Formative Assessment in Action: summary notes

Information taken from “Formative assessment in action: weaving the elements together” by Shirley Clarke.

p.6 Authority for the knowledge cannot be left in the hands of the teachers alone. All have a contribution to make. Making sense of new knowledge comes by connecting these to their prior knowledge and their expectations construed from this.


Assessments themselves do not result in learning. It needs to be deliberate. Formative assessment is defined as – “focussing on deepening and furthering the learning rather than simply measuring it.”

Students need models of quality.
Use talking partners

p.14 Closed skills have right or wrong answers. Their success criteria is based around the steps to do this. “There is no continuum of achievement.” p.15

Open skills do not have a right or wrong answer. Real examples are needed. The success criteria offer devices that will help them achieve it. Students can sometimes ‘tick the boxes’ because it is done. However feedback is then centred around the quality of the ‘ticked box’. This is where the formative assessment in action comes into play.

Concept and Knowledge learning objectives (p.16) are generally long term objectives. These are broken down from the over-arching concept to the short term goal and to the process.

p.21: Use of a numeracy coverage chart – record their learning in a different colour for each day on one piece of paper. A way of recording the coverage.

p.29 Important to separate the objective from the context of learning in order for students to transfer this knowledge. For lower achieving students use the same objective and differ the context.

Refer to p.35 for summary.

p.38: Success criteria provide the framework for formative dialogue. When creating process success criteria include the long term and short term goals sometimes. Alan Peat uses the term ‘Thinkabout

Ask students: “So what do you need to remember to achieve the objective?”  Have the learning objective planned ahead of time. Write them up in the children’s words.

p.50-51 (some verbatim, some own words).

Foundation stage:

  • using mindmaps to come up with success criteria (SC).
  • Positive impact on student behaviour
  • Regularly remind students to check SC

Key stage 1

  • Student created SC improving
  • More focus
  • Everyone needs same SC rather than differentiated at this point.
  • Students beginning to note ‘good work’
  • Students beginning to automatically mark own work.
  • Less able children achieve better – able to access the success criteria.

Key stage 2

  • Children taking ownership of the criteria and their learning.
  • Worth highlighting the most important SC.
  • Choose one or two SC for improvement focus.
  • Teacher requires secure subject knowledge
  • Teacher assistants more focussed on the appropriate.
  • Success criteria most effective when process focussed. Close skill improvement = correcting errors. Open skills can be used individually.
  • Children must be involved in the development.

Chapter 4: effective questioning.


  • Longer wait time (5 seconds needed)
  • Talking partner: need to teach what a successful talking partner is. Regularly change these.
  • Record on whiteboard.
  • Leave time for the processing to occur.
  • No hands up – anyone can be chosen. Don’t use with recall questions though –
  • Find opposites  or one that works and one that doesn’t (p.72)
  • Give the answer – find out how they got there.

Leads to more confidence. Give a range of answers and get children to decide which are right or wrong.

Chapter 5: self and peer evaluation, feedback and marking

  • Marking away from children has less value than thought.
  • Extensive modelling and training is needed to teach children to mark their own work.
  • Comments on the work but no marking is better: students will take the mark over the comment.

Sadler’s 3 conditions for effective learning

  1. Specific improvement
  2. Suggestion
  3. Insist on it being used – get students to make improvements during lesson time.

Feedback with the children

  • Feedback with the children equals the power balance.
  • Model the skill
  • Quality marking can occur separately from the children , but this comes at the expense of the teacher’s time. Mark together where possible, especially when there is still time to correct errors – this helps avoid the demoralising effects.
  • Use open success criteria
  • Evaluate work with a response partner.
  • Use traffic lights during the lesson.
  • Teacher marking should be a final look at improvements carried out in an actual lesson.
  • Get students doing fewer items and checking along the way.
  • Use open success criteria and evaluate work with a response partner.

The findings

  • Empowers lower achievers: success breeds success
  • Children see it is better to be proud of their work after an improvement.
  • Improved engagement and desire to improve work.
  • Need to plan this revision into lessons
  • Must know what makes quality work – discuss what constitutes quality
  • “The biggest impact came from giving children time to make improvements, rather than the teacher doing loads of marking” p.113
  • Older students – needs whole-school approach for maximum impact.
  • Takes children a long time to make effectve suggestions.

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