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5 Examples of How to Embed Formative Assessment

Our recent seminar with Dylan Wiliam covered a lot more ground than we could squeeze into a short blog post, but here is what we learnt from our recent session with the world leader in Formative Assessment.

1. Gather evidence about what students are learning

Formative assessment is about bridging the gap between what you teach and what your students learn, so in order to know what to teach, you need more evidence about what each individual student has learnt. As teachers, one of the most common considerations in the classroom is: do I need to go over this again, or should I move on? As if your whole class was a homogenous group, you might ask 1 student a question and use their answer to determine whether or not to move on. To gain a better understanding of where each individual student in the class is, you need better evidence by questioning the wider class.

2. Carefully plan the questions you ask students.

Use probing questions that will demonstrate depth and breadth of knowledge, and ask colleagues to help you plan them. Take a look at these 2 questions:

Would your weight be the same on the moon?

Would your mass be the same on the moon?

The answer for question 1 is “no”, but it’s obvious from seeing video footage that there’s something different about your weight on the moon. Question 2 is a much more probing question because students might not know that your mass is always the same.

And remember, if you’re asking probing questions that require students to think, give them time to think. Count 3 seconds in your head and be silent, to give them time before you jump in with an answer or ask someone else.

3. Feedback is about improving the learner, not the work

The best form of feedback is the feedback that learners use. Asking further questions in your feedback to students means you can challenge them to make the corrections themselves, and therefore improve and embed their learning. For instance, you could say “3 of your answers are missing key facts. Which ones are they and can you rewrite them?” Make it detective work!

4. Provide different examples of good work

Showing examples of good work can provide students with something clear to aim for. However, you must be careful to explain why the work is good, and not to mislead students into thinking it’s the longest piece of work or the one with the neatest handwriting.

5. Ask students to come up with their own sets of questions and answers

Self-reporting is not a good formative assessment; self-reflection is good, but you cannot rely on it for assessment. Asking the students to come up with questions and a model answer is a good way for them to test their learning. Get them together in groups and ask them to gather the best answer to the question from each of their work.

Have you used any of the techniques in your classroom? Have they worked? Have you got any other tips on how to use formative assessment? Share them with us on Facebook and Instagram @teachertraininguk


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