Embedding Formative Assessment project to enable deep learning for social justice

Senaka Galagedera, assistant headteacher, Kingsford Community College

Kingsford Community College sees formative assessment as a key area for development – so it warmly embraced the opportunity take part in the Embedding Formative Assessment (EFA) project.

The main aim of the project was to ultimately ensure that all our students were successful learners, confident individuals and effective contributing global citizens – a major potential contribution to social justice. The EFA project supported us to challenge and stretch all learners so that they achieve their full potential.

The whole of the first year’s schedule was designed up front with the support of the SSAT Lead Practitioner. Joint discussions helped provide interactive resources for each session and a shared strategy to get teachers actively engaged in the model.

The EFA project, launched in October 2015, provided the key ideas behind the model to get teachers to build on their formative assessment strategies. Teacher Learner Communities (TLCs) and peer observations were presented to staff. We also decided as a school to embed coaching practices, on which training was then going on, into the sessions.

The peer observation technique was modelled in the launch session: all staff peer-observed a lesson via video and then designed coaching questions to help the teacher reflect on their practice. The example used in the launch was the use of the basketball question technique (pose, pause, pounce, bounce). As the lesson was of a leadership team member, it also helped ensure that all staff understood that it was not an accountability model but a supportive model from the best resource we have, our peers. The launch allowed these ideas to be clearly communicated:

  • A common understanding of formative assessment – five key areas.
  • Introduction to TLC leaders/group and agreed expectations.
  • A shared message that all the sessions were building on current formative assessment practices and not necessarily starting new ones.
  • Introduction to coaching questions/peer observations with the use of a standardised video lesson using the IRIS technology.
  • Familiarisation with the relevant peer observation and action paperwork alongside the video lesson.

The launch provided a good foundation to build on throughout the remaining eight sessions. The TLC leaders worked closely as a group to facilitate each of the sessions, which were discussed as a group before each session. The sessions were adapted, with support from the SSAT Lead Practitioner, to ensure we allowed opportunities for coaching reflection to take place and to see the outcomes of using the techniques.

The TLC forum worked well in our school as it provided dedicated time to allow for self-reflection and opportunities to discuss teaching techniques in a safe environment. It put formative assessment to the forefront of the teachers’ thinking, especially when planning their lessons and challenging students’ thinking. The forum was also a great place to share good practice and was eventually expanded to a shared Twitter feed.

Results? Our learning walks, book audits and lesson observations have clearly seen a marked improvement in the effectiveness of formative assessment, especially in questioning and marking. This was supported by the student voice, which especially highlighted the impact of feedback in the lessons.

The last session of the EFA project was one of our main successes: it was solely dedicated to a whole-school sharing of good practice. This highlighted some of the great work that the teachers had produced from the project. During this session, each staff member delivered a three-minute presentation of a formative assessment technique that they felt made a positive impact on their students. Each presentation was completed in their respective TLC groups, but all staff could access the resources if they were interested in finding out more. This was a great way to celebrate the successes of the year as well as share good practice among all staff.

The final presentation session not only finalised year 1 of the EFA project but also gave momentum into year 2. The EFA project continued to revolve around TLC and peer observations, positively reinforced via staff feedback from year 1. We also included coaching practices into the feedback sessions to allow teachers more ownership in their development. The peer observation sheets were modified to help support the implementation of coaching questions when peer observing others. New staff were strategically placed in TLC groups and buddied with teachers to give them a smooth introduction to the workshops.

We continued into year 2 embedding the strategies on the five key principles. We were keen to ensure that the strategies were a constant wave of ideas with regular evaluations, so we created a Twitter feed for staff to share their successes on a more live basis – #EFAKCS.

The good practice was also shared via a marketplace where all teachers bring evidence (eg, students’ books, student voice, resources etc) of an aspect of formative assessment to share with each other. Quality assured by the TLC leader, this was a great opportunity to celebrate teachers’ successes.

The EFA project and the TLC model are now well-established in our school. They run every year to support the continual professional development of our staff. Each year we have made the sessions more specific depending on the key school priorities: for example, we are currently focusing on effective use of questioning to stretch the most able students.

The learning walks, book looks and lesson observations have clearly shown a marked improvement in the effectiveness of formative assessment. This was supported by student voice, which highlighted the effectiveness of teacher feedback in lessons. Students specifically identified that across the school they were receiving consistent feedback with planned response times, enabling them more readily to understand and apply.

The EFA project has had many successes in allowing students to maximise their potential and is constantly making daily marginal gains in lessons. One of the major successes has been the impact on our NQTs, Teach First and second year teachers, and PGCE students. Not only has the project given them resources and confidence but the peer observation structure has allowed them to observe a range of different teaching experiences. It’s been great to see NQTs giving senior leaders ideas, as well as vice versa, within a safe working environment with one goal in mind; to ensure students maximise their potential.

Find out more about the Embedding Formative Assessment programme here 

This article, which supports SSAT’s Fighting for Deep Social Justice campaign, was originally published as a series of case studies which explore how schools are working towards achieving deep social justice for their young people. Learn more

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