Who wants to be a Formative Assessor?

Theme music, friend-phoning, familiar graphics and even Chris(tine) Tarrant were all in place for an informative seminar on formative assessment on Friday afternoon at Longniddry Primary, hosted by Ann McLanachan. There was a good turn-out, with an assembly hall full of teachers from every primary in the Preston Lodge cluster together with a group from the secondary.

"Millionaire" technology was used effectively to capture attention, and get everyone focussed on questions about:

A range of quotes from
Black and Wiliam , Shirley Clarke and local primary, secondary and nursery teachers were then used to lead into a demonstration of a "formative assessment-friendly" classroom. Examples included using increased wait time when questioning; sharing of learning objectives and using thumbs-up/thumbs-down, and green/amber/red traffic-lighting to check understanding.

Charli Russell from Preston Lodge demonstrated the difference improved questioning techniques can make by working with the whole group. First, with the aid of an accomplice, she used general knowledge questions to show how easy it was to switch off everyone else by consistently accepting answers from one or two enthusiastic students. Then she went on to use increased wait times and thumbs-up/thumbs-down to show how much more interaction and engagement resulted.

A case study of a whole-school approach tackled the question "What makes a good lesson?" This included the WALT and WILF approaches to sharing of learning intentions. I'd heard of WALT, but not WILF:

WALT – We are learning to…

WILF – What I'm looking for is…

The formal presentations were concluded by presentations from three members of the Learning Team, who spoke of their own experiences. There's no doubt that nothing beats personal stories – narratives – for engaging an audience and sharing knowledge. Jan, who spoke quietly and modestly of her own experience, held the audience spellbound in a way that a fact-dumping PowerPoint presentation could never have done. The spontaneous round of applause she received was well deserved. Her stories of how her decision to target project work led to children demanding the sharing of learning intentions and success criteria were memorable and confidence-inspiring.

Finally we concluded with an opportunity for colleagues to share ideas. This included completion of a "Where am I?" progress check sheet. In my group, there was good discussion over what exactly was meant by the shorthand terms used: sharing learning intentions; feedback; modelling; think, pair, share/talking partners; traffic lighting; questioning; wait time; self and peer evaluation; use of wrong answers. This was ideal for developing a shared understanding of what was meant by these terms. It seems to me this is a necessary first step to developing the practice.

We were provided with a list of recommended books for further reading. These were:



Assessment for Learning – Putting it into Practice

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Targetting Assessment in the Primary Classroom

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Unlocking Formative Assessment

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Enriching Feedback in the Primary Classroom

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Formative Assessment in Action

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Formative Assessment in the Secondary Classroom

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