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How can we use formative assessment to ensure our children make progress?

How do I know that the children have made progress? This is a question that every teacher has asked themselves at some point in their career. With a class of 30 children, it is widely accepted that the only way to ensure that all the children are making progress, is to check and then intervene if necessary or plan for misconceptions/ gaps in knowledge that have been noticed. This simple process is called Assessment for learning (AFL).

Formative assessment

There are two different types of assessment – Formative and Summative. Summative assessment is an assessment of all the children’s learning (Possibly an end of unit test) that should give a teacher an overall view of the children’s learning. Formative assessment is a range of procedures and methods that can be carried out throughout the learning process to identify gaps. This can later be used to inform learning.

Responsive teaching

In Harry Fletcher-Wood’s 2018 book, ‘Responsive Teaching’ he discusses the need for teachers to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the children in the class. By responding to individual needs and misconceptions, a class teacher can ensure that purposeful interventions are made, and the children make progress.

In addition to this, he also discusses some of the ways in which AFL can be misused in the classroom. He suggests that the most common mistake is to use a ‘progress check’ like the ones identified below, but to then not intervene or adapt the planning to meet the needs of the children. It is important that progress checks are not just used as a gimmick but are used to inform learning.

Progress Checks

Here are 7 possible formative assessment strategies that can be used in class to ensure that children are making progress:

  1. Entrance/ exit pass: An entrance pass can be used at the start of the lesson to decide which children need to be guided. If the children get the question right, then they are ready for the next step in their learning. An exit pass does the same except informs the teacher which children will need intervention next time.
  2. Misconception check: The children can be presented with common or predictable misconceptions about a concept they’re covering. Can the spot the mistake and explain how they know?
  3. Teach your partner: Instructing one child to teach another about the concept they are covering and then listening in on their conversation can give them the chance to intervene with each other.
  4. Open-ended questioning: By asking open-ended questions, the children can reveal more about their deeper understanding of topics.
  5. Ask the children to summarise the concept they are learning: This can highlight misconceptions which can be addressed immediately.
  6. Think-Pair-Share: A Kagan learning strategy – Children take a few minutes to think about the question or prompt. Then, they join with their partner to compare thoughts before sharing with the whole class.
  7. One Question Quiz: Ask the children one, the targeted question that will allow you to know if they have understood the topic.

Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the Black Box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. London: GL Assessment.

Fletcher-Wood. (2018). Responsive Teaching: Cognitive science and formative assessment in practice. London: Routledge.

Kagan, M. and Kagan, S. (2009). Kagan Collaborative Learning. Hawker Brownlow Education.