5 Assessment for Learning Strategies I Use in My Classroom!
As Dylan Wiliam conveys,
“Assessment is formative when the evidence about student achievement is used to make decisions about the next steps in the learning of the student which are better than the decisions would have been in the absence of the assessment.”
AfL is an integral part of the teaching and learning process and always informs the learner and teacher of the next steps in the lesson or topic. As is stated in the NCCA Assessment Guidelines for Schools, AfL focuses on three key questions:
- Where are children now in their learning?
- Where are children going in their learning?
- How will children get to the next point in their learning?
I remember when I was on teaching practice, and especially when starting out in my own classroom as an NQT, I was so enthusiastic and saw so many different ways of embedding AfL in the teaching and learning in my classroom.
I, at times, tried to do too many AfL techniques at once.
Needless to say this confused both me and the students, put an emphasis on the technique and not the purpose of the technique, and was overall not effective.
From my own experience, it is important to introduce AfL strategies gradually over time. I have seen and heard of excellent strategies by researchers for AfL and have tried them only to also end up with confusion or complete ineffectiveness of the technique.
This ethos is also echoed in Rahoo’s EPV Summer Course on Assessment for Learning – try one thing at a time!
While I will mention many ways I embed AfL into the teaching and learning in my classroom, bare in mind this is a compilation of ideas for you to consider, some, many or all of these ideas may not suit your class right now, or ever. It is important to have a trial and error of AfL techniques to find what works for you and your class. Every teacher is different and so is every class. What I used for AfL with my class last year, I may not use this year.
Learning Objectives & Sharing Success Criteria
When planning my learning objectives, I use Bloom’s Taxonomy to ensure I have a range of questions that both challenge the learners and provide higher order thinking, as well as having questions that are lower order questions to scaffold and support other pupils. I sometimes however change the verb into one that is more accessible for the pupils to understand when I am sharing them either on a display or at the start of a lesson.
Also, I always ensure to follow the ‘performance- condition- criteria’ structure when planning my learning objectives.
I have purposefully put both the sharing of the lesson objectives and sharing success criteria together as I feel it is important that one is not without the other for any lesson, no matter how it is communicated.
One way you may commonly see this is through the acronym ‘WILF – What I’m Looking For…”.
When sharing my WILF, I not only convey what I’m looking for in terms of the process or final task, but also in terms of team work, participation, and early finishers.
I feel it is important to convey your expectations for things like noise levels during this time too so the children know whether they can talk aloud, or if they must whisper or talk lower if you are conferencing with another group.
Determining Prior Knowledge
This is another one of my non-negotiable AfL techniques in all lessons every day.
Whether it is getting the children to brain-dump all their ideas on to a page or whiteboard, through a quiz question or through effective questioning or a KWL, I always ensure to find out what the children already know about a topic as this will lead the way for me as the teacher in terms of what I will need to teach in the lesson or who I will need to scaffold more or challenge more.
There are so many ways to ensure all pupils get effective feedback everyday.
One way of ensuring pupils can give themselves effective feedback or peer-feedback is ensuring you share the success criteria and/ or a checklist for success, a rubric, or anything else the pupils can use as a guide.
During the Author’s Chair share session, I like to use feedback stems and two stars and a wish for the pupils to give each other feedback. I keep a ‘conferencing list’ on a small whiteboard with the children I will conference with on a given day, and thus, I have those children share their work in the share session ensuring by the end of the week each child has had a chance to share and get peer feedback.
Use Traffic light pens or highlighters to highlight or record feedback in their copies for them to work on in their next lesson.
In the senior classes, I taught the pupils how to use different coloured highlighters when correcting their partner’s work, to highlight the areas they loved and thought were excellent, found interesting or funny in green, and then to use pink or orange highlighter to highlight some parts they thought needed improvement. Then, at the end they would follow the following structure to comment on the work: One positive comment, one question, and one way to make it better next time.
As the teacher, as I mentioned before with having a conferencing plan for which children I will give feedback to on a given day, it is important to make sure you are giving feedback to all children during the week. Classrooms are busy, so I find making a plan and sticking to it works best for me. It isn’t possible to give every single child constructive feedback every day on every lesson, so if you pick pupils each day, this will mean that you are more organised in your feedback, and the children get time to be heard and get the feedback they need to excel in whatever area it is that you are giving them feedback on.
In the senior classes, I used to give children oral feedback sometimes if the day was busy, or if I found myself scaffolding another pupil, and they would write it down in the copy page for themselves to remember.
It is about being flexible with your feedback, but being organised too and having a plan to ensure every pupil has a personal goal to achieve or something to improve on in different subjects.
This is a technique I became more aware of through the short CPD course on Effective Questioning with Rahoo.
Two quick and practical ways I ensure to ensure effective questioning in my lessons now is to:
- Ensure my questions don’t just require yes/ no answers as this won’t truly reflect a pupils progress or inform me of where they’re at in the topic or lesson. Have a question that requires a specific answer, or with a paragraph, sentence or with a sum that has a mistake and have them correct the mistake.
- Embed checkpoint/ hinge questioning throughout the lesson, checking that the students have grasped a concept before you move on. I usually have these as A/B/C/D questions where the pupils write down the letter on their whiteboard and reveal it when I know everyone has given a guess! This can allow you to iron out any misconceptions or recall the information you’ve taught, see who is confused and who you will need to scaffold going forward.
Effective Communication and Exit Tickets
I have put these together as I believe they both, together, play a huge, but underrated, part in my daily classroom AfL.
In my class at each group, one pupil wears an ‘Ask Me’ badge for a specific topic or subject as I believe they are competent in that topic or subject area to be able to assist those at their group if they need help. While I am assisting a pupil or working with a group, the children in the other groups raise a red traffic light if they need help.
The pupils also have the option of communicating with me through lollipop traffic light cups which you can see below. On a Monday I share our weekly learning goals with the pupils, and if at any stage of the week the pupil is finding a concept difficult, they can move their name to the corresponding cup, and if they can, write a short note saying what it is they are struggling with.
Exit tickets are fantastic to incorporate at the end of your lessons or at the end of the day. I have the children pop them in my postbox so I can have a look at them later on in the day!
I hope this has helped you to explore some practical ways of implementing AfL in your classroom. Again, as I mentioned before, this is a compilation of ideas for you to consider; some, many or all of these ideas may not suit your class right now, or ever. It is important to have a trial and error of AfL techniques to find what works for you and your class. Every teacher is different and so is every class!
Remember AfL must inform the teacher and learner of the next steps that are to be taken in the lesson, or in the topic. So, no matter what AfL techniques you use, make sure they are informing the day by day, minute by minute (Dylan Wiliam) decisions of your teaching and learning in your classroom.
P.S. Did you know that Rahoo's EPV Summer Courses are going on sale on the 1st of May!? Don't forget to take a peek!
My name is Lorraine and I run the social media pages All Things Primary! I am a mum of 2 and 2 fur babies, deputy principal, a keen gardener, white wine and book loving red head!
It is that time of year… planning and preparing for our online summer courses has well and truly commenced.
Teresa, Principal of a primary school in Cork and more recently during lockdown- a “highlighter” reader. Teresa loves working as a principal and has a fantastic team of colleagues that create a warm and safe environment for students to flourish.
Rebecca, Second Class teacher in an Educate Together school in Dublin and more recently during lockdown- a DIY fanatic. I completed my BA in St. Patrick’s College, my PGCE & NQT year in England, taught abroad for three years in Qatar and now I am back in Ireland for the second year. I love teaching English and enjoy getting really creative with lessons.
I remember when I was on teaching practice, and especially when starting out in my own classroom as an NQT, I was so enthusiastic and saw so many different ways of embedding AfL in the teaching and learning in my classroom. I, at times, tried to do too many AfL techniques at once…
I have been teaching 1st class for the past three years and enjoy working on the In-school Management Team also. Last year I had the opportunity to develop a Yearly planner for Special Education Teachers and have loved that experience. 2021/22 is on the way, watch this space!