EEF BLOG: Feedback Matters! Putting Formative Assessment into Practice

Eleanor Stringer, Grants Manager at the EEF, discusses the latest five projects to be funded by the EEF, including two focusing on formative assessment:

Feedback, feedback, feedback… We all know it’s important. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that it’s a highly effective strategy and, when used well, can be worth as much as an extra eight months’ learning to pupils. Teachers spend hours every week trying to provide it through written marking. But at the EEF, we hear every day from schools and teachers who struggle with assessing their pupils’ learning in a truly useful way, and who want to know what programmes can help to increase their assessment skills.

Today we announce 5 new grants made by the EEF, for projects that aim to improve attainment of disadvantaged pupils. And two of them focus on formative assessment, a strategy for using feedback effectively.

One project, led by SSAT, builds on the work of Dylan Wiliam and will get secondary school teachers to work together through a two-year programme aimed at introducing and embedding key principles of formative assessment. The idea is that one-off training courses that tell teachers about formative assessment techniques don’t work; teachers need to explore the ideas themselves, apply them in their classrooms and compare notes with other teachers going through the same learning process.

The second, led by University of Nottingham and CEM at University of Durham, looks at how secondary maths teachers can be trained to accurately assess why their pupils are making errors or forming misconceptions, and provides lesson plans to address them. The programme, ICCAMS, provides extensive teacher development and 40 lessons to be delivered with pupils in Key Stage 3.

Both are being evaluated as effectiveness randomised controlled trials, so in a few years’ time we’ll be able to assess whether they really make a difference to pupils’ attainment.

Our other grants focus on three equally important areas: parental engagement, through the Families and Schools Together programme which Save the Children will run; teaching assistants, through a maths support programme with a teaching school, Mead Community Primary School; and research use, through the development of a new “evidence brokerage” service being piloted by Sandringham School and the IEE at York.

As usual, we had a difficult job whittling down all the applications we received in this round to the final five we’re announcing today. And as usual, our new grantees have already worked hard collaborating with us, and the independent evaluation teams, to design project plans that can be rigorously evaluated. But the real work starts now, as they start to turn these plans into reality. Some of them will be looking for volunteer schools shortly – do keep an eye on our Get involved page to see which EEF projects are currently recruiting.