Blog Archive

Sunday 28 June 2020

Whole School CPD - Week 5 - How do we apply formative assessment in our own subject areas?

It would be very remiss of our CPD platform this term not to review how each department is considering the theme of formative assessment and to showcase the expert application of strategies. It is with great pleasure that I am able to present to you all this week a plethora of worked examples from Mangotsfield itself, thank you to every department who kindly sent their contributions through. It is hoped that seeing said strategies 'come to life' will allow us to greater understand their potential and make the transference between subject areas swift.

One note, I will be using 'one universal language' when referring to the names of these strategies. When our students return to us in September, we wish to use the same terms for each strategy across the school so as to avoid confusing our students. We therefore will not be referring to these as 'assessment' tasks in lessons; that is bound to overwhelm them. The emphasis should be on  utilising these as fun, enjoyable learning activities so when using these strategies we want to sell them as low stakes, captivating and appealing.

So what was each department asked? 
1. What is your current departmental model for formative assessment? 
2. Which new strategies are consistently used and which are you looking to embed? 
3. What worked examples are you able to share?

So let's see them all in action, first up English:

Within our department, concretely embedded into our curriculum are three key strategies; 
a) Kagan structures ( are built into all SOLs students are given lots of opportunities to vocalise their responses both to the teacher and to each other. This gives the teacher the ability to move around the class and give instant feedback to student response. 
b) Low-stakes quizzes are used on a daily basis. They give the teacher the ability to gauge the extent to which students have a handle on any given text, future lessons and starters are planned accordingly – i.e. Q’s on a poem – if students struggle then a future lesson re-teaching that poem is planned. 
c) Purple book assessments occur on a fortnightly basis. Students complete an extended piece of writing. Following this teachers mark and give students a broken down targeted task. As per Daisy Christodolou these tasks focus on teaching a component skill of the bigger picture task (

Following on from previous weeks CPD, we have as a department identified three further strategies to embed; Barrett's Taxonomy, Retrieval Grids and Analysis Grids (please see Johnny's excellent blog post on Barrett's Taxonomy is you are interested in some further reading, its a game changer -

Ryan has produced examples of Retrieval Grids that are based on the key poems Year 10 need to know for their exam. The competition element, to ensure these are received positively by students, is through the use of a points score system, based on Kate Jones idea of how long ago students must retrieve the knowledge from.

Now for Maths:

In Maths we routinely use a range of strategies to help us assess students formatively. In every lesson you can see evidence of Questioning (Hinge, Diagnostic, DQs) which to us is a very powerful tool that allows us to drill down, expose and manage misconceptions, review prior learning and pave the way for next steps. We also regularly utilise the use of whiteboards with our questioning activities to help drive and adjust the lesson around student responses.

Weekly Skills (Diagnostic) are more recently used by some teachers for some groups - these allow teachers and students to understand where the gaps are in prior (and current) learning. Question Level Analysis is used after summative tests to help ‘fill gaps’/address misconceptions, see example opposite.

Moving forward as a department we have identified the following areas for development. We wish to:
1. Adapt ‘Variation Theory’ tasks to become more strategic with results recorded as raw scores. 
2. Use (Short Low Stakes) Quiz Assessments.
3. Produce exit slips/questions/summaries.
Please do approach the Maths department directly if you are interested in examples of Hinge Questions that they use and exit slips that they are currently working on producing.

Onto Science:

The Science department routinely provides written feedback to our 'Explain Tasks' via dot marking and followed by Try Now, on average every eight lessons. Please see John's post from 2019 on this initiative ( Verbal feedback and/or self-assessment occur routinely every lesson. This occurs through the following range of strategies:

  1. Low Stakes Quizzes, self-marked with a raw score.
  2. “We do it” (I do, We do, You do) moments following teacher science explanations e.g., Think-Pair-Share, multiple choice, true or false, one word answers.
  3. Scaffolded writing tasks, chunked into a supportive scaffold using Bloom’s Taxonomy - students can track the difficulty level more easily. See the examples below for guidance students receive for how to structure their answer. This is often followed with a modelled answer by the teacher. For anyone interested in exploring the 'Success in Science' policy further then please contact the department directly.
  4. Plenary - Students self-assess mark and correct work using teachers answers to scaffolded writing, followed by “Today I have achieved…” Reflection discussion.
As we review our current formative assessment strategies, we have identified the need to increase the level of interleaving of older content that occurs in our low-stakes quizzes as well as clarifying strategies for revision lessons and activities.

Into Humanities and first up RS:

Opposite are examples of the formative strategies we use routinely at the start of all lessons. In the case of the low-stakes quizzes, the intention is to check recollection of key knowledge that has been gradually built up across the unit, which then helps to consolidate the bigger picture and identify misconceptions and/or gaps.

The image task, similar to concept mapping, links to prior learning that has taken place in the unit and draws in the new learning they will be exploring, so if there are issues this is something to revisit to avoid faulty learning of the new information. 

After information has been introduced to the students we will often use Kagan Structures to encourage the students to verbalise the information they have encountered. Oracy of the new learning allows for greater 'live observation'. The teacher can move around the room and listen into discussions before each group feeds back ideas which can be further probed. The responses allow for the teacher to establish whether the class are ready to move on and use this information or whether further teacher exposition is required. It may be that shows some students are ready for independent practise while others need further teacher support.  

Moving forward, strategies such as retrieval grids and Cops and Robbers from Kate Jones 'Retrieval Practice' ( are the key focus for development and embedding.

Followed by History:

As Kate Jones points out in her book 'Love to teach' (, good practice with formative assessment is to rotate a small collection of strategies for formative assessment so that students become confident with their routine use. For that reason, in History the following strategies are consistently utilised:
1. Five question low-stakes quizzes. 
2. Kagan structures such as All Stand Consensus and Hand Up, Stand Up, Pair Up.
3. Thirty question retrieval quizzes - which are being brought down from KS4 to KS3. These develop over time but only once they have answered every question correctly. We treat this as a competition and get the students to compete against one another. Our centralised tracking system allows for the quick collation of students scores so they can see live in the lesson their progress. When a student becomes aware that they must get all questions right before they can move on, they become more determined and focused to retrieve the core knowledge.
4. Plenary activities that are linked to the driving question to review key learning.

Within our classroom routines we are also known to use Just a Minute and No Opt Out Questioning.  GoogleClassrooms is an key strength, we have been setting all home learning using this virtual platform for this term. Students are provided with feedback on submitted work and we can track their performance. Moving forward, Analysis Grids appeal as a new approach to source interpretation.

And now Geography:

Geography have clearly embedded routines in which all lessons begin with low stakes quizzes, in which past knowledge is retrieved. We are looking to modify these in the new academic year to ensure we pose five questions that not only reflect on past knowledge but draw links to the new learning too. Kagan structures have been part of our departmental expectations for a couple of years now, namely all write round robin and rally table to ensure that students collaborate their discussions.

Within KS4 we consistently use Knowledge Checkers;
focusing on the use of ten questions that ask students to learn core knowledge before its consolidation to an exam question and Concept Mapping to ensure that students become familiar to tier 3 vocabulary. Concept Mapping was used primarily in Year 11 to encourage them to make links between prior knowledge.

Moving forward, our identified strategies as part of our curriculum shake-up will be Retrieval Grids and Analysis Grids. As per the directions in the previous blog post on analysis grids, we are focusing on the skills element of our curriculum as the focal point; this can be graphs, images, diagrams or maps (wouldn't be Geography without a map). Our example opposite shows the use of a complete OS Map with multiple questions designed to probe the source. Having now read Johnny's excellent post on Barrett's Taxonomy, we could tier the questions around the source as such.

We have begun work on both of these, examples are shown opposite. The Retrieval Grids will be used as part of our tracked formative assessment at KS3, alongside a more skills based task, and have been designed around an allocated points system based on the length of time students are being asked to retrieve knowledge from. As we are moving towards a spiral within a spiral curriculum, inspired by the History department, we are often exploring 6-7 themes per term under the umbrella on one continent so it is essential we ensure that students recognise the links between these themes across the years by retrieving it routinely.

So what are MFL working on?

In MFL we test students’ vocabulary by means of a fortnightly test with 10 low stakes questions. These vocabulary tests are directly related to the sections of the knowledge organiser the pupils have been studying for homework that week. Additionally, ‘No Hands Up' questioning aka Cold Call questioning is core to MFL departmental ethos. In this way, we provide students with instant feedback and constantly inform ourselves about the students’ understanding. We also use every speaking and listening activity we do (which occur in almost every lesson) as a means of formative assessment to assess pronunciation and understanding of core concepts and vocabulary. 

As a department, following this terms CPD we are each working on preparing templates in both French and German for the following formative assessment strategies; Hinge Questioning, Retrieval Grids, Say it Better, Just a minute and All Write Round Robin. We hope to have these ready to share soon.

PE have been hard at work:

We are looking to re-write our KS3 SoL including implementing a new tracker to monitor progress against four assessment outcomes. In each block of work/sport, we would look to use one formative assessment strategy to help us assess students against each outcomes.
  1. Knowledge and understanding (Could be a low stakes quiz on rules or terminology etc.)
  2. Practical application of skills (Visually assess, with verbal feedback)
  3. Practical application in competitive context (Visually assess, with verbal feedback)
  4. Analysis and evaluation (Questioning)
As a department, we frequently use Kagan Structures within GCSE or theory lessons, generally to share ideas help prepare students to answer exam questions. Alongside this there are 10 question low stakes quizzes, based on areas of weakness highlighted from a department Question Level Analysis.

We are interested in embedding further Google Classrooms to set rules questions for students. The wish is that students will then be more independent at checking their knowledge and understanding against the required assessment outcome.

What are Art planning to do?

Kagan structures play a key role in our project discussions, this creates formative assessment opportunities. Peer, self and teacher written feedback is expected for each project as formative feedback/review to impact progress, quality, refinement. The use of Kagan encourages students to share their ideas, receive that peer support and feedback before moving on to consolidating their designs. Our current review focuses on identifying opportunities for further formative assessment in the margins of our knowledge-rich PowerPoints. Exit cards have been recognised as a further development of strategies for the 2020-21 curriculum.

Health and Social Care are reflecting:

In terms of H&SC formative assessment can be less apparent in a lot of the work we do and that is because 3/4 of the course is coursework heavy. This obviously leads to a lot of independent work using the resources given rather than retrieving knowledge through assessments. However for the 1/4 of the course that is exam based formative assessment will become key, with our particular focus going to be at the start of every lesson when we do this topic. So for example making use of low-stakes quizzes, Challenge Grids, Cops and Robbers from Kate Jones etc in order to build as much knowledge into the long term memory.

A final thought:

THANK YOU! To all departments who have been able to send through their reflections. I am very aware that there are many other examples of good practice out there and that some of our smaller departments have not had the opportunities to meet to discuss. As a collaborative Mangotsfield community, I am sure it goes without saying that if you wish to find out how any of the strategies shared work further then please do contact departments directly.

Moving forward, it is important to spend some time reflecting on how these strategies can be presented via GoogleClassrooms. With the uncertainty that September brings, our use of this virtual platform to consolidate core learning completed in school will be more important than ever. In our final weeks of this term, we aim to marry together these two key priorities to ensure we are in the strongest position possible for blended learning in September.

Saturday 27 June 2020

Barrett's Taxonomy - No, not Bloom's! A guide by Johnny Suttle

Johnny expertly writes: 

No! Not Bloom’s! I remember being in my NQT year and thinking ‘If I ever hear anyone mention ‘Blooms Taxonomy’ again I’m going to have a meltdown, swear at a student and never step foot in a school again. It seemed to be the refuge of anyone delivering CPD, not sure what to say – mention Bloom’s taxonomy. Want to impress an observer – say your lesson has been planned using principles from Bloom. This is not to say Bloom’s taxonomy is bad, in fact I think it’s really useful, I’m just sick to death of hearing about it! So…good news … I’m not writing about Bloom’s taxonomy, bad news…I’m going to write about a taxonomy by some bloke beginning with B!

What does it do? 

Barrett’s taxonomy is a fantastic formative assessment model that lets us understand how much information and to what degree of depth a student has understood a text. It is very easy to read an extended piece of writing with a class, or even a set of instructions and then simply make the assumption that they have understood that text and gained the same level of information you have. You then plough ahead with the next part of the lesson which is dependent on the comprehension of the text and lots of students are left behind, they can’t access the next step in the learning and the lessons consequently falls apart. 

Barrett’s Taxonomy allows you to phrase questions that give you an understanding of where exactly each student’s understanding of what you have just read is at. It recognises 5 levels at which a student can engage with a text. 
  1. Literal Comprehension – Students can demonstrate recognition of the key details or main ideas that are explicitly stated in a text.
  2. Reorganisation – Students can not only recognise the key ideas but can summarise them, or explain them in their own words.
  3. Inferential – Students can use the ideas to make predictions, hypotheses, or drawn connections to other learning that links with the topic – i.e. if they’ve read an article about volcanoes they might be able to make a link to knowledge they have about the make-up of the earth.
  4. Evaluation – Students are able to make a judgement about the validity of a text (is it a reliable source), They can make judgements about whether the text represent fact or opinion and they can compare external ideas to the ideas presented in the text.
  5. Appreciation – Students can demonstrate their understanding of how the writer’s choice of language reflects their ideas and intentions. They are also able to identify and emphasise with individuals or characters within a text.
How can we use it? 

As hinge questions: Before you move onto a task about a text you can use questions from the taxonomy that allows you to judge if the students have a strong enough understanding to be able to tackle that task. If not you know you need to go back and spend more time breaking down the text. If for example I want to teach my students to write a paragraph about a text in which they make inferences they can only do this if they have understood it to an inferential level. By questioning up to this level I can make the judgement, can students respond at this level, if so we move on, if not we spend more time on the text. 

Taking students to the next level of comprehension: Questioning is a hugely important part of our teaching practice. When shown on a hierarchical level like this taxonomy it is really clear how we can use questioning to help our students push themselves to a deeper understanding. If we read a text I might pick on a student and ask them a question based at the literal comprehension level. If they answer this I can follow this up with a question at the reorganisation level. Students might need some help formulating an answer at a level at which they struggle but if we don’t allow them the option to opt out of answering we can guide them, one step of the pyramid at a time to a deeper understanding. 

Adding differentiation to our lessons: Picture this common scenario in many of our lessons. Students have just read a text and they then complete a few comprehension questions to demonstrate they have understood the text. It is all too easy to make these questions simple literal comprehension questions. For example, imagine they have just read a text about Henry VIII questions might look like this: 
  1. Name three of his wives
  2. What did he do to his second wife
  3. How long did he rule for
These questions will us see if students have understood the text but they will not push the more able students who have a clear literal comprehension and are starting to formulate their own ideas of a text. Imagine instead you gave students the choice of tasks such as this: 

1. State 5 things you find out about Henry VIII 

2. Explain what Henry VIII did to his wives in your own words 

3. Why do you think Henry VIII beheaded Anne Boleyn 

4. How do you think people at the time would have viewed Henry VIII’s actions 

5. How do you think the author feels about Henry VIII and which sentence lets you know this. 

Students have the choice of which task they respond to. By simply circulating the room you can see who is responding to which task and therefore which level they have understood the text. You are able to encourage particular individuals to respond to a particular task that will challenge them. If they complete a task before others are finished they can attempt the next level of task. In terms of planning time this takes the same time as it does to come up with 5 comprehension tasks but the end result is a fully differentiated task that will challenge all students and allow you clear and instant feedback about all students in the class. 

Conclusion: I hate a taxonomy! In case I didn’t make it clear in the intro I feel a strong personal resentment to Benjamin Bloom. However the idea of tiered questioning is so useful. Going forward I think extended reading is going to become a key part of teaching in all subjects. As Alex Quigley says in his excellent book ‘Closing the Reading Gap’ “I would challenge every teacher to find out more about reading … It is imperative that we all confidently understand how children learn to read and go on the read to learn best.” Simply allocating more of our class time to silent reading is not enough. We need to teach and scaffold reading with skill in the classroom and Barrett’s taxonomy is a brilliant way to allow us to make an assessment of what levels of scaffolding we need to put in place.

Sunday 21 June 2020

Make it stick - CPD Book Review

The science behind learning has been explored frequently in our Mango Moments blog, through discussions on dual coding, retrieval practice and cognitive load. Laura Phillips has kindly provided the following review of her chosen CPD text 'Make it Stick' by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger & Mark McDaniel (Published 2014). This book focuses on how we learn. Its primary take away is that it is about revisiting what we've been taught about learning, looking at the science and research and suggesting new ways for us to learn better - in a way that sticks!

Laura kindly writes:
There are three learning techniques (supported by peer-reviewed science) that are proven to increase information retention, skill acquisition and lead to mastery:
1. SelfQuizzing
Self‐quizzing forces you to use the limited information you recall to navigate your way back to the information you’ve forgotten. “The harder it is for you to recall new learning from memory, the greater the benefit of doing so…the effort of retrieving knowledge or skills strengthens its staying power.”
2. Interleaving
Instead of practicing one specific skill over and over, shift between three or more similar skills simultaneously.  
3. Spacing
“The increased effort required to retrieve the learning after a little forgetting has the effect of retriggering consolidation (brain’s method of encoding information), further strengthening memory.”

So why are self‐quizzing, interleaving, and spacing effective learning techniques?
The quick answer is ultimately because they are hard. The harder you work to retrieve information, the more likely that information will stick. in other words, effort is equal to retention. So whilst repetition might be an effective way to revise, it is only when we truly put the effort in to encode information that we stand a chance of remembering it.

To me, this book builds on work we are already doing in Science where all lessons have been restructured to fit a generic format. Science has a vast amount of content that students need to retrieve and apply in their exams. It’s interesting to read about methods that have been tested (and are effective) at helping students to enable the content to ‘stick’.

As Laura very clearly identifies, whilst we are all in this crucial phase of curriculum restructuring, as well as considering our recovery curriculum for September, it is essential to spend time reflecting on how to plan in clear opportunities for students to make their learning 'stick'. Laura's review triggered further research for me, in which I stumbled across this info-graphic:

We are clear that our students will most likely be ready to get back to the classroom, but with feelings of apprehension. We have a duty therefore to 'embrace any difficulties' they might be feeling and ensure our classrooms are safe and supportive environments to be in. 

Whilst we can not afford to lose anymore learning time, we have a duty to 'space out and mix up' the learning that we provide with multiple opportunities to 'learn new knowledge as well as retrieve' that set for home learning, and even before that. Now, more than ever, we must carefully plan for interleaving as well as spaced practice. 

For those interested in further reading in this area, can I please recommend the following links:
1. A visual guide to each chapter in the text:
2. A great interview with Peter Brown, co-author of Make it Stick:

Friday 12 June 2020

Whole School CPD - Week 3 - It's not impossible, we can use formative assessment to close the gaps!!

"Practice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited. (Black & Wiliam, 2009, p. 9)"

First and foremost, a huge thank you to all colleagues who took the time to read, reflect and respond to our first whole staff CPD post last week. There were so many kind, constructive and insightful comments that I hope you find have been responded to throughout the themes of this weeks post. 

In the spirit of honesty, we are not able to provide concrete answers to some of the longer term queries on assessment policy, use of Try Now tasks and data collection as (and I am sure you will all understand) we are having to adapt as we go to some extent and our priority this term is to ensure we are all equipped with a plethora of formative assessment tools that allow us to quickly identify each students gaps in learning and knowledge in Term 1 of the next academic year. Please see Sarah's voiceover and PowerPoint for more direct clarification over KS3 Assessment.

I hope I am not alone in thinking that the return of all students to our classrooms is a daunting one. Whilst I feel equipped to rise to the challenge, I have one nagging conundrum - how do I teach a room full of students where some will have completed all home learning (plus their own mini bootcamp of extension work), whilst others will have done the bare minimum, if anything at all? Now, whilst we are all used to scaffolding, differentiation, mixed ability teaching, its never been to this extent surely? Do we pitch up/high and hope we can drag the others along with us? Do we aim low and assume they all know nothing? Or do we attempt to spend a small period of time reviewing, retrieving and consolidating, making links between the home learning we set and new knowledge so (if possible) we challenge and engage all students irrespective of how much they completed at home? For me, it has to be the last one but how can this be done?

These are my initial thoughts on how we can formatively assess in the first few weeks to gain knowledge of the gaps. These can work alongside the ten strategies outlined last week.

1. Think back, plan forward.
The first suggestion is to adapt the way low stakes quizzes are created in the first term. Usually we choose questions from previous topics that have little or no relation to the lesson we are about to teach. This is because we are taught that we must retrieve past learning to ensure students can commit it to long-term memory. Let's try this instead - pick questions from home learning topics that help pupils to recall the information they will be applying in this lesson. For example, before teaching a lesson on the impacts of Deforestation, I might pick questions that link to the nutrient cycle, the water cycle and human led development of the rainforest. This will help the pupils to see how this lesson connects to what they have learned at home and still take advantage of the lesson time to learn new knowledge.

2. Analysis Grids.
Show pupils an image of something that relates to a home learning topic. Give them some prompt questions to consider that rely on them thinking back to what they were set at home. These could include open-ended questions such as "When would this diagram/graph/photo etc have been used? Before or after X?" In what scenario might you have seen...' , How can we increase the accuracy of this source'? These more open-ended questions require pupils to recall and use a wider range of their accrued knowledge and understanding. 

3. Just a minute.
Thank you to twitter for this one! Based on the long-running BBC Radio 4 game. Ask pupils to speak for one minute on a home learning topic without hesitation, repetition or deviation. This is also a useful opportunity for formative assessment. As pupils are engaged in this task, circulate the room and observe what they are able to recall and listen out for any misconceptions that are being shared. These can then be addressed while they are still fresh in people’s minds.

4.Connect Four or Concept Maps.
Give pupils four seemingly disparate topics or alternatively a bank of key words from their home learning. Ask them to find as many links between them as they can. Again, the aim is have them think hard about what they know about these topics to find the links. It also has the advantage of helping them to think like an 'expert' in your subject and to develop the complex web of links that disciplines depend upon (see the History example opposite). To extend the challenge, some must articulate the reasoning for their connections along the arrows. 

5. 3-Way Summaries.
The idea here is to use different modes of thinking and attention to detail. Students can work in groups or individually. In response to a question or key piece of knowledge you set out in the home learning, they write three different summaries; 10–15 words long ; 30–50 words long and 75–100 words long. You can even have students use twitter for the shortest version as a way to formulate their first thought. They'll have experience communicating messages with minimal wording and characters!! Ask them - what is the most important fact/skill you learned and build from there.

6. Kagan Structures. As outlined in Hetty's January INSET session, Kagan Cooperative Learning structures allow for multiple formative assessment opportunities. Please see the link attached for our previous blog post on five of the key structures: 

So how will these strategies help to close the gaps? How can we design curriculums that allow us to recognise the varying levels our students will be at whilst moving them forward at the same time. Dylan Wiliam in his 2011 publication 'Embedding Formative Assessment' outlines five strategies:
1. Clarifying, understanding, and sharing learning intentions - at Mangotsfield this means we ensure every lesson has a driving question and provide time to reflect and respond to this.

2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, tasks and activities that elicit evidence of learning - for us this means use Kagan structures, cold call questioning and exit cards activities to get our students talking about their learning again.

3. Providing feedback that moves learners forward - We wish to utilise the wonder that is GoogleClassrooms to collate examples of students work, annotated with feedback and use to structure whole class feedback.

4. Activating students as learning resources for one another  - grow our community so that students are prompted to discuss their learning, whether again through virtual classroom discussion boards or when we physically have them in front of us. For me this is the I do, We do, You do.

5. Activating students as owners of their own learning - engage and motivate, or as we at Mangotsfield believe in a 'love of learning where students are challenged to do their best'. In a practical sense this is the use of knowledge organisers and retrieval grids so students are able to recognise their own learning gaps.

Further reading should you wish:
1. Retrieval practice was mentioned by some in the feedback form. Whilst it has long been a discussion point for this blog, on reflection it has been discussed in over ten blog posts so far, it is 12 times that the average person must retrieve something from their short term memory to encode it to their long-term. For those of you who wished to learn more can I recommend this video link Rosenshine's Principles - Retrieval Practice.
2. For those considering how we re-establish routines with students, I found this a very reassuring read this week:

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Whole School CPD - Week 2 - How can we develop our use of formative assessment?

Welcome to our first blog post in which we are supporting the Term 6 whole school CPD focus on Assessment. As a result of the extensive curriculum reviews that occurred in Term 5, how we assess our students has emerged as a key priority for the vast majority of subject areas. The stumbling blocks range from the development of strategies to formatively assess, the mine field of tracking and monitoring the outcomes from these day to day tools, the query of how these feed into our planning and wider summative assessments and as a school ensuring that students are set progressively more challenging assessments that allow for memory retrieval of our core knowledge.

During Term 5, Middle Leaders were asked to engage in coaching conversations based on Tom Sherrington and Oliver Caviglioli's recent publication 'Teaching WalkThru's' (it is very worthwhile watching their introduction to the guide if you do not have a copy of the book Emerging from these discussions was the realisation that whilst we have made great strides with ensuring our curriculums are knowledge rich and culturally broad, as a cohort we are looking for further CPD to ensure our assessments reflect this ethos too.

As a result, the T&L team have designed our whole school CPD this term to focus on the paradigm shift towards 'authentic learning-focused formative assessment'. So whilst we are all approaching this from varying levels of experience and expertise, it is important we all refresh our own understanding of what is formative assessment? Dylan Wiliam states that 'the vital role of ‘minute by minute’ formative assessment where teachers check for understanding, adjust their teaching and continually seek to deepen students’ understanding and knowledge' be at the heart of all assessment shifts'. In a nutshell it's in the moment, relies on tight feedback loops and leads to specific actions. 

Daisy Christodoulou’s Making Good Progress (another great read) clearly states that genuine formative assessment is high frequency, low-stakes, narrowly focused testing with raw marks that is owned only by a teacher and their students but that also feeds directly back into the teaching and learning process. Whilst this is all very clear and at the heart of our recent shifts in practice at Mangotsfield, how do we plan for formative assessment opportunities at this curriculum planning stage? With this in mind, the main focus of this post is to share specific strategies that we either have or could use at Mangotsfield School. We are hoping this comprehensive mix of ideas will ensure that all subjects can embed a range of formative assessment strategies into their new KS3 curriculums, with clear signposting of where they will occur, what they will be assessing and how.

Mangotsfield Schools Top Ten Formative Assessment Strategies:

1. Kagan Structures - cooperative learning not only promotes questioning and discussion opportunities, but also facilitates opportunities to gather 'data' on student progress. Take 'All write round robin' where students are all asked to write answers to questions in rotation, using different coloured pens. It'll soon become apparent which students have a grasp of the new learning with a simple glance. All Stand Consensus or Numbered Heads Together are also useful here as you observe each groups discussions, who dominates and shows confidence and who withdraws so may require further support or checking.
2. Hinge Questioning - for example a multiple choice question which provides an immediate check of students understanding. You can ask them to use mini whiteboards or fist of five (holding up a specific number of fingers referrring to their choice of answer), and ensuring you do not move on until a specific level of understanding is demonstrated.
3. Exit Tickets - simply put, before students are permitted to leave a lesson they are posed a question. They must record their answer to this on a piece of paper or card and hand it in as they leave. This provides the all important , instant recognition of student learning or misconception for the teacher.
4. Exit Slips/Polls - not be confused with Exit Tickets, these focus more on students reflections of their learning. These can be pre-printed with sentence starters such as 'Today I fully understood....' 'However, one part I was stuck on was....' OR 'Today I learned for the first time....', so 'Next time I wish to explore....'. These can even be dressed up as tweets, see the image opposite.
5. Low-stakes quizzes - starting or ending the lesson with five quick fire questions, multiple choice or a key word checkers. The joy of this is that they can focus on new learning from that day, that week, month or even as retrieval practice from previous topics or even years. Endless opportunities!
6. Guided Reading - These are often used alongside a piece of text or knowledge and involve ten pre-written questions that students must initially answer from memory after reading the text, before revisiting the text and self assessing or adjusting their answers in a different colour.
7. Retrieval Grids - Please refer to previous blog posts on Retrieval Practice for these ideas. Similar to knowledge checkers, you can devise ten questions that ask students to retrieve knowledge from different time periods of their learning, awarding more points for the knowledge retrieved from longer ago. See our Geography example.
8. 'I can'... - removing the 'I can't' from our classrooms and focusing on what students can do is not only informative but promotes resilience. This works well with key words and vocab - ask students to list five key words they CAN define in their books, including the meanings, selecting from a word bank displayed on the board. This means no student is sat there unable to fill in spaces on a glossary that you have prepared for them, they take ownership and feel success. You can then observe who is more confident with the Tier 3 subject specific vocabulary, or any misconceptions.

9. Questioning - Cold Calling, Say Again or Say It Better and No Opt Out are all excellent choices here ( Please see earlier blog posts on Questionning for further information on these ideas.
10. Google Classrooms - I've left this one till last as there will be more to come on this amazing tool in the coming weeks. We can set quizzes, multiple choice, exit polls and so much more using Google Classrooms, allowing us to store our formative findings more centrally and allow for department discussions or moderation. Please see our other post on how to get started with GoogleClassrooms, we all need to start exploring its potential.

For further reading there are multiple blog posts but my top two to recommend are: