about how they move forwards. If you use peer- and self-assessment, use the follow-
ing questions as a checklist:

Have pupils had sufficient training to be able to effectively assess their own work
or the work of a classmate?
Are pupils aware of what constitutes good practice?
Is there a focus on how to improve?
Are pupils given the opportunity to make these improvements?
Are pupils given the opportunity to discuss?
Do pupils benefit from the process?
How do I know?
How do they know?

ChApter 8

Using data to
drive learning

There is an abundance of data in every school, used anywhere from classroom

to whole-school evaluation. The power in our use of data at any level comes
not only from an understanding of its potential benefits, but also of its limita-
tions. Far too often in schools, data is taken as the Holy Grail: fixed in stone
and the predictor of the future (if only!). I would go as far as to say, in some
schools, there is more focus on the virtual pupil (their data) than on the
person walking through the gates every day; sometimes we lose sight of that
individual who walks and talks and tells us far more than data generated
from a machine (and I hold this belief myself, with a background in statisti-
cal and mathematical modelling). Indeed, in some leadership teams you will
see a wall with references to specific pupils that are not performing to their
virtual counterparts (and while this supports monitoring of pupil progress
it only does so where there is a sound knowledge of the individual behind
the data). We must remember that data provides only one part of the story;
schools needto adopt a sensible and realistic approach when comparing the
human and the virtual.

Torture the data, and it will confess to anything.

Ronald Coase, Economics, Nobel Prize Laureate

In this chapter, we look at data used on two levels: in the classroom by the
class teacher and in the whole school. Keep in mind that we should use data
to support pupil progress, taking into consideration information from differ-
ent sources, rather than relying too heavily on one source alone. For example,
in the UK, schools are very used to FFT (Fischer Family Trust,
uk) and RAISEonline ( data, which support target-setting
and self-evaluation. Any external model should always be used in conjunc-
tion with other sources, such as internal data, to triangulate data sources and
improve the effectiveness of any evaluative or predictive process (although
remember, a consistent approach must be taken for all pupils to ensure data
is comparable). This chapter is written to try to help demystify, for teachers,
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

the data that is available and used by schools. The aim is not to delve into the
technical specifics of the models themselves or, indeed, the parameters, but to
highlight general points common to most models used in and by schools.

Statistical models
Statistical models use a wealth of input data and, indeed, output a wealth
of data. This then has to be collated, interpreted and put to good use. Most
(ifnot all) teachers are fully aware of target grades or forward estimates, yet,
for some, how these target grades are generated remains a mystery or some-
thing they consider to be too mathematical; they can even feel at the mercy
of the senior leader in charge of data, who is responsible for generating pupil
targets. The mathematical and statistical algorithms have been developed over
many years and are themselves highly complex bodies. Most teachers are
aware of different models that are used nationally to generate data; they may
differ in the mathematical algorithms that determine their output and, indeed,
in their input data (and cohort classification), they all generate data in abun-
dance, but, whichever model a school makes use of, there are some common-
alities. Most schools in the UK, for example, have a good working knowledge
of RAISEonline or Fischer Family Trust, as discussed above, and use them to
support target-setting on an individual pupil level, whole-school level and for
evaluative purposes. For any statistical model, the originators of the model
will provide detailed notes on the model itself, input data, key parameters and
examples of how to interpret the many different outcomes; these are normally
user-friendly and are readily available for teachers to access (I recommend
having a read of these).
Irrespective of the actual input data (for example, in the UK, one model may
use KS2 points scores from an examination and another a combined points
score from both examination data and teacher assessment), it is the general
quality of the output data that we need to be concerned with as teachers in
the classroom and, of course, how this impacts on the pupils themselves. The
majority of models input a wealth of contextualised data such as socioeco-
nomic factors, ethnicity, special educational needs, whether children are in
care, gender, date of birth and many more, along with the prior performance of
pupils in the school over a given period (specified by the particular model you
are using and, typically, the most recent), pupil performance nationally and
the performance of pupils in the same context (similar schools).
The model then generates different outcomes for different scenarios and it is
important to emphasise, again, that all of these are based on information from
pupil performance in the past (the period specified by the respective model).
Using data to drive learning

In other words, they use data to say that, if pupils in your school performed in
the same way as those in the previous year or years (on average), this is what
they would be most likely to achieve. While these models are excellent and
offer tremendous support in our school settings, you can see the obvious flaws:
there is no human element and this random pattern can never be truly pro-
grammed into a model (we are, after all, very different and our responses to cir-
cumstances are different). Put crudely (and, yes, this is an over-simplification),
there is no true consideration for whether pupil A was ill the night before the
exam and, therefore, had little sleep (performs poorly and, therefore, scores
lower than expected and the estimated target grade is lower than it should be);
there is no true consideration for pupil B suddenly becoming motivated to learn
(poor assessment score, low estimate but they suddenly just get it); and there
is no true consideration for pupil C, who has suddenly decided they no longer
have an interest in school. There are so many different human scenarios; you
will immediately be able to think of examples where the computer-generated
targets just didnt fit. However, they offer us a generalised starting point from
which to forward plan or evaluate and the mathematical models themselves are
continually being developed and estimates updated on a regular basis and so as
a school you should also review your estimates on a regular basis.
The person in charge of data in the school typically receives or logs onto a
data generator and downloads information into the school management infor-
mation system (MIS). Schools have their own internal tracking system which
has usually evolved over time, but they use external sources to generate targets
(whether individual or whole-school). It is these targets that form our next
discussion point.

The information supplied by the external data systems was never intended (in
most cases) to generate specific individual pupil targets, but rather as a tool
to support the process of target-setting within the school. Targets should chal-
lenge pupils to improve; I believe that no pupil should have their target grade
lowered, but, of course, there is often good argument for raising the target
grade. Target grades are sometimes used to set pupils; this needs to be done
with caution if based on data alone. Teacher input at this stage should factor
here and we would be nave to think that data is a substitute for knowing a
pupil and using this to inform the future set that a child is placed in (poten-
tially impacting on their future progress). I go so far as to say the single-grade
estimate, for example from FFT, was never intended to be used as a target grade
and, indeed, FFT states clearly that it is not a target grade. It estimates future
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

performance based on the past performance of similar pupils and should be

used as a starting point to estimate realistic and aspirational target grades. Yet
schools jumped on this and many still use it as the pupils target without
thinking what it actually means or without having the confidence to use it
simply to support their data process rather than to be their data process. It is
important that schools use data (from a range of sources), professional knowl-
edge, discussion with parents and pupils combined to support the target-
setting process. Remember:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts
can be counted.
Albert Einstein

External models often provide a grade spectrum, chances graph or a likeli-

hood predictor. They are all, essentially, the same and provide schools with
the percentage chance for each pupil, in specific subjects (almost all subjects
are completed), achieving a given grade (over the entire grade spectrum). In
my opinion, this information is best shared with pupils rather than a single
target grade, as a single grade can often be demotivating which has obvious
consequences for engagement. An example of a percentage likelihood is dem-
onstrated in Figure 8.1 (a hypothetical pupils partial data extract, based on the
table of estimates produced by

Pupil X KS2Test Est Subject %chance of achieving KS4 grade

KS EN MA sc Basis Group G F E D c B A A*
2 4.9 4.6 5.2 SE English 1% 1% 2% 12% 35% 34% 14% 2%
2 4.9 4.6 5.2 SE History 1% 2% 6% 14% 25% 30% 19% 4%
2 4.9 4.6 5.2 SE ICT 1% 3% 7% 16% 32% 25% 13% 3%
2 4.9 4.6 5.2 SE Maths 1% 1% 3% 16% 38% 33% ]0;6 1%
2 4.9 4.6 5.2 SE MFL 1% 3% 9% 23% 34% 18% 9% 3%
2 4.9 4.6 5 .2 SE Science 1% 1% 2% 11% 38% 33% 13% 2%

Figure 8.1 A hypothetical pupils (pupil X) partial data extract based on and adapted from a
table of estimates similar to those produced by

This demonstrates that the most likely grade for pupil X, based on the perfor-
mance of similar pupils last year, is a grade C in mathematics. However, this
pupil actually has a 79 per cent chance of achieving a grade C or better and it
is important that the pupil and their parent or legal guardian are provided with
this information. Building in aspiration would most likely lead to an estimated
target (using face value of the data alone) of grade B. Using the chances model
Using data to drive learning

can empower pupils far more and motivate them to achieve; the data is readily
available to all schools and teaching staff. Not only is there data on grade esti-
mates, but also on progress measures (such as three levels of progress). Think
carefully about predicted and target grades the two are different measures.
The predicted grade can be thought of as a combination of the estimate and
professional knowledge, and the target grade as a combination of the estimate
and challenge. Always think about the distinction between the two in your
school and school data management system.
We also talk about different types of estimates. In the UK, FFT D is common-
ly spoken about in schools. So what do we really mean when we talk about
FFT D estimates? An FFT D estimate is a contextualised estimate which, put
simply, says If pupils in your school performed in the top 25 per cent of simi-
lar schools (i.e. schools in similar circumstances or context), then the model
estimates the pupil would achieve grade X. For most schools, this builds in
aspiration, but if your school is already performing in the top 25 per cent of
similar schools (or close to this upper quartile), then this estimate is obviously
not a good basis for an aspirational target and you may wish to change the set-
ting to top 10 per cent or top 5 per cent, for example, to use as a platform for
target-setting. Furthermore, use the chances or likelihood distributions in this
context, as discussed above.

School tracking systems

School MISs contain a wealth of information from general background infor-
mation to attendance to assessment data. We are, obviously, interested in the
assessment data here and, as teaching staff, we want something that is easy
to access, easy to interpret and visual. All MISs compare the performance of
pupils against a particular grade (usually the target grade) and there are regular
data input points throughout the year following assessments. One of the best
ways to determine performance is to use two measures: relative performance
(to the previous data input) and summative performance (to the target grade).
This can be numerical and colour coded and, of course, there are many vari-
ations, but the point is that you should be able to easily see both aspects and
pupils should be able to see their individual progress; this is discussed in
Chapter 7 with an example for illustrative purposes.
The quality of the data (as discussed in previous chapters) is dependent
upon the quality of the input data and, of course, this relies on assessments
usually generated by teaching staff. These must, therefore, be moderated to en-
sure that any input data is comparable to national assessment criteria and that
the data system can be related to national targets. On this basis, it is useful to
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

review past performance. Has the internal data system been reliable and given
an accurate indication of future performance? If not, then questions about such
issues as the reliability of data (input data) and target grades need to be add-
ressed. This should be a regular process in all schools, giving confidence in
individual and cohort performance.

evaluation processes
We typically evaluate pupil performance using data measures at key points
in the assessment calendar. For many schools these are termly, with a final
review at the end of each academic year, and information supports future plan-
ning for the specific child or class. In addition to internal evaluation processes,
schools evaluate their performance at key statutory assessment points and this
gives the opportunity for reflective practice.
When we evaluate pupil performance, whether at statutory assessment
points or as part of the internal evaluation process, we must consider the

How does the school performance (attainment and levels of progress)

compare to both all and similar schools nationally?
How does pupil performance compare to the estimates? (Were your predic-
tions accurate: overall, subject, cohort and individual?)
What is the in-house variation in performance in individual subjects and
different cohorts? (Often there is much greater variability within schools
than between schools)
Can you identify strengths and weaknesses?
What do the future estimates suggest?
What data does the model use to make estimates? Is this reliable?
How are you going to plan to address any key issues?

When you evaluate performance you need to determine whether absolute

performance or changes in performance are statistically significant. In other
words, is there little doubt that we are improving as a school? Statistical sig-
nificance is dependent upon the sample or cohort size; a smaller cohort will
lead to wider margins as data becomes less reliable with a smaller sample size
(therefore the confidence intervals widen). You will often see reports highlight
whether the respective parameter is significantly above or below, relative to
the respective national average; they usually refer to 95 per cent confidence.
It is important to consider how the school performed in relation to pre-
dictions and to also consider performance over a three-year rolling period to
Using data to drive learning

determine the nature of any underlying trend (we would hope that this was
upwards); of course, all schools are interested in how they are ranked nation-
ally. A ranking of 30 per cent, for example, means that a school performed in
the top 30 per cent of all schools nationally (with 50 per cent being broadly
average performance). Performance is often graphed and you will see this
particularly over a five-year period, which provides immediate visualisation,
with a comparison to similar schools perhaps schools within a given district
or county as well as schools nationally.
In the UK, FFT is often used to support the evaluation and forward-planning
process. There are various estimates available and it is important to under-
stand the differences between them. Other models have similar options, so,
while we use this as an example, the general concepts can be transferred. FFT
A estimates are based on the progress of similar pupils nationally (using KS2
data, gender and month of birth). They are not contextualised. FFT B and D
estimates are contextualised and most schools refer to FFT D in their evalu-
ation and forward planning. The difference between the two is that FFT D is
more aspirational (using the 25th percentile estimates) and FFT B estimates
average progress (the 50th percentile). Both are contextualised; further infor-
mation can be found on Again, it is important to remember
that estimates above FFT D are available (if you are in a school already in the
25th percentile, then FFT D targets will not be aspirational and your school
may need estimates in line with the 10th percentile, for example).
Schools also evaluate performance in terms of value added and this can be
contextualised or not. Different countries use different models, but the under-
lying principle is whether, between two given assessment points, the school
added value to the pupils education and value added provides a good meas-
ure of pupil progress. Value-added measures are meant to allow a fairer com-
parison between schools with different intakes. It is the relative performance
that allows for comparison. One school may have lower attainment outcomes
(because pupils absolute results are lower); however, the pupils themselves
may enter the school with lower than average attainment but make good pro-
gress, thus have a higher value-added measure than a school where the attain-
ment measures are high on entry but only average at the second assessment
point. The value-added measures are significant if they are above or below
a given range (cohort size, as discussed above, determines the width of the
band). Schools that have a positive value-added score are ones where pupils,
on average, made more progress than similar pupils nationally. Contextualised
value added accounts for other factors, such as special education needs (SEN),
ethnicity, free school meals and more. Details can be found from the respec-
tive models and these are usually accompanied by excellent notes to support
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

schools. It allows for cohort analysis, which is an extremely important part of

any evaluation process, and you will no doubt be aware that schools analyse
the data of all pupils: boys, girls, pupils with SEN, pupils in different ethnic
groups, pupils with English as an additional language, by ability level on
entry (low, middle and high remember classification or grouping by ability
is different, dependent upon which model you use). The list goes on! What
it does do is allow schools to really dig deep with their analysis and to see
where their strengths and weaknesses lie and how they can use the data to
support their forward planning. For example, if those pupils with English as
an additional language are significantly below the expected performance, this
needs to be addressed. In looking at only the data for all pupils, this cohort
would be masked. It is also interesting for schools to use cohort analysis or
background information to investigate whether there is a changing profile to
their school intake, which can be used to support the data-analysis process.
In summary, there is so much data available to schools that it is important to
make the data meaningful to you in context and to ensure that, from the data,
you generate focused, whole-school targets as well as targets developed with
individual subject leaders themselves. Schools must always compare the raw
data with the value-added data and look at whether attainment and progress
are improving or declining. It is only from a thorough understanding of the
data that schools can begin to use it in their forward planning and to support
the process of teaching and learning in their schools.

Always remember that data is only one part of the story; for all the multitude of data
and statistics available, never lose sight of the fact that there is an individual pupil
sitting there in your classroom who tells you far more.
Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society pre-
cisely because there is so much data.
John Naisbitt
When you use data, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I know the person to whom the figures refer?

Do I use the data to support pupils rather than define them?
Do I know and understand where the data comes from?
Do pupils and parents understand the data?

Using data to drive learning

As part of the evaluation process we must ask ourselves:

What do both the raw and value-added data tell us?

How do we compare to all schools nationally and to similar schools?
Do we know what similar means and what context we are in?
How do different cohorts perform (subject and whole school analysis)?
How do we compare year-on-year?
Were our predictions accurate?
What do the forward estimates tell us?
How are we going to use the data to inform future planning?
Are staff involved in the evaluation process and do they understand it? (Is there

ChApter 9

embedding assessment
for learning

Assessment for learning or formative assessment is an integral part of teach-

ing and learning in our school systems, but how often do schools assess the
true impact of their policy on learning? Take your whole-school assessment
for learning policy. Is it current and does it easily translate to practice in your
classroom? Is it relevant to you and your pupils? When was the last time the
assessment for learning policy was reviewed? Were you involved in the review?
While these questions may seem simple, they are of great importance. For any
policy to work well and to have the desired impact, staff must buy in to the pro-
cess. It must be relevant and translate easily to their daily practice. They need
to see the value (whats in it for them?). Otherwise (and lets be really honest
here), it is put in a drawer, filed to be read at some other time and never sees
the light of day again beyond the annual one-hour session at a whole-school
professional development event (where, at the start of the year, some staff are
eagerly nodding, keenly taking notes, but then, with everything else, it was
most likely quickly forgotten about; others are simply sitting there thinking
Here we go again). Do a quick quiz (just for fun) and survey staff in your
school (on a more serious note, listen carefully to the answers). How many can
tell you what your current policy says (or indeed where it is)? How many
can tell you how they use the current whole-school policy to support them
in their classroom? Can they tell you how it links to other policies (in other
words, it should not be a stand-alone document)? Has the whole-school assess-
ment for learning policy improved pupil progress in their classroom? How?
Initiatives have come and gone as part of different national drives, but the
fundamental principle of assessment for learning in our classroom remains and
is present in all phases of education and across all subjects, providing a com-
mon ground for progress, involving teachers (including senior leaders), pupils,
parents and governors. Any assessment for learning policy in schools should
be sound in its basic principle and be applied or used to support the next gov-
ernment initiative rather than being rewritten around a new initiative. Why?
Because assessment for learning should be at the heart of the classroom and it
Embedding assessment for learning

should be used to drive learning. Any initiative can be supported through your
assessment for learning policy; after all, a lot of government money has been
invested into the assessment for learning agenda and we must be honest about
the cost impact. Has this money translated to better learners in our classrooms?
Has it improved the quality of assessment for learning in all classrooms? Has it
impacted on pupil progress for all pupils? Remember, some of these initiatives
never really got off the ground or were quickly withdrawn. Many seemingly
reinvent the wheel (albeit under a different name). I can recite countless times
being in the staffroom eagerly awaiting the something new only to (unfortu-
nately) be able to say or hear others saying, But thats just ....... we did this
x years ago! So, is the government getting it wrong? While I do not want to
get into any form of political debate, this has been an ongoing contention in
education, with policy-makers at the top (often with no experience in teaching
and learning) think-tanking policies (at considerable cost) that sound great on
paper but will never really translate into daily practice and, therefore, will not
have a significant impact on learning. We must invest in and support teachers
(many of whom may not have experienced recent training in new pedago-
gies) in becoming better practitioners and, most importantly, quality assure
that training. Is the training excellent? Without excellence in training, how can
teachers become truly outstanding practitioners?
Assessment for learning must be more than pages of policy or the current
buzz word in your school. It must an integral part of the teaching and learn-
ing agenda, being workable, meaningful to and understood by all stakehold-
ers most importantly, teaching staff, pupils and their parents. When you
design any policy, be very clear about what you want to achieve on a whole-
school, department and class-teacher level. Think about this very carefully
first and then think about how you are going to achieve these common aims.
Only then can you really produce a policy which has clarity and purpose. Far
too often, schools write a policy based on something written a long time ago
or on policies borrowed from another school or institution or on a standard
policy. What you must remember is success comes from thinking about your
workforce, your pupils and the needs of all stakeholders, to make something
productive and workable.

Introducing new techniques

I highly recommend, when you run assessment for learning training, that this
goes beyond a member of leadership relaying the latest techniques to an audi-
ence of teaching staff. The very best training in this field involves teachers
experiencing the process. This means running small fifteen-minute sessions
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

where teachers go on a carousel in groups and experience different assess-

ment strategies. This can be the effective use of voting mechanisms or the
effective use of ABCD cards, effective questioning sessions, self-assessment or
peer-assessment workshops and so on. It is my belief that teachers are much
more likely to engage with the technique or strategy when they actually have
the opportunity to see it in practice and to then think about how they could
apply this in their own teaching.
The same can be said for developing a whole-school marking policy. Ask
teachers to imagine they are a pupil receiving various examples of marked
work and then ask them to focus on a series of questions, such as:

Which will allow me to identify my next steps in learning?

Which supports me in understanding my errors?
Which challenges me and encourages me to think?
Does the grade matter?
Does the comment matter?
Which did I look at first?
Did looking at, for example, the grade first (this is a natural direction) de-
value the comments?
Where comment-only marking was used, was I more likely to read it care-
fully than when a grade and comment were used?

There are many more questions which can be asked, but the purpose is
for staff to work together to determine which factors best support progress
in learning. In making this sort of workshop interactive, staff can visualise
the feedback that would allow pupils to make progress and they can work
together as a collective body to develop a whole-school marking and feedback
policy that will enhance learning and that, most importantly, they feel owner-
ship and understanding of. This leads to the discussion on timely feedback,
the workability of any marking or assessment policy and a focused discussion
on moving forwards as a collective body of professionals. This empowers
teaching staff far more than if you write a marking policy and then impose
terms. After all, a marking policy must be workable for those who employ it
on a daily or regular basis, otherwise it will inevitably fail and never be the
success that it should be in schools. Involving staff in this way allows them to
really understand what we mean by marking and feedback rather just having
to listen to a speech and then decipher a policy and try to make the best of
it. In addition, if staff experience this process then quality assurance should
Embedding assessment for learning

be a more focused activity because they have an awareness of whole-school

or department expectations. Any questions they ask during these types of
sessions will be focused on the marking itself and on strategies to implement
it rather than being negative feedback typical of that received when schools
impose a policy and staff react with questions that are not related to develop-
ing marking, for example.

Quality assurance
The questions you ask as part of the quality assurance (QA) process are impor-
tant, but more important is what you do with the information that comes from
the QA. It is very important that, as part of the QA process whether as indi-
vidual staff observations or department reviews an action plan is produced
which sets clear targets or action points, success criteria (how to meet and
evidence these) and a timeline for monitoring and review. If the monitoring or
review process is one year down the line, the QA will have little impact and
is probably not worth doing in the first place. The monitoring process should
include regular line management, team or peer meetings, where performance
and support for future development are discussed. To be clear, it is not only
failing departments or teachers that should be given an action plan following
review, but also outstanding departments and individuals as well. We must
challenge and have high expectations of all; if we dont also challenge our
outstanding departments or practitioners, they can become coasting schools,
quickly losing their edge and innovation.
Let us consider the example where a member of staff is inadequate in
their use of questioning to assess learning. If we simply set that member of
staff a target, where they need to go and observe another member of staff
and think about the questioning in the lesson, the impact (in reality) will
probably be minimal on their own practice and, in some cases, they will
simply go along with it because they have to. A more constructive approach
would be a joint observation, with a line manager or a colleague (perhaps
better) accompanying the individual member of staff, combined with use
of a focused observation sheet featuring key questions. On the room plan,
where would you place crosses for pupils who are asked questions? How
many pupils answered a question? Did the member of staff being observed
adopt a hands down policy? How did they respond to pupils answers?
What type of questions did they ask? How did they use this to develop
learning? There are lots more questions that could be used during the ob-
servation, but the important point to come out of this is the subsequent
discussion. Does the member of staff who was underperforming now have a
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

greater understanding of questioning in the classroom? The next step would

be to support them in planning a lesson and to think about how they use
questioning to develop learning. This can be observed or it can be videoed
and used to support their professional development. Obviously, this is an
ongoing process, but it is necessary to support staff in their development
following any QA this applies at individual-teacher and department level.
Other strategies include using professional triads, where staff work as a
three to develop different aspects of teaching and learning; again, however,
time must be invested in discussion and observations otherwise the activi-
ties are of little value. It is the focus on supporting staff to improve, not on
competency, that shifts the focus of observation from threat to support, thus
changing the mind-set of staff, resulting in more staff actively participating
in and engaging with the process.
When you conduct a QA process, first ensure that you and staff are very
clear on the focus of that QA. This must be communicated. If, for example,
the focus of the QA is assessment for learning, then staff must be informed
that this will be the focus of the lesson observations and be clear on what the
process will involve observation, book sampling, data analysis and discus-
sions with both staff and pupils. The report should be timely and include the
specific action plan (individual or department). Staff must be involved in the
process and understand the importance for improvement. The most innova-
tive and outstanding teachers and departments I have worked with remain so
because they constantly challenge themselves and others around them and
work to develop new techniques and strategies within the classroom, sharing
best practice at the heart of the school. If they had stayed static for example,
producing the same lesson they did ten years ago there is every chance that,
in todays educational climate, it would no longer be outstanding and could,
indeed, be judged significantly worse. Yet some staff do still churn out the
same lesson year after year, with little thought for their audience and certainly
having not evaluated their lesson for future use.
The purpose of any QA process is to support teachers and build expertise
and capacity in the education system to deliver positive outcomes for pupils.
It helps to raise standards, build expectations and improve levels of consist-
ency across schools and teaching staff. Assessment is integral to learning,
teaching and the curriculum, so monitoring, self-evaluation and planning for
improvement (all part of any QA model) apply equally to assessment. Rigor-
ous and robust QA gives confidence in teachers judgements and provides
assurance to parents and others that all pupils receive appropriate recognition
for their achievements in line with agreed national standards and are pro-
gressing in line with expectations. The QA process runs throughout the heart
Embedding assessment for learning

of any school and should challenge staff in a supportive and self-improving


Marking audit
Very often, schools (on a department or whole-school level) conduct mark-
ing audits where they review whether staff are correctly adopting the whole-
school marking policy. But how do you conduct this evaluation and what do
you do with these results? I am, personally, a believer in going into classrooms
and randomly picking up books (to the horror of some teachers) and talking
directly with pupils. This gives you a picture of whether marking and feed-
back are timely and whether it is having an impact on the pupils themselves.
This will come from listening carefully to the comments that the pupils make.
For instance, if they say they are doing well because they always get a good
and a grade B, then you know that marking is having little impact on their
academic progress. Why? Because the pupil has not mentioned anything
about developing as a learner. If the interactive marking process is used, as
discussed in Chapter 7, then the discussions with pupils will be much more
learning-focused. They will be able to discuss why they are confident in a spe-
cific subject area and how they know. The how they know comes, of course,
from the interactive marking process. This is not about targeting criticism at
staff, but looking at whether the marking policy is working in practice for
those who it is supposed to benefit that is, the pupils and those who imple-
ment it (the staff).
Remember, if you ask staff for a selection of pupils books then there is a
danger (and we all know it happens) that the member of staff then back-marks
the work; while this may result in a book with lots of teacher input, it is the
impact on pupils we need to determine and that can only come from the pu-
pils themselves. So, if the focus of your QA is marking, then walk around the
school, pick up a sample of books randomly, interview the pupils and then, of
course, the member of staff (this often doesnt happen). The member of staff
must have the opportunity to discuss with you during this process. What you
need to focus on is whether your whole-school policy is supporting that mem-
ber of staff (or collectively the body of staff) to mark productively. If it is and it
is simply that the member of staff is not engaging with policy then, of course,
this is a different matter. This review should, again, not be an exercise simply
because we may be being inspected (although this is rather sceptical of me, we
can all think of a school where this has happened), but done because we need
to be confident that the assessment for learning policy is working in action.
Ask the right questions when you assess the impact of marking:
Outstanding Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Is marking timely?
Is marking comment-only?
Do pupils have the opportunity to respond to comments?
How is this supported?
How are errors addressed?
Are spelling and grammatical errors corrected?
Is there evidence of peer- or self-assessment?
What is the quality of this assessment?

Lesson study
There is an initiative that is outlined in detail on the Lesson Study UK
website ( which talks about slowing down the
observation or learning process by focusing only on three students during
the lesson observation (this technique is used very successfully in Japan).
Essentially, you decide as a team (of teachers: two, three or perhaps more)
on the focus for the lesson and develop it together. One member of the team
delivers the lesson (or different members deliver different parts). The focus
is not on the teacher delivery (thus relieving the pressure that some teach-
ers feel during an observation) but on the impact on the pupil, their learn-
ing and progress. This tells us far more than simply observing the teacher
and attempting to assess the impact on 30 pupils (because, with a global
observation, we know that this will only be superficial) and allows us to
home in on the true impact of our teaching on learning. It makes sense to
focus only on a few pupils (typically three or multiples of three, based,
perhaps, on a low, middle and high achiever) and their development in
learning over the lesson as this will give targeted insight into the impact of
teaching. There are cost implications here, clearly, in teacher time and staff-
ing; however, in my opinion, if we are to raise standards in teaching and
learning this is a worthwhile investment and a shift in how we observe les-
sons is, perhaps, now needed. It leads us, in a collaborative way, to look at
how to improve teaching and how to improve learning, focusing on moving
forwards, building on teaching strategies, and on development rather than
on looking back too much at what didnt work. Being more open in this way
and using observation as a tool for improvement is the direction we need to
move in if we truly want to develop our teaching strategies and, ultimately,
produce better learners who can compete not only nationally, but also in an
international sphere.
Embedding assessment for learning

In order to embed assessment for learning, think carefully about your school
priorities and professional staff training days. Staff development needs to be
high priority. These are often the only opportunities throughout the year that
staff gather collectively as a body for training. Therefore, any training needs
to be highly focused and in-house training offers the opportunity for you to
tailor training to priorities within your school (whether you invite an external
trainer/speaker or not). Always make sure that staff are actively involved in
the training (much the same as learning in the classroom) and ensure that any
policies that are to be written or rewritten involve staff participation (staff buy-
in). This will lead to the success of your policy and support the embedding
process. Teacher professional development is essential to improving pupil
performance and achievement, ultimately contributing to a better national
economy. There is nothing more important to bettering our economy than edu-
cation and the teaching profession have great responsibility for the education
of our future. We must be cautious, however, with the development we con-
tinually impose. There are so many new initiatives in education that, often,
we dont have time to synthesise and thoroughly embed them into our daily
practice. If we took all of the latest buzz words and strategies we could have
some very confused classrooms. This is often why teachers are cynical about
new initiatives. However, assessment for learning is a key strategy in raising
standards; time and resources must be correctly directed to secure teacher
knowledge, confidence, understanding and development. One final thing to
remember is that, even for the very best teachers, often things fail. The secret
to their success is that they evaluate why and they try again with a slightly dif-
ferent approach, persevering until they get it just right. To me, thats the secret
to success: being your own critic, being able to evaluate and then implement
new ways of working and perhaps most importantly not being afraid to ask
for support or to discuss things openly with your colleagues.


Assessment for learning is an intrinsic part of the learning process and inte-
gral to any outstanding lesson. Unlike many other initiatives, it is here to stay.
Why? Because (if applied correctly) it has a significant impact on learning. In
one form or another it has been part of teaching practices for a long time and,
as it evolves, assessment for learning will, no doubt, continue to improve the
quality of learning in our classrooms.
The following acts as a checklist which can be used as a reference guide to
ensure assessment for learning is at the heart of your planning:
Start of the lesson:

Are you greeting pupils as they arrive?

Have you planned a simple bell work activity?
Do you have clear learning outcomes (learning intention and context)?
Do pupils know and understand success criteria or progress markers?
Have you prepared a starter activity which links to the learning?
Does the starter activity allow you and pupils to know where pupils are
starting from (benchmarking)?
Does it allow you to progress to the next learning cycle?
Is the starter activity open or closed?
Have you planned an appropriate assessment strategy and at what phase of
the learning is this happening?
Have you thought of higher-order questions and are you fully prepared to
bounce these around the classroom?
Have you thought about any misconceptions which may arise?
Can you move forwards in the lesson plan or do you need to change
Do learners now know where they are in their learning?


Main body of the lesson:

How are you introducing new concepts or skills?

Are they developed through a single activity or a series of successive and
progressive learning cycles?
Is there a parallel structure, with some learners following a single learning
cycle and others multiple cycles, leading to the same learning outcome?
Have you planned activities that engage learners and encourage learn-
ers to think; have you planned for the process of assessment for learn-
ing during learning?
Does assessment for learning support differentiation?
Have you considered different learning styles in planning activities and
during the assessment process?
Have you used a variety of different activities which are accessible for
all pupils and appropriate formative assessment strategies implicit to the
Have you carefully planned any collaborative learning opportunities?
Do the techniques you are using provide both you and pupils with qual-
ity information to support progress?
Can pupils confidently move on to the next learning cycle?
How do you know?
Are pupils actively involved in their own learning and next steps?
What criteria depict success in learning?
Are these truly learning criteria?
Have you used the learning environment to support assessment for learning?
Have you communicated effectively with any teaching assistants to ensure
they support the assessment for learning process?
Is there a climate and culture of autonomy in learning?


Can all learners access the plenary activity?

Have you differentiated the activity?
Does the activity demonstrate further progress or is it just more of the same?
Have you returned to the Big Question and allowed sufficient time
for pupils to reflect and to compare their initial and final responses,
making an assessment of their progress?
Have you asked higher-order questions to ensure assessment in higher-
order thinking skills?
Are pupils asking key questions and what is the cognitive level of these


Can pupils demonstrate progress and enter into learning dialogue?

Do they know how to further challenge their own learning?


How often do you tell pupils something (keep in mind how you might
have turned this into a question to draw learning from pupils)?
How many questions do you ask?
When do you ask questions?
How many of these questions are open or closed?
What is the cognitive level of the questions (are they lower or higher order)?
Do you adopt a hands down policy and how is this managed?
How do you select the pupils who will answer?
Who do you ask (draw a rough plan of the room and each time a pupil
answers a question or is asked a question, mark with a cross; this
will allow you to see the distribution of questioning, i.e. whether
a) you always ask the same few; b) the same pupils offer solutions; c) you ask
all pupils at some point during the lesson. You may be surprised with the
results of the observation!)?
What is the wait time after asking a question?
What is your response time?
Do you allow sufficient time for thinking before answering?
What is the impact of questioning on learning?

Marking and feedback:

Have pupils had sufficient training to be able to effectively assess their

own work or the work of a classmate?
Are pupils aware of what constitutes good practice?
Is marking an active process?
Do you challenge pupils through marking and feedback?
Is there a focus on how to improve?
Are pupils given the opportunity to make these improvements?
Are pupils given the opportunity to discuss?
Do pupils benefit from the process?
How do you know?
How do they know?

When you use data think about the following questions:

Do you use data to inform planning?

Do you know the person to whom the figures refer?

Do you use the data to support pupils rather than define them?
Do you know and understand where the data comes from?
Do pupils and parents understand the data?

As part of the evaluation process we must ask ourselves:

What do both the raw and value-added data tell us?

How do we compare to all schools nationally and to similar schools?
Do we know what similar means and what context we are in?
How do different cohorts perform (subject and whole-school analysis)?
How do we compare year-on-year?
Were our predictions accurate?
What do the forward estimates tell us?
How are we going to use the data to inform future planning?
Are staff involved in the evaluation process and do they understand it?
(Is there buy-in?)

Embedding assessment for learning:

Are staff involved in developing policies?

Are policies regularly reviewed?
Is staff training interactive and engaging?
Does training impact on learning in the classroom?
Do staff feel valued?
Is your quality assurance process effective?
Does it develop teaching in a supportive and non-threatening way?
Do all stakeholders buy in to your policy?


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OFSTED (2014b). The Framework for School Inspection April 2014, Ref. 120100. Avail-
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Scriven, M. (1967). The methodology of evaluation. In R. W. Tyler, R. M. Gange and
M. Scriven (eds), Perspectives of Curriculum Evaluation, Vol. 1. Chicago: RAND,
Stiggens, R., J. (2005). From formative assessment to assessment FOR learning: a path to
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Swaffield, S. (2011). Getting to the heart of authentic assessment for learning. Assessment
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Webb, M. and Jones, J. (2009). Exploring tensions in developing assessment for learning.
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The coordinate challenge (accessed June 2014).
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Personal pronoun treasure hunt
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4 Rs 4 Becoming an Outstanding Mathematics

Teacher 62
accessibility 13, 132 behaviour management: bell work 20;
active engagement see cognitive computer rooms 79; see also disengage-
engagement ment; disruptive behaviour
active marking 1458 behavioural difficulties, collaborative
active phase, learning cycle 1112 work and 87
activities, sequencing and planning 89 Bell, B. 12
Adey, P.S. 92 bell work 1927; common misconceptions
Agor, Weston H. 153 25; if statements 245; odd one out
all, most, some 28, 2930, 132 234; recall of fact 212; reverse 20, 22,
analysing, Blooms Taxonomy 11920 23, 24, 26, 27, 10910, 149; slides with
Anderson, L.W. 118 images 26; types of 217
Apple TV 48, 102, 153 benchmark/ing 35, 3655; envelopes 513;
applying, Blooms Taxonomy 119 forming assessment criteria 47; game-
art, bell work 24 based activities 435; how many ways
assessment: as learning 3, 8, 14953; 54; objects 501; open-ended activities
before learning 18; criteria 81, 12831; 457; pair-matching activities 3942;
of learning see summative assessment; quick-fire questions 379; reviewing
reason for 66; two types 1 blogs 534; scenario-based activities
Assessment for Learning 17; definitions 545; target boards 478; targeted ques-
12; embedding 16875; key elements tioning 51; treasure hunt 423; watch-
2; practical techniques 23; research- ing video 4850
based principles 2 best practice 46
Assessment Reform Group 2, 3 Big Question 315, 567, 111; examples 334;
auditory activities 945; peer hearing 94; final assessment activity 155; plenary
podcasts 94; real-life meaning 95 98101; reflective practice and 109, 154
Ausubel, D.P. 36 bingo, starter activity 44
Autograph (computer programme) 81 Black, P. 1, 2, 140
blogs, starter activity 534
Bacon, Francis 113 Bloom, B.S. 1, 28, 118
Bartlett, J. 49, 62, 71, 86, 1235, 136, 147(fig) Blooms Taxonomy 28, 11822; analysing
basketball questioning 24, 38, 39, 67, 114, 117 11920; applying 119; background 118;
Battleships 43 creating 121; evaluating 12021; remem-
BBC Bitesize website 40 bering 118; understanding 11819


board games 434 grades 701, 1347, 1613; tracking

bring-your-own-device policy 76 systems 1634; virtual pupil 159
British Museum website, treasure hunt data-based assessment 18
activities 43 data management system, grades and
business studies: cross-curricular links 96; 1356
open-ended starter activity 45 Davies, B. 115
Butler, Ruth 140 departments, linking see cross-curricular
C3B4ME 79 design technology (DT): bell work 22, 23;
card sort activity 53, 679, 934 cross-curricular links 956; forming
carousel, working together activity 89 assessment criteria 47; pair-matching
chances graph 162, 163 activities 40(fig)
chemistry: bell work 22; video technology differentiation: Big Question 101; learning
starter 50 outcomes 289; main body of lesson
chickpeas, mathematics investigative task 63, 64, 689, 79, 80, 812, 97; planning
856 8, 9; plenary activities 105, 106, 107;
Christopher Robin 1416 questioning 11315; starter activities
chronology, history activity 21, 634 36, 423, 44, 47, 48, 51, 53, 54, 55;
citizenship lesson, starter activity 26, success criteria and 1312
467 discussion, marking and 745
classrooms see learning environment discussion/diagnostic questions see open/
Claxton, G. 4 closed questions
Clarke, S. 31 disengagement 1316
Coase, Ronald 159 disruptive behaviour 356; reduced by
cognitive engagement 1112 engaging learning environment 56
collaborative learning 8790 drama: computer-based activity 82;
comment-only marking 13940 kinaesthetic activity 94; objects starter
communication, important part of 50; think, pair, share activity 88
assessment 137 drawings 656, 94
comparison activity, Big Question 32, 345
computer activities 7883; games 823; Edward Bear 1416
learning value of 789; researching Einstein, Albert 127, 162
topics 801; tutorial/questioning pro- embedding assessment for learning 168
grammes 7980; visual support 812 75; lesson study 174; marking audit
concepts, emphasis on in learning 626 1734; new techniques 16971; quality
concept phase, learning cycle 1112 assurance 1713
Confucius 58, 61 embedding phase, learning cycle 1112
Cotton, K. 112, 114, 115, 121 English: bell work 21, 22, 25; computer
Cowie, B. 12 games 823; cross-curricular links 96;
creating, Blooms Taxonomy 121 emphasis on concepts in learning 645;
cross-curricular links 956, 105; home how many ways starter 54; investiga-
learning 110; video/podcast 767 tion activity 86; objects starter 501;
curiosity 1315 quick-fire questions 38; who am I
activity 445
dance lesson, starter activity 54 envelopes, starter activity 513
data 18, 15966; evaluation processes errors: correcting in marking 1412,
1646; statistical models 1601; target 1489; reflection and 1534; trial and


1234; worksheets and 75; see also and 112, 114, 121, 122, 126; sequencing
misconceptions learning 606; what was the question 107
evaluating, Blooms Taxonomy 1201 history: bell work 21, 26; emphasis on
evaluation processes 1646; value added concepts in learning 634; objects
measure 165 starter 51 starter activity 52(fig);
evaluative listening 115 treasure hunt activities 43
exam preparation, post-it note system 146 home learning 110; post-it note
external examinations, moderation and 137 system 146
homework see home learning
feedback see marking and feedback how many ways, starter activity 54
FFT estimates 1615
final assessment activity (plenary) 98108, 155 ICT: cross-curricular links 96; integration
find your match starter activity 53 in lessons 789
find your partner activities 41 I do, you do, we do style 28, 60, 83, 150;
first learning cycle 3557 see also lecture-style teaching
Fischer Family Trust (FFT) 159, 160, 1615 if statements, bell work 245
formative assessment 1, 4, 5, 168; see also images, uses in bell work 26
Assessment for Learning incorrect answers, learning value of 39, 115
Franklin, Benjamin 64 independent learning 91 see also collabo-
frequency, marking and feedback 149 rative learning
Frost, Robert 61 indices 623, 67
Futures Channel 105 individual learning preferences 915;
auditory activities 945; kinaesthetic
game-based activities 435 activities 924; visual activities 94
geography: bell work 24, 26; cross-curricular Inside the Black Box 1
links 96; open starter activity 47; pair- interactive learning environment 157
matching activity 42; push and pull interactive learning wall 45, 1567
starter activity 53; treasure hunt activities interactive marking 1389, 1458, 173
423 interactive whiteboard 41, 42, 94
getting up, kinaesthetic activity 93 internet: learning platforms 110; online 90 noticeboards 90; research skills 801;
government policies 1689 video clips 76; see also entries for
grade spectrum 289, 1356, 162 individual websites
grading: grade distributions 135; marking investigations: kinaesthetic activities
and feedback 13940; mini-assessment 923; main activity 846; open-ended
and 154; reflective practice and 109 starters 457; phases for younger years 86
group work, feedback 1323 iPads 48, 102, 153
Guardian Teacher Network website 456
guess who?, starter activity 45 Jaws (film) 65
jelly baby game, starter activity 545, 93
help board 157 jigsaw, working together activity 878
higher-order cognitive/thinking skills Jones, J. 113
1112; comparison activities 634,
756; correcting responses 1023; kinaesthetic activities 914; card sorts/
jigsaw activity 878; learning outcomes pair matching 934; drama/role play
28; odd one out 23, 24; open questions 94; envelopes 51; getting up 93;
116; physics bell work 27; questioning investigations 923; jelly baby game


93; languages 93; mathematics 923; 915; investigations 846; textbooks

oranges activity 923; pair-matching 834; video/podcast 768; working
41, 42; science 93 together 8790; worksheets 706
Krathwohl, D.R. 28, 118 main body of lesson 5897; cross-curricular
links 956; importance of formative
language lessons: computer activities assessment 589; independent learn-
82; kinaesthetic activity 93; quick-fire ing 91; individual preferences 915;
questions 38 see also modern foreign mini-assessments 6670; sequencing
languages (MFL) learning 606; working together 8790;
Leahy, S. 2, 5 see also main assessment activity
learning cycle 917, 97(fig); active/concept management information system 1356,
phase 11; embedding phase 1112, 70; 161, 163
emphases in main body of lesson 62; mark-books 1457
starter activity 356 marking, not necessary to assess
learning environment 1557; help board learning 59
157; interactive 1567; learning spec- marking and feedback 13849; active
trum 1213; learning to learn and 4, 5; marking 1458; correcting errors 1489;
misconceptions 155; noise 156; post-it frequency 149; grading 13940; quality
notes 157; seating arrangements/plan 156 over quantity 139; spelling mistakes
learning intentions see learning outcomes 149; whole-school marking policy
learning journey 10(fig); everyone 1701; written comments 1404
different 150 marking audit 1734
learning line 1213 mathematics: bell work 22, 25; Big Ques-
learning objectives see learning outcomes tion responses 100; computer activities/
learning outcomes 2731, 1312; Big games 7980, 81, 83; cross-curricular
Question 315; computer activities 79; links 956; emphasis on concepts
decontexualised 31; progression line 107 in learning 623; indices 623, 67;
learning styles 915; assessment and 138 investigation activity 856; kinaesthetic
learning successes see learning outcomes activity 923; Millenniun Mathematics
lecture-style teaching 5, 12, 61 see also I Project 96; objects starter 50; post-it
do, you do, we do style note example 146; questioning skills
Lesson Study UK 174 117, 1235; quick-fire questions 37,
Levin, T. 112 39; scaffolding questions 712, 73(fig);
likelihood predictor 1623 starter activity 44, 54
listening: think, pair, share activity metacognition 4, 32, 58, 59, 102, 123, 150,
1223; verbal feedback 1334; see also 154; see also higher-order cognitive/
evaluative listening thinking skills
Long, R. 112 metaphors 645
lower-order cognitive/thinking skills 11; Millennium Mathematics Project 96
closed questions 116; questioning and mind-mapping 94
112, 121, 126; recall of fact 21; work- Minecraft 82
sheet 714 mini-assessments 62, 6670, 1545
mini-plenaries 59, 62, 1545; see also
Macbeth, quick-fire questions 38 mini-assessments
main assessment activity 7086; computer mini-whiteboards 48, 154; pair-matching
activities 7883; independent learn- activities 41; plenary activity 102; use
ing 91; individual learning preferences with quick-fire questions 38, 67


misconceptions: bell work 25; incorrect peer hearing, auditory activity 94

answers and questioning 116, 141; peer support 79, 812
learning environment and 156; marking personal pronouns, treasure hunt
1412, 1489; reflection and 1534; activities 43
verbal feedback 1334 phases of lessons 910
model answers, worksheets 75 physical education: bell work 22, 23;
moderation: assessment quality 1378; starter activity 52(fig), 54
input data 1634 physics: bell work 22, 27; cross-curricular
modern foreign languages (MFL): bell links 956
work 21, 23; cross-curricular links ping-pong questioning 67, 114
956; investigation activity 86; starter planning 817; learning outcomes 2731
activity 45; target boards 48; video link 49 plenary activities 1018, 155; ABCD
MyMaths website 79 cards/interactive voting 1034; Big
Question as 1012; comment-based
Naisbitt, John 166 1078; correcting a response 1023;
NASA website 82 extended challenge 105; follow me/
noise, learning environment and 87, 156 loop card 1056; guess who/what 106;
NRICH website, pair-matching activities hidden questions 1056; making con-
401 nections 105; mini-whiteboards 102;
past exam questions 102; progression
objects, starter activity 501 line 107; same or different 103; top
observation: lesson study technique for trumps 106; what was the question? 107
174; quality assurance 1712 podcasts: auditory activity 94; starter
odd one out, bell work 234; same or activity 4950, 54
different 103 post-it notes 434, 49, 50, 79, 101, 103,
OFSTED 56; independent learning and 107; active marking 1458; game-based
91; plenary assessment 109 activity 434; interactive learning envi-
online noticeboards 90 ronment 157
open/closed questions 11617 praise 133, 1401, 153, 156
open-ended starter activities 457 predicted grade 1345, 1623
optical illusions 1315 progress checks see mini-assessments
oranges activity 923 progression ladder 37, 55, 132
orthographic projection 656
quality assurance 1713
pace of lesson 33, 35, 37, 5960; computer quality of assessments 1378
activities 79, 80, 82 questioning 11227; basketball 24, 38, 39,
pair-matching activities 3942, 679 67, 114, 117; Blooms Taxonomy 11822;
parent helpers 157 developing learning through 1235;
parents: access to portal page 110; attitude discussion/diagnostic 1045; evalua-
to marking 140; post-it note system tive listening 115; hands down 11314;
148; target grades and 137 misconceptions/incorrect answers
peer assessment 15052; assessment as 39, 115, 116; open/closed questions
learning 149; limitations to peer-marking 11617; ping-pong 67, 114; random
66, 724; orthographic projection name generators 24, 115; response time
activity 656; plenary activity 107, 108; 113, 114, 115, 1212; teacher input
potential dangers 150; teachers role 125; think, pair, share 1223; verbal
1512; video/podcasts 77 feedback 133; wait time 11415, 1212


quick-fire questions 379 square numbers, questioning skills 117

quotations, bell work 25 staff training 16975; quality assurance
RAG rating 3, 67, 75, 108, 145, 146 standard form, learning through questioning
RAISEonline 159, 160 1245
random name generators 24, 115 start of lesson 1857; bell work 1927;
real-life connections, home learning 110 Big Question 315; learning outcomes
real-life meaning, auditory activity 95 2731; review 556; starter activities/
recall of fact, bell work 212 benchmarking 3555; summary 567
reflection 1089, 1534 starter activities 3655; envelopes 513;
relative performance: tracking systems forming assessment criteria 47; game-
163; value-added measure 165 based activities 435; how many ways
religious studies, starter activity 53(fig) 54; objects 501; open-ended activities
remembering, Blooms Taxonomy 118 457; pair-matching activities 3942;
reverse bell work see bell work quick-fire questions 379; reviewing
review, starter activities 556 blogs 534; scenario-based 545; target
rich tasks see investigations boards 478; targeted questioning 51;
rocket project, cross-curricular links 96 treasure hunt 423; watching video
role play, kinaesthetic activity 94 4850
statistical models 1601; flaws 161
scaffolding questions 716 Stiggens, R. 4
scenario-based starter activities 545 subject literacy 29
science: bell work 24; Big Question success criteria 2831, 1312; Big Question
responses 1001; computer activities 323; forming 47; good/bad comparison
82; kinaesthetic activity 93; open-ended 6870; marking and feedback 140,
starter activities 456; pair-matching 1513; mini-assessment and 1545;
activity 689 progression line 107
Scriven, M. 1 summative assessment 1, 3; computer
seating arrangements/plan 156 activities 7980; empowering pupils
self-assessment 149, 1512; assessment as as learners 12930; not good enough
learning 3, 150; investigation activities 60; quick-fire questions as mini 37, 67;
85; potential dangers 150; who am I self/peer assessment more than 150
activity 445 summative performance, tracking systems 163
self-selection/assessment, textbooks 84 Swaffield, S. 4
sequence of learning 11(fig)
sequencing and planning 817 taboo, starter activity 44
sequencing learning, main body of lesson target boards, starter activity 478
606 target grade 701, 1347, 1604
silence, use in video/podcast 49, 65, 778 target setting 1347; grade distributions
snakes and ladders 43 135; parents and 137; tracking systems
snowballing, working together activity 1634
889 targeted questioning: mini-assessment 67;
social studies, cross-curricular links 96 starter activity 51
spectrum debate, working together targets/grades 12930, 1347, 1613;
activity 90 care required 134; success criteria and
speed dating, working together activity 90 1312; teacher input 1612
spelling mistakes 149 teach, definition 601


teacher, definition 601 video, use in developing learning 65

teacher development/training 7, 16975 video/podcast 768; cross-curricular
teacher input: questioning 125; target projects 767; peer-assessment 77;
setting 1612 use of silence in 778
TeacherLED website 42 video technology, starter activities
teacher talk 67 4850
Teachers TV 50 visual activities 94; drawings 94; interac-
teaching assistants 157 tive whiteboard 94; mind-mapping 94
technology: emphasis on concepts in vocabulary, subject literacy 29, 150
learning 656; video/podcast 4850,
768; Wallwisher 90
see also computer activities; internet Webb, M. 113
textbooks 834 who am I?, starter activity 445
think, pair, share 47, 55, 64; questioning whole-school marking policy 1423,
1223; working together activity 88 1701, 173
Times Educational Supplement (TES) whole-school targets 166
website 44 Wiliam, D. 1, 2, 104, 117, 125
tracking see target setting Winnie-the-Pooh 1416
traffic light system see RAG rating working together, main activity 8790;
treasure hunt activities 423 carousel 89; jigsaw 878; snowballing
trial and improvement, learning through 889; spectrum debate 90; speed dating
questioning 1234 90; think, pair, share 88
two stars and a wish 151 worksheets 11, 706; model answers 75;
peer-assessment 724, 756; pupil
understanding, Blooms Taxonomy 11819 choice 701
universities, link up with 49 written comments, marking and feedback
value added measure, evaluation 165 48
verbal feedback 1324; peer-assessment 151 48

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