Formative assessment as an integrated part of good practice in the classroom

Thanks to Siobhan Skeffington  for the following article.

Siobhan Skeffington is an education consultant, author and reviewer also involved in test development and Primary Teacher for 26 years including SLT and Leading teacher.

Formative and summative assessments are very different.  Summative assessment gives a picture of how the child is progressing at any given point and enables teachers and schools to gauge the overall attainment; this can also be used for accountability purposes. Formative assessment needs to be part of everyday practice and lesson planning, as it focuses on improving learning.

Assessment is often seen as a tool to be planned for in the form of a spelling or mental maths test. Teachers and senior leaders can often feel pressurised to do constant mini summative tests believing these give a clear indication of how pupils are performing. These tests can be informative but the best formative assessment or ‘assessment for learning’ is through the conversations between the children and the teachers during the normal course of the day.  Through carefully planned questioning, open ended activities and marking that allows children to review their own work, formative assessment can give teachers a wealth of information to use when planning the next steps for learning.  If used appropriately, they will have identified any misconceptions or gaps in knowledge and will be better-able to determine what the children actually know.

Ofsted allow individual schools to decide how to develop their own formative assessment but have said they want to see that,

‘Teachers systematically and effectively check pupils’ understanding throughout lessons, anticipating where they may need to intervene and doing so with notable impact on the quality of learning. Consistently high-quality marking and constructive feedback from teachers ensure that pupils make significant and sustained gains in their learning’.

To ensure formative assessment is part of everyday activities within the classroom, itis a good idea to ensure the points below are part of integrated practice:

  • When starting any new topic, plan a discussion to see what the children already know, make a mind map writing everything that is known and any areas that we need to find out more about. This can be done with all the age groups, although it may be better to work in groups with Reception and Year 1 as they will need more support.
  • Plan questions that will help to ascertain the children’s understanding. Bloom’s taxonomy (1994) as an example, uses questions which use higher order skills other than just recall. These can be used in all subjects.

Knowledge-Who was it that…?

Comprehension- Can you explain that in your own words?

Application-What would you change if…?

Analysis- How is this different to…?

Evaluation-Which one was…?

Synthesis-How would you have…?

Ensure all children contribute at some point by using a system where sometimes it is a ‘hands down approach’ or use lolly sticks to choose names.

  • Use quick indicators to show the level of understanding after any explanation with thumbs up/middle/down or traffic lights, so the children can show how they feel.
  • Make notes on the back the planning sheet of any interesting responses received. It would not be necessary to record all the responses but note anything that is very useful for planning follow up activities.
  • Plan some open ended activities which demonstrate understanding, for example. in Maths the answer is 100. What could the question be? Can you design a Maths game which uses the four operations?
  • Use effective marking to challenge the children to review and revise their own work as much as possible. Verbal feedback is always good but with time constraints, not always possible.  It is essential for Reception and Year 1 children and should be built into any task so there is time to look at any work in a group situation, as this is how younger children will develop.  From Year 2 to 6, symbols work well, such as, ‘a pair of eyes’ to show where a child needs to look again at a piece of work  or non-specific comments which make them think more closely, for example  ‘one sentence doesn’t make sense, can you find it?’

Formative assessment need not be arduous but can be very valuable in ensuring appropriate activities are planned for each week.

Want to find out more about resources to support formative assessment? Take a look at our Progress Tests.


About the author

Siobhan Skeffington is an education consultant, author and reviewer also involved in test development and Primary Teacher for 26 years including SLT and Leading teacher.





english, formative assessment, ks1, ks2, maths, spelling

Added to your basket: